Viral Marketing in its simplest form is the spreading of an idea which helps to benefit your business or cause (a charity in this case). Since July 2014 when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge began reaching critical mass, the phenomenon has steadily taken over people’s news and twitter feeds. The organisations website is as recently as the 27th of August reporting a staggering €94.3 million in donations for the period (July 29 – August 27). This is in comparison to $2.7 million for the same period last year. It goes without saying the campaign has been a tremendous success.

We at OMD wanted to explore why and how the Ice Bucket Challenge was such a success. We have broken it down to a number of factors.

Celebrity Seeding

The campaign took hold when Peter Frates a former Boston College Baseball star and ALS sufferer popularized the campaign. Peter had close connections with well-known Boston athletes and as a sufferer he was a fitting voice to both publicise the campaign and tie it into the ALS association. The campaign has seen celebrities like LeBron James, Rory McIlroy, Justin Bieber and even George W. Bush complete the challenge. These social influencers and hundreds more like them, endorsing the campaign has been worth billions in terms of what traditional contractual endorsements would have cost the ALS association.


Marketers don’t create a phenomenon like the Ice Bucket Challenge. They create an idea which they hope is compelling. The audience’s reaction is what will create the phenomenon. Video happens to be the perfect medium to facilitate this reaction and social media is the channel in which we distribute the content. Video was fundamental to the campaigns success as I’m sure you can imagine the same posts with still images wouldn’t have generated near as much cut through. Short snappy video is both engaging and shareable. This applies to a large amount of social content and can be proved by the higher click through rates on video vs. standard display.

Viral Component

The campaign has an in built viral component. The fact people nominate at least three other people to complete the challenge spreads the cause automatically. It is almost like the concept of chain letters from years past. The virility of this campaign has reached all demographics. Although its initial boost may have come from celebrity participation, the campaign has spanned all generations and social demographics.

Simplicity & Timing

The challenge excluded very few people as access to the raw components is readily available to most. The simple act of dumping a bucket of water on oneself is both funny and enjoyable. People also enjoy seeing people they know or admire (celebrities) in compromising positions. Although the task was quite easy it allowed the competitive nature in people to make the funniest and most original videos come to life. Timing cannot be under estimated in terms of the campaigns success. The warm summer months have lended themselves perfectly to the challenge. I’m not so sure people would have been as eager in New England during the snowy winter months to run outside and kick start this phenomenon.

Feel Good Cause

This weighed in extra impotence behind the campaign as people felt the moral obligation to support such a worthy cause. Most people wouldn’t have taken part but for the charity element evoking an emotional connection with the challenge.

The above factors combined allowed the Ice Bucket Challenge to be one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns of all time. It is proof that a simple, entertaining idea which is executed at the right time can reach every corner of the earth and truly show the worth of earned media.

We look forward to seeing how much the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge eventually nets for the worthwhile charities and how the funds can help in the battle against motor neuron disease.

See the link below to OMD’s own Ice Bucket Challenge.






Making Civics Sexy

August 21, 2014

Eric Liu proposes that the road to making civics sexy and interesting again, is by creating a better understanding of power in civic life. A really interesting talk – grab a cup of tea!





Radio Cake

August 7, 2014

The latest set of JNLR figures were released last week. We have JNRR figures to come soon too.  It’s always an interesting phenomenon to witness sitting in an ad agency. We have our own flurry of getting the data in and analysing it as soon as we can and issuing our report to our clients. There’s usually some contact with a journalist or two who are looking for an angle or an argument to substantiate. Each radio station or group of stations then kick their PR machines into action, eking out a positive spin on the figures, no matter what they may be. Everyone has an angle, usually accompanied by a celebratory cake or two (the way to every media buyer’s heart). Some column inches are filled and off we go.


radio cake

I’m sure the atmosphere in a radio station is more complex. Presenters anxiously awaiting figures which, in such a personality based medium means they can’t but fail to take the results, good or bad, very personally. Contract negotiations centre on these figures after all. Station CEO’s and Financial Directors populate their spreadsheets and try to predicate the effect that these figures will have on future earnings. Can they increase their yield, will they gain share? Sales Directors start formulating their sales story, which will be needed to convert their results into the sales that their lords and masters automatically expect. The nature of the research and the time lag involved, which can mean that it takes a full year for the effect of a schedule change to be captured in its entirety, adds another layer of complexity. The Programme Director second guesses himself (or herself) as to the direction that the station is going in. Is the music mix right? Is my Breakfast Show achieving all that I want it too?

Added to this, are the challenges that radio faces as a medium itself. Overall listenership has been slowly declining. This in an environment where there are a proliferation of stations that mean that the average unit of listenership is being diluted across more entities. This can polarise the value of individual spots and has led to media buyers making more cutting decisions than in the past. The inroads that digital players like Spotify are making is another competitive obstacle. There are winners and losers.

I’m a huge fan of radio and Irish radio, in my mind, justifies its greater than average share of the advertising pie that it gets here, compared to our European peer group. We are a small country and radio, personal medium that it is, has a greater than most opportunity to get to the hearts of the collective Irish people – more so than in larger countries. Those stations that get it right have the opportunity to have a unique place in Ireland’s media infrastructure. The collective brainpower that fuels the machinations of each radio station will undoubtedly be in overdrive in trying to reach this goal. I wonder if a slice of cake to every listener would help them in their efforts.







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