Thursday, October 2, 2008

Is Google's "5 Friends" Three Minutes Too Long?

Viral video is a tricky balancing act. The number of times a brand succeeds in creating a viral phenomenon is dwarfed by the number of times marketers fail to achieve their viral objectives. Typical problems that can prevent viral success include boring or self-centered content, experiences that take too long to provide a benefit to viewers, and heavy-handed marketing messages.

Despite the best of intentions, I fear Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way and Google failed in all three ways with "5 Friends," their voter registration video launched on YouTube. It has many of the right ingredients, starting with a Who's Who of Hollywood. The video features Leonardo DiCaprio, will i. am, Tobey Maguire, Forest Whitaker, Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, and Halle Berry--and that's just one quarter of the stars who grace this video.

But unlike some past star turns in successful viral videos (such as "Yes We Can," which has been viewed almost 20 million times on YouTube), I'm unsure "5 Friends" will set the world on fire. For starters, it is awfully smug and preachy. Do we need Hollywood movie actors telling us not to vote for almost 90 seconds? After 15 seconds I think we all get it--you're being ironic! By the 30-second mark, it begins to insult viewers' intelligence. And by the time Forest Whitacker over-enunciates each syllable of "Do Not Vote" as if we're all too simple-minded to understand, I wanted to click off the video.

Of course, I didn't. As both an engaged voter and an interactive marketer, I wanted to see where the video would take viewers, so onward I continued. Then at the two-minute mark, the celebs start asking us if we know that we need to register. What? Who knew that, except, well, everybody? A reminder isn't such a bad idea, but when the stars begin to ask things like "You do know that, right? You do have to register first," I began to suspect that the actors all think we flyovers might be mildly mentally challenged.

The point of this video exercise is to direct viewers to, but the video doesn't actually get around to sharing the URL for two-and-a-half pontificating minutes. To make matters worse, while the text associated with the video carefully lists every celebrity, it omits a link to the site! The whole point of this effort is to get people to visit Google's voter registration site, but priority was given to crediting
the 27 celebrities rather than supplying a simple link--the one and only essential piece of functionality.

Once the URL is displayed, the video continues for another two minutes of sermonizing.
By the time Leonardo returns to chastise us--"After all this, if you're not going to vote, I don't even know what to say to you anymore"--it made me wonder two things. First of all, how many people who begin to watch the video will have the patience to view it in its entirety? Secondly, isn't it too bad that Leo and his friends didn't run out of words three minutes sooner? A more direct, less self-congratulatory clip may easily have created more emotional engagement and action.

While I really hate to criticize a program that encourages voting--a responsibility that I take very seriously--this video seems like an unengaging, overly lengthy misfire. The names will draw many viewers and with Google's backing, the PR will spread widely; but if video viewers don't wait long enough to see the URL, what's the point?

So, what's your opinion? Is "5 Minutes" just right? Or only half right?


Anonymous said...

I think you're right. And I think these guys would agree with you!

It's a response to Leo's video from "Five Guys." Hilarious!

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Anthony. I enjoyed the video, and I found it funny and more watchable than the billion dollars of stars in the "Five Friends" video.

That said, I thought this video was too long, also. Plus, while I docked "Five Friends" for failing to make it's point quick enough, at least it had a point.

As I said in my blog post, I take voting pretty seriously. I think it's too bad the makers of the "Five Guys Vote" video didn't set their obectives not simply to mock the celebs but also to do a better job of encouraging people to vote than Leo and company.