Businesses big and small, I implore you to pay attention to this video--even if the subject matter may veer into the gross or weird territory (and it does). Because, while the content of the video is definitely important to what I want to say, the greater takeaway is this: a technical school in Australia is reaping tons of buzz and earned media this week from a little online video ad they created, and they're doing it because they walked away from traditional ads completely and fully embraced the concept of creating engaging entertainment content that encourages sharing behavior.

Traditional Commercials Are Losing Effectiveness

Before we get to the ad in question, let's take a look at a few standard technical school videos, shall we? Here's a video from the Texas State Technical College that appeared on line 4 years ago--and appears to have been filmed long before that:

For a very long time... this is just how technical schools marketed themselves. We've all seen the standard, "Meet Bob" ad on TV for a technical school, where we're treated to an interview with a successful graduate of the institute.

Here's an ITT ad that illustrates what I'm talking about:

And I'm not here to say those ads are no longer effective. I'm here to say they're no longer AS effective, and their future's not looking too bright either.

It's A Snap - Central Institute Social Video Campaign

Then along comes the Central Institute in Australia, a technical school with a very savvy marketing department. They've tossed the traditional technical-school ad out the window and inserted in its place something absurd, shocking, and funny--you know, the kind of ad that tends to "go viral."

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WARNING: The video gets a little gross toward the end in part of a loopy horror-like twist--if you have a queasy stomach, stop watching right around the 1:00 mark.

At 1.2 million views (in just a week), I'd say the school has earned far more marketing buzz with that single ad than all of their previous video ads or commercials combined. You could pay big money to a totally reputable ad-placement firm and probably not get this many views--and you definitely wouldn't get this many articles on news and blog sites.

Think about who the core customers are for a school like this... they're college-aged kids. The very same group that probably tunes out your more traditional ads in seconds. But something insane like this video? Well, that's going right on the Facebook wall.

It probably helps the school gain actual students in the near future as well, since a lot of prospective customers will see this ad as a sign that the school provides a creative and free environment.

I'm going to be banging this gong all year long: businesses of all sizes would be wise to start moving past standard commercials and ads, begin thinking about the sort of entertainment content that actually engages viewers, which in turn encourages them to be social about your content.

  • Daryl Brown

    how fun! Yes exactly the right vibe for the demographic!

  • Chris Abbott

    Love it.... Very Australian....

  • Anonymous

    Actually, the Texas State Technical College video was NOT a commercial. It was a presentation. And yes, it is about 7 or 8 years old.

  • Greg Letiecq

    Definitely a brilliant and creative idea, but how do we get customers to take this kind of risk? A perfectly executed novel idea can yield great benefits, but a brilliantly executed less than perfect idea can actually harm a client. Reaching for this kind of reward can be awfully risky.

    • Greg Letiecq

      Grant Crowell but how do we overcome the natural fear they would have of proposing something utterly offbeat? Most clients are certain that if they do a ten minute talking head the world will love it and make them millionaires, and it's hard enough to convince them to keep it short and leave the audience wanting. If I tell a bakery the idea is that we shoot their customers turning into zombies after eating a cupcake or something, they'll never speak to me again. Would the idea work? Probably. Would they let me shoot it? Never. How do we pitch this?

    • Greg Letiecq

      Grant Crowell Interesting ideas. The key here is to find useful, relevant metrics in a space where there aren't a whole lot of them yet. Most likely, the best approach is to seek out that unique client who takes risks and offer them something compatible with their existing outlook rather than try to convince someone risk-averse into changing their outlook. Do that a few times and you build your own metrics, perhaps to the level you can start making a persuasive business case towards someone who might not grasp the potential value of a novel idea.