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The Cost of Developing a Viral Marketing Campaign

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Only a few years ago a basic interactive game could be developed, passed around to a couple of people, and it would be hugely popular.

However, times have changed as the concept of viral marketing has become more popular.

“Last year (2005) around 30% of campaigns had a viral element to them. This year (2006) I’d say it’s closer to 65%”, says Dusan Hamlin, media and communications director of media agency Carat International.

People are more demanding and have more choice than ever before. This means that not only is top quality viral content required, but it must also be effectively seeded in a number of places, including dedicated video sites and blogs. Home made videos can be designed but are unlikely to be hugely successful.

The cost of developing a viral campaign can be divided into two parts – the development of the viral content and seeding the viral. In addition, a third cost may be the cost of a special offer or competition prize.

Seeding is the most expensive aspect of a viral marketing campaign, with some video sites charging in excess of £5,000 to be featured on their home page for one week.

Having an existing database of customers to which the viral ad can be sent to initially can reduce the need for extensive seeding. Without this you’ll need to work with independent blogs, video sites, micro-sites and online newsletters to get your viral ad or offer the initial exposure.

In general a well-executed viral marketing campaign can cost anything from £5,000, with well-known brands often spending in excess of £100,000 on their viral marketing campaigns. In return the viral advertising agency will develop the viral, seed it in various places, and usually track the results, whether that’s new registrations, click-throughs, or cost per viewer.

Simple email viral campaigns can be very successful and eliminate the need to develop high quality videos or complex games. However, for this type of viral to work something of real value must be being given away. Consequently, if the promotion works it can prove to be very expensive.

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