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The Rise Of The Unofficial Commercial

What should you do if your brand is the star of a viral campaign that has nothing to do with you?

Creating an ad or a campaign that goes viral is the dream of any marketer. Imagine though, the double edged sword of an ad for your brand going viral but, and a very big BUT: you didn’t have anything to do with it. To cap it off, it’s arguably as good as or even better than anything you’ve spent significant resources on developing.

Then you discover that recent research by Nielsen demonstrates that only 47% of UK campaigns reach their target customers, 57% in Italy and 58% in Germany. So, even what you are creating isn’t being seen by who you want to see it.

It’s well documented that the balance of power is shifting away from your brand in favour of your customers. But it’s hard to let go, to surrender control. They’re talking about you online but you can’t direct or even restrict what is being said. It is happening every day on social networks or blogs. Your brand’s reputation is increasingly informed by what others are saying about you, rather than what you are you say about yourself.

If they are detractors who are dissatisfied, then this is not a good place to be in. But, if they are advocates, then what happens is invaluable. Money just can’t buy what happens next. Your customer becomes your brand ambassador, a trusted, credible and legitimate source of brand knowledge. Their content outweighs yours. What they say reflects directly back to you, so they become a purveyor of your brand.


According to a report published by Pew Research last month, 82% of US adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time, with 40% saying they always or almost always do so. This figure rises substantially for those under 50. Younger adults are still the most likely to share their experiences or feelings online; 86% claim that they have done so after a positive experience, 77% after a bad one.

The creation of an ad that celebrates your brand is the ultimate accolade. One that then goes viral and is viewed by millions of people is priceless.

What you absolutely don’t do is ignore it or not acknowledge it in any way. Not surprisingly, people notice and comment on this, potentially turning a highly positive event into a negative catastrophe!

What you should do is always respond to a positive customer interaction, public or private. Why?

For starters, where are your manners? Were you not taught the basics, to say thank you when you receive a compliment? In real life you surely would, so why not now?

Show appreciation for someone taking considerable time to create a tribute to your brand. Any effort should be appreciated. This encourages others to even greater demonstrations of love and loyalty.

Be timely in your response, as this demonstrates how attentive and receptive you are to your customers.

There is no such thing as private anymore. People are likely to tell five people every time they have a positive experience and tell ten people after a negative one.

You’re not just responding to one person. You’re speaking to anyone and everyone who views their ode to your brand, including existing and potential future customers.

Do not squander but seize the golden opportunity that has been handed to you to demonstrate your brand’s personality and values. If you act the way you’d want to be seen then people believe you are genuine, real and authentic.

These five examples of unofficial ads are all great examples of their genre as well as simply being great ads:

1) ‘Not a Dream’ – Tesla

Tesla Motors are infamous for not advertising, relying instead on their army of devoted fans to do the talking for them. This ad, created by twin filmmakers the Freise Brothers, pays tribute to Tesla’s electric car and promises to save consumers from a future post-apocalyptic society reliant on oil. With over 195,000 YouTube views and praise from Tesla founder Elon Musk on Twitter, this ad is a testament to the brand.

2) ‘Evolutions’ – Pokémon

Viewed over a million times on YouTube, this ad produced by filmmaker John Wikstromfan celebrates the 20th anniversary of Pokémon, debuting ‘Sun’ and ‘Moon’ — two new games created especially for the event.

3) The Snowglobe’ – John Lewis

John Lewis Christmas ads are an institution in the UK and are eagerly anticipated. When this video created by a British 18 year old sixth form student as part of his A Level Media coursework was first uploaded, it created quite a stir on Twitter as many assumed it was the new official John Lewis ad! It’s now had over 1.5 million YouTube views — and a job offer for its creator.

4) ‘Dear Brother’ – Johnnie Walker

This ad created by two German student filmmakers – Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz studying at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg – has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times since it was uploaded. This ad is guaranteed to make you cry as it tells the story of two brothers visiting their childhood playground for the last time together, whilst capturing Johnnie Walker’s brand essence and is quite simply beautiful to watch.

5) ‘Break Free’ – Adidas

This ad, created by a German student also studying at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg, Eugen Merher, as part of a class project has proved to be a clear hit with nearly 10 million YouTube views. It tells the story of an elderly marathon runner who rediscovers his passion for running after discovering his old Adidas training shoes. It’s proved popular with the media who are urging Adidas for a public response, while the creator has received several job offers from production, talent and advertising agencies.

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