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How racist comments prolonged Cheerios' campaign

How racist comments prolonged Cheerios' campaign Mallory Russell

Producing a successful online video campaign always begins with great creative. Great viral creative can be defined as content that both resonates with viewers and spurs discussion. Videos that connect with viewers emotionally and are newsworthy drive viewers to share and discuss. But the best branded videos do more than that; they also inspire viewers to generate their own content.

User-generated content can take many forms. Some users spoof branded videos or make mashups, while other viewers make commentary based on the branded videos. Whatever the format, user-generated content extends the reach of the original branded video and, in some cases, can actually determine the success of the branded video.

Cheerios provides a good example of the power of user-generated content in prolonging the life of a branded campaign. The cereal brand makes its debut on the iMedia Brand Chart in the No. 8 spot with a True Reach of 7.2 million views in July, due in large part to a user-generated video reacting to its campaign, "Just Checking."

At this point, most of you have probably seen "Just Checking," which caused quite a controversy when it was released at the beginning of June.

The ad itself wasn't controversial. It depicted an interracial family discussing the health benefits of Cheerios. But that family was interracial, and that led to a lot of racist comments on YouTube. There were enough racist comments, in fact, that the brand disabled the commenting section. From there it wasn't long until media outlets all over the country were covering the controversy.

The controversy surrounding "Just Checking" led viewers to create a huge amount of content reacting to the video. Visible Measures has measured more than 100 pieces of derivative content -- spoofs, commentary, mashups, etc. -- related to the video. In fact, 65 percent of the campaign's 14.4 million views came from this kind of derivative, user-generated content. That's a True Reach of 9.4 million views attributed to user-generated content.

By far, the most popular user-generated clip is "Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial" from The Fine Brothers.

The Fine Brothers have created a series of videos that records kids, teens, and elderly people reacting to viral videos, news, and trends. In the middle of June, they released a video titled "Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial," and it quickly became a viral sensation and helped Cheerios takes the No.1 spot on Ad Age's "Viral Chart" for the first time ever.

In the video, all of the kids are first shown the commercial. Most of them think that it is funny or really cute. When they are told that people were angry because there was an interracial couple in the ad, they seem surprised and confused. None of them can even fathom why that would matter.

"Some people just fall in love like that," says one girl referring to the couple in the ad. She later adds, "It's just the color of their skin, what matters is if they're nice or mean." "Underneath it, you're literally the same. You have organs and a heart," says another kid. With sound bites like that, it should be little wonder that the video went viral in a big way and quickly had media outlets reporting on it. While the release of "Just Checking" showed just how ugly people can be, this video was like a little piece of viral hope.

In the month of July, when Cheerios had a True Reach of 7.2 million, 5.7 million views are attributed to "Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial." Today, The Fine Brothers' video has a True Reach of more than 6 million views, which means it's responsible for 41 percent of the views for this Cheerios campaign.

Besides the fact that "Kids React to Controversial Cheerios Commercial" is adorable, the Fine Brothers' video offers a valuable reminder for brands: User-generated content can be key to viral success.

Not every brand will hit a home run, like Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" or Pepsi MAX's "Test Drive." Both of those branded campaigns drove most of their views through the original content that they created.

But most brands can hit a double, or maybe a triple, and then the help from their viewers can drive them home.

Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.

iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.

Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.

Learn more here.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Mallory Russell is the Director of Content for Visible Measures. Prior to joining Visible Measures, Mallory wrote for Advertising Age and Business Insider. She also spent a few years in the San Francisco ad business at DraftFCB and Goodby,...

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