Viral is great — but does the infection last?

Advertising Age magazine has a great story about the recent Dove “Evolution” marketing campaign, which included a video uploaded to YouTube of a fashion model before and after the makeup and Photoshop artists get to work on her. At the beginning, she is an average looking woman with blemishes and stringy hair, and after some makeup and digital effects, she is on a billboard.

Dove’s campaign is aimed at showing young women how unreal the fashion industry is, and according to the Ad Age piece it has been more successful than a Super Bowl ad: In less than a month, the ad (created by a Toronto ad shop) got more than 1.7 million views on YouTube, was mentioned on “Ellen” and “The View” and caused a huge traffic spike to Dove’s site.

dove campaign

Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests isn’t all that impressed — with good reason. He points out that the Ad Age article doesn’t mention anything about whether all of that traffic and views turned into more donations for the Dove fund, or caused any appreciable gain in any other metric. He also notes that traffic spikes from things such as Digg and Slashdot are notorious for overloading a site’s servers without resulting in many clicks or other tangible impact.

To be fair, it may be a little early to see that kind of effect from a campaign such as Dove’s — and there’s no question that the kind of reach it has gotten will eventually pay off in some form or another, even just in increased awareness. Another thing that occurred to me: just how successful are those Super Bowl ads anyway? I bet they aren’t that much better at turning a hot ad into real revenue than Dove’s web ad, and they’re orders of magnitude more expensive.

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