The holy grail of online marketing is a viral video campaign. And for good reason. Corporate ‘design by committee’ marketing departments aren’t known for their Olympic-style archery skills for hitting the spot between silly and sarcastic that’s typically needed to push the Internet’s like button. A notable exception is 2010’s Old Spice man — who even stepped up his game, despite it being pretty darn good from the get-go, by responding to individual tweets.
The trick — beyond the pre-requisite of being funny — appears to be adopting a universally mocking tone (self-mockery is certainly a key ingredient) without being out-and-out offensive, yet also remaining polished enough to get past the internal brand censors.
Earlier this week I was sent a link to a video (see below) that hits this spot exceptionally well — not least because it has an unlikely source: the marketing team for feminine hygiene products brand Bodyform (yes, turns out periods can be hilarious).
This video is not actually a campaign. It’s a response to an equally amusing post on Bodyform’s Facebook page — by a bloke called Richard — pointing out the discrepancy between the company’s excitement-fuelled visualisations of that time of the month and the less-than-fun reality of periods. This was a genuine Facebook post, swears SCA (the company that owns the Bodyform brand), not something the company’s marketing department cooked up to drive Facebook page engagement.
The video response is all fakery of course — since it purports to star the ‘CEO of Bodyform’ (Bodyform doesn’t have one), making a faux apology (‘the visualisations you’ve seen in our advertisments are actually metaphors’) for not telling the truth about periods in its commercials (well, duh — it’s not known as ‘period hell’ for nothing).
A particular highlight is when the faux CEO raises a glass of fake blue liquid — the sort of clinical fluid used in countless feminine hygiene commercials as a blood substitute — and drinks deep. In short: LOL.
Bodyform’s confessional CEO is not the first self-mocking video from a maker of period products — as the Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi points out, Kotex has done this sort of thing before — but it’s perhaps the first to self-mock so quickly in response to a specific social media post. And in the social media echo chamber Bodyform’s video has done exactly what the company must have been hoping for — sparked lots of positive engagement on Facebook and racked up the views on YouTube.
So how was Bodyform’s viral video born? SCA says it took eight days from noticing the “likes were escalating” on the Facebook post — it’s 95,000+ likes and counting now — to posting their video response. “Eight days in social media terms is quite slow,” says SCA’s spokeswoman. “But in advertising terms it’s really quick.”
SCA’s media agency Carat was briefed on the Tuesday evening by Bodyform’s internal marketing team — when likes on the Facebook post had reached 20,000 — and they kicked off an ideas brainstorming session on how to respond. On Wednesday the ideas were presented to Bodyform and the video response was selected as the best. Production company Rubber Republic was chosen, having availability to film the video over the weekend, and a team of four script writers at the company delivered an initial script that afternoon. Rubber Republic also handled the casting call to find the CEO (played by actor Charlotte Palmer).
Carat describes the process after getting the initial script as follows
From this point on it was an intensive collaborative creative process between Rubber Republic, the core team at Carat [of three people] and the client – from our side mainly on tweaking the script and co-ordinating the filming (including a location hunt at our offices in Regent’s Place). We were conscious that we needed to balance the humour with something that was right as a response to [Facebook poster] Richard at a personal level and right for Bodyform as a brand.
Palmer was cast on Friday. By Saturday the video was being filmed, and it was edited on Sunday — with a few last minute tweaks made on Monday. At this point PR agency Myriad was also brought in to start making noise via its mainstream press contacts. Rubber Republic “seeded” the video to a variety of blogs too.
The video itself was posted on Tuesday morning. And the rest — as they say — is viral video history. Or at least 2.3 million YouTube views and counting. Not bad for a topic that’s even more media shy than the Samwer brothers.
SCA says it will be “looking very closely” at how it engages with social media platforms in future — having managed to pull off the trick of making people laugh and talk publicly about a subject that’s, if not exactly a taboo, then at very least drenched in lashings of sanitised, unreal blue liquid.
I only wish they’d been able to squeeze in a reference to binders full of women — for, you know, maximum internet points.