Why Microsoft wants you to hate Internet Explorer

"It might be potentially better...perhaps, maybe, hopefully. Or at least different. Definitely different. Could that be better? Is different better? Different definitely isn't the same. And that means change. And if that's the case, it's probably better, right? They wouldn't -- couldn't -- make it any worse. Change has to be good."

If you think anything along these lines after watching the latest campaigns from the folks at Microsoft's Internet Explorer, they've won. They're not even striving to get you to think "better." They're just looking for "change."

Why just change? The title of one of Internet Explorer's latest big campaigns says it all: "The Browser You Loved to Hate." There's nothing worse than hate. Microsoft isn't only acknowledging that some people hate IE; the company is shouting it from the rooftops because it wants everyone to know exactly where IE stands, or stood, from its perspective. Because when you've hit bottom -- and being hated by users is a pretty solid bottom for a web browser -- change is almost indubitably in the right direction. At the very least, it's progress.

This progress propelled Internet Explorer among the most-watched brands in video last month. With two new campaigns launched since late November, the "hated" browser attracted an impressive True Reach score in January to the tune of more than 9.2 million video views. The campaigns attack the "change" idea from very different angles, but -- make no mistake about it -- they're going after the same general shift in thinking.

Why Microsoft wants you to hate Internet Explorer

The larger campaign in January was "Child of the 90s." The core message is this: You've changed since the '90s, and so has Internet Explorer. The campaign is replete with pop culture references from the '90s, including snap bracelets, fanny packs, Oregon Trail (playfully called a social network in the spot -- one in which your friends died of dysentery), troll dolls, Tamagotchi pets, Super Soakers, and more. The idea is to get you to reminisce about your favorite items from about 20 years ago and to realize how long ago that really was. (And after writing that sentence, I'm starting to feel quite old.) Things have changed quite a bit in 20-odd years, and -- the argument goes -- so has Internet Explorer. And in light of the way people hate IE, any change is good. "Child of the 90s" scored an impressive True Reach of 8.9 million video views in January.

IE's second largest campaign in January was the aforementioned "The Browser You Loved to Hate." The campaign mercilessly mocks the browser by featuring an IE hater tearing it apart in comments sections and on Twitter. But it goes both ways. IE also shows how deep the hatred goes for some users and how ridiculous IE's improvements and changes will have to be to win them back. In one back-and-forth between the hater and IE on Twitter, IE writes, "IE adopts an island of kittens and donates them to children everywhere!!!" (The hater's Twitter pic features him holding a cat.) The hater is unimpressed and responds, "IE sucks!!!" It isn't until IE introduces a new "karaoke web standard" that the hater, a karaoke lover, relents and writes, "IE sucks...less."

Sucking less is change. And change is what we're looking for here. Despite being launched in late November, the campaign was still able to pull down a True Reach of 2.4 million video views.

Hammering home the idea of change and "sucking less" goes beyond the core creative ideas. Both campaigns have spots that last more than a minute and 30 seconds -- significantly longer than your standard 30- or 60-second ads. You could edit them down to 60 seconds or even 30 seconds, but with either of those timeframes, the stories start feeling rushed. You need to give audiences time to sink into your story and believe that the change is real.

The challenge and opportunity with this approach is that you can't rely solely on traditional ad formats to distribute these stories. Traditional pre-roll could never get away with showing a 1:30 ad, and it's rare to see (and pay attention to) anything north of 60 seconds on TV. You also can't simply upload videos to YouTube anymore and expect anyone to discover them. After all, there are more than 72 hours of video content uploaded every minute to YouTube alone.

The key with branded content like "Child of the 90s" and "The Browser You Loved to Hate" is enabling audiences to discovery it organically and choose to watch it. Your best bet for organic discovery is paid choice-based media, which generally lives in related and recommended video lists. This approach enables audiences to choose to watch great branded content just like any other content -- discovering it and engaging with it based on their own time and preferences. And when that happens, it makes changing someone's opinion of Internet Explorer from "sucking" to "sucking less" that much easier.

Other brands to reach the top 10 in video last month include Google, Samsung, and Nike, along with chart newcomers Zoosk and Toyota, which generated a significant amount of traction for its pre-Super Bowl blitz. In all, the top 10 brands generated a True Reach of more than 188 million video views. The threshold to make the chart was set at 8.5 million views by Volkswagen, which was boosted by its own pre-Super Bowl efforts.

Matt Fiorentino is director of marketing 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.

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