Brand-jacking, earned media, user-generated content - call it what you will but non-branded video content based on or around a product or service is just as likely to go viral as branded content. Increasingly, we are seeing more and more instances of this as creators take an idea and run with it, leaving the brands and their agencies well behind. Sometimes that creator is a cheerleader and an enthusiast and that reflects well on the brand. Sometimes it's the opposite, which leads to red faces and a speedy reputation management campaign.
As familiar as we all are now with user-generated branded content, it really didn't make an impact until 2006. That was the year that Eepybird Studios, a New England based video production team, went super viral with their 'Extreme Mentos and Diet Coke' clip which, I would imagine, everyone with an internet connection has at least heard of, if not seen. We talked to Eepybird about the science of going viral and why YouTube wasn't even part of their plan in the very early days.
ReelSEO: At one point, "The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments" video had more than 20 million views. But the "Extreme Mentos & Diet Coke" video on YouTube currently has less than 202,000 views. Where did all the other views go?
Fritz Grobe: I haven't been aware of one specific copy of the video with 20 million views, but the copy that is currently on our YouTube channel does indeed have 200,000 views, and none of the views for that copy have disappeared. The vast majority of the views of this video are of other copies. We see this with a lot of our videos, where one copy may only have a few hundred thousand views, but when you look somewhere else, you'll find millions of views.
A lot of different articles have mentioned a lot of different numbers over the years for our videos, some only listing views of one copy, others listing totals or partial totals, and some estimating more.
For some of our videos, most of the views happened on Vimeo or on Google Video (back a few years ago, before they bought YouTube) or on a copy on someone else's YouTube channel. We like people coming to our YouTube channel, but so long as people are watching, that's the important part. Much of our recent work for Coca-Cola and McDonald's, for example, has primarily been featured on Coca-Cola channels in Europe and Asia, so while the copy on our channel may only have, say, 150,000 views, a few million people have watched it elsewhere.
For many of our videos, particularly the early ones, there are multiple copies online, and when we started EepyBird in 2006, we weren't focused on YouTube. At the time, YouTube was also new and was one of several options for video hosting. We first released "The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments" on a revenue-sharing video site called Revver, where the video saw over 11 million views. Multiple copies on YouTube and other sites were also getting millions of views, and we sent takedown requests for most of these copies.
While we posted the video privately on YouTube in May of 2006, we kept that copy out of sight for several years, continuing to direct our viewers to Revver. Our official copy on YouTube didn't go public until 2010, where it has since gotten 200,000 views. The most viewed copy on YouTube currently is an unauthorized copy that is now approaching 17 million views.
ReelSEO: By conservative estimates, your Coke & Mentos videos have been seen more than 120 million times. But, the 54 videos on the EepyBird YouTube channel only have a total of 11,389,594 views. Where did all the other views go?
FG: There are a lot of challenges to estimating total view counts online, particularly given the number of unauthorized copies fans put online, some of which got significant view counts but have now been taken down. Over 11 million people watched our first video on Revver and over 8 million watched our second on Google Video, not to mention all the bootleg copies on YouTube, Break, and so on. And now we're trying to keep track of view counts from video channels all over the world, with, as I mentioned, some of our recent work getting millions of views overseas.We've seen estimates of total views for our first video ranging from 40 million to over 120 million. Here's what we've been able to count:
44 million views online of "The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments" (Based on 11.7M views on Revver, 16.9M views of the most viewed copy still on YouTube, plus 12.5M views of early bootleg copies that have been taken down, and 2.8M views of more recent copies) 60 million views on TV of our first video and live performances of the stunt (Based on appearances on Letterman, Today, Ellen, Mythbusters, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, etc.)
Consequently, we're confident that over 100 million people have seen that video online and on television. Also, looking at all of our videos combined, we calculate a total of over 85 million views online and 70 million views on TV, for a total of over 150 million.
With so many online copies out there that we haven't been able to track or count, we don't have an exact number, but the actual total views surely must be much higher than what we've counted. In January of 2007, Ad Age wrote that our video was “the most important commercial content of 2006,” and in 2009, the folks at GoViral voted our Coke and Mentos video “Online Game Changer of the Decade.” It's hard to imagine the video would have had that big an impact if it only had the views we've been able to count.
There may indeed be many tens of millions more views, especially from those "early days" in 2006 and 2007, so we could well believe that over 120 million people have seen that first video through the Internet alone.
ReelSEO: How did it feel to be one of the more than 15 YouTube stars featured in Weezer's "Pork and Beans" video? Are there any behind-the-scenes stories or clips that you'd like to share?
FG: Being a part of "Pork and Beans" was an amazing experience. Sitting down for lunch with Tay Zonday (Chocolate Rain), Chris Crocker (Leave Britney Alone), Miss Teen South Carolina, and Austin Hall (Daft Hands) was particularly memorable. It was quite a table. The guys in Weezer were terrific sports, allowing us to soak them repeatedly in Coke and Mentos. In particular, Rivers allowed us to shoot a geyser into his face (with goggles on, of course) for a great sequence in the video where his face morphed into mine. It was great fun to instruct Rivers in the techniques involved in spraying yourself with Coke & Mentos.
They also asked us, right at the last minute, "Do you think you could do anything with the letter W for Weezer?" And the answer was yes. Shaping the soda spray into the letter W and then everyone throwing their arms up in the air, EepyBird-style, ended up being the final shot of the video. And it's particularly nice to have a plaque in our office commemorating the Grammy award for the video.
ReelSEO: What's the funniest thing that happened why you were making "The Extreme Sticky Note Experiments"?
FG: "The Extreme Sticky Note Experiments" were a great opportunity to work with DigiSynd (a subsidiary of Disney) and the folks at ABC Family and OfficeMax who sponsored the video. The project began with exploring what products from OfficeMax could do, looking for something surprising and fun. After several days of experimenting, we found that a zigzag pad of sticky notes will flow like a Slinky. After that "aha!" moment, we started building bigger and bigger paper waterfalls out of nothing but sticky notes.
Early on, our friends in interactive marketing at Coca-Cola were kind enough to introduce us to their counterparts at 3M, who asked us how many sticky notes we would like to have to continue our experiments. We asked for 4,000 pads. A couple weeks later, a tractor trailer truck pulled up in front of our Lab – with 40,000 pads. That's over two tons of sticky notes. Over 4,000,000 individual sticky notes. That was definitely enough to get us started.
Even when the final video ended up using over 250,000 sticky notes, we still have a lot left over. We keep contemplating doing something even bigger and better...
ReelSEO: The most popular video on the EepyBird YouTube channel is "The Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car". Are you happy or surprised by this?
FG: We've been thrilled with the popularity of the Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car. One of the first ideas we had for a sequel to the Extreme Coke & Mentos Experiments was human propulsion, but it took several years to figure out how to do it. If you watch our video of early rocket car experiments, you'll get an idea of how difficult it was. It's hysterical to see just how pathetic our early attempts were. In the beginning, it was a big achievement to go even 35 feet. In the end, we managed to go over 200 feet. Still only a fuel efficiency of one foot per liter, but every alternative fuel has to start somewhere.
Once we successfully harnessed the power of candy and soda to propel a human, the rocket car was featured in People Magazine and we made a return appearance on Letterman, where Dave himself rode the rocket car down 53rd Street in New York. Once again, the reach of the video went far beyond just the primary copy of the video, into extensive earned media coverage with significant impact for our sponsors.
ReelSEO: The newest video on the EepyBird YouTube channel is "19. The Mechanical Water Xylophone". Is this indicative of your latest direction, or do you have something else up your sleeve that you can "leak" to ReelSEO readers?
FG: Our newest videos on our YouTube channel are smaller DIY experiments from our new book, "How to Build a Hovercraft -- Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects," just out from Chronicle Books. Our team here at EepyBird Studios made a series of videos aimed at getting kids excited about science and getting everyone excited to dig into the book and make things, including your very own leaf-blower hovercraft.
Our focus, though, remains on connecting brands with the power of viral marketing.
Most advertisers mistakenly believe that “going viral” is a matter of luck. It's not. We've developed a method – the approach we lay out in our book, "The Viral Video Manifesto" – that that will greatly increase your chances of going viral. We had great success with our now infamous Coke and Mentos videos, and since then we've been doing work for brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald's and OfficeMax that have consistently gotten well over a million views. Our average (not even counting our first big hit) is now 4.8 million views per campaign. That's the work we're focusing on these days.
And, of course, we've also been hard at work in the Lab on a new stunt involving dozens of paper airplanes...but that's all I can say, for now. :) BTW, our new site, eepybirdstudios.com, is focused on the business side of our viral campaigns.