Video-sharers Have Puppy Love For SPDRs Commercial

It’s been fun this week watching the growing social media success of State Street Global Advisors's exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketing. A SPDRS commercial introduced in June is getting uploaded to YouTube, as well as to other video-sharing sites, and commenters love, love, LOVE “the video.” (Note how the commercial aspect shrinks when the message is sufficiently appealing.)

Reviewers like the dogs, they like the accompanying song so much they want to buy it…and guess what else? According to their comments, some say they might even give State Street a look.

Watch the commercial for yourself and then let’s bat around some thoughts.

What was State Street’s added expense for distribution via You Tube et al? 
None, its production costs were unaffected. On the flipside, at fewer than 10,000 combined views as of this writing, it’s hard to claim that their added reach has reduced the expense.

Still…In “letting their content go free” (a social media maxim), the commercial is embedded on a Russian site, a Spanish site and a site that offers basic French lessons, among others. Now, it belongs to the world—and the video views are coming from markets that would be cost-prohibitive to buy into.

What’s different about appearing on television versus YouTube?
The question is too simply posed, maybe, but think of the different context of YouTube. All television viewers are aware that advertisers pay for their time and, on some level even if in some small way, that can discount the impact of a message.

Every uploader of this video is endorsing it for its content—that’s different. The engagement of “users” in uploading, commenting and otherwise interacting with a brand message marks a transition point. Do you remember the Diet Coke and Mento’s stunt? That didn’t belong to the brand, that belonged to the users who took what Diet Coke provided and turned it into something else.

The SDPRs commercial is becoming an homage to dogs. Dogs, animals, lizards all have been the center of commercials previously. But, video-sharing makes it possible to adopt the animals featured.

Below is a screenshot of the Statistics & Data of the highest-viewed copy of the video (not the video we link to above). The video that appears on this page was recorded off a television showing CNBC somewhere in Illinois. It was submitted in the Pets & Animals category (where it's doing very well) and attributed to an entity called State Street SPDR Financial.

Will the added exposure help State Street justify the marketing spend to the number-crunchers, if necessary? (It's easy to imagine CFOs struggling with the soft-sell of this ad, but we seem to remember that State Street is contractually obligated to invest in SPDRs marketing support.)
While State Street no doubt anticipated the popularity of this creative among pet-lovers, we doubt that it was a target customer segment. One of the benefits of being on the Web today is the ability to target, and yet the SPDRs example shows that social media can be messy.

If your professional work gets submitted to a content-sharing (video or otherwise) site, you can expect multiple files—including copies lacking the professional quality that you originally delivered. You can expect people to impose their own organization—e.g., SDPRs might have preferred an investment-related category to pets and animals. There is no dictating or controlling which group or groups may become fans.

Viral distribution is a compliment to the content producer but it also represents more work. When content is safe at home on your site, you know where it is. When it's socializing, you have the added burden to keep track of it and how it's being received.

Still and all, as most CFOs will recognize, added unpaid positive exposure for a television commercial is all upside.

How will State Street evaluate the impact of its new-found attention?
The commercial itself does not include a URL to the site and only one of the video uploads does. Search for “dog commercial” and SPDR or “dog commercial and State Street” and you won’t find the advertiser’s Web site. Now the social Web’s embrace of State Street's content is competing with them!

SPDR Marketing may need to fire up a Google AdWords campaign to secure a place on the first page of search results. We couldn’t find mention of the commercial on either the SDPRs or the State Street site, but adding a search-optimized page with content about the commercial and the file itself would be an idea. Once related content is offered on the brand's domain, the Web analytics team will be able to track how many “dog commercial” searches drove traffic to the site. We’d manage expectations, though—the commercial itself and its afterlife is all about creating awareness. It may be hard to find a cause-effect in the site analytics.

Congratulations to all involved at State Street—there's no doubt that the puppy love will drive video views further. After having endured everything short of famine, drought and pestilence in the last year, investment marketing is showing some life again, isn’t it?