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.




Set in the fictitious advertising agency of Sterling Cooper in the 1960s this short clip, from the popular series Mad Men, sees Don Draper pitching a campaign concept to his client Kodak.

It struck us as one of the best pitches ever. Why? Don understood the product, what it’s core benefit was and how to make an audience want it. But above all of that, he used Kodak’s product to tell them a real story.

We felt that the advertising & media agencies of today could learn a lot from this short clip. Even though presentation technology has come on leaps and bounds since the 60s, at the end of the day when we’re all sat around a board room table, we’re still just people talking to people.

We hope you enjoy!

Whilst making his acceptance speech for deservedly winning the Media Pioneer Award at the recent Media Awards, Dermot Hanrahan threw down the gauntlet to the young media planners in the room – support indigenous media. His point was that if the young media planners did not support our indigenous media today, it might not exist tomorrow.


The globalisation of everything in the world is an everyday topic. Economies of scale and more choice giving the consumer what he or she wants or a dumbing down of culture and quality that leads to Kardasahian TV and horse meat in our burgers.


There are undoubtedly serious implications. Many large multinational organisations have relocated their marketing functions to the UK, with comments like Ireland is a marketplace the same size as Birmingham echoing down the empty hallways. Increasing multinational media ownership is creating a new look Irish media landscape. The recent report, commissioned by TV3, by the London-based consultancy, Oliver and Ohlbaum (O&O), on the issue of foreign broadcasters in the Irish market stated that the British broadcaster Sky took 43% of television revenues in the state amounting to €382m, €157m more than RTE’s €225m. RTE’s much publicised financial woes have tangible effects on the products that they produce. Programme budgets decline and with them the quality of the product goes down so the theory goes.


I see an analogy in the world of food. The top chefs receive the top awards for producing great food, in season, sourced locally, yet potentially influenced by their experiences in other parts of the world. In the marketing world, we call it sharing best practice. You can’t cook a great meal in Dublin from Birmingham. And even if your recent knowledge afforded you some local knowledge in what to cook and when to cook it, you’ll soon find that tastes and fashions evolve quickly and it’s very easy to lose touch and relevance swiftly. The need for local knowledge will always be there, but people will only want it if it is coupled with excellence. Bacon and cabbage can be the best or worst meal in the world, depending on how it is prepared and presented.


Love Hate, Off the Ball, Vincent Browne (the written word or the Television show) are all brilliant examples of quality media delivering an experience that will resonate more with the Irish consumer than the Kardashians ever will. What they have in common is a true understanding of their audience (I can’t imagine Vincent going down well in downtown Birmingham) that is unique to the Irish people. The marketer based in London might not be aware of the change in personnel presenting Off the Ball (and indeed might not care), but the Irish based marketer will and will act accordingly. In a social media world where the importance of talking with and not at the consumer is paramount, these subtle differences will generate long term brand health.


The underlying theme to all of this is excellence. If we produce media choices to the highest standards budgets will follow. Indigenous media does not have a divine right to budgets. I believe Dermot would agree with me as his body of work of successful media companies show.


Australia has very similar issues. I read an interesting article in Monocle magazine about Australian print and broadcast media and what it described as the bloodbath of breakfast media setting the agenda for the country. One of the senior executives from the Fairfax media group, who face the potential threat of the Guardian entering the Aussie marketplace, had this to say, which rings true from an Irish perspective:


“Audiences are bigger than they have ever been in the history of Fairfax,” agrees Matthews. “[The editorial team] are delivering deeply engaged audiences. They get impacted by business issues, clearly, but the problem is the monopoly profits of the old days are gone. We don’t have an audience challenge; we have a business model challenge.”


Until recently Australia’s old media institutions operated in relative comfort, protected by generous regulation and offering limited options to a locked-in audience. But in the new landscape, threats, challenges and opportunities arrive from all angles at impossible speed. Sound familiar?


So a need to deliver excellence, which many of our media outlets do, is necessary, but there appears to be less progress in cracking the commercial imperative, and not all of those woes can be laid at the door of media buyers. Media buyers, under the instruction of their clients, will chase value, which sometimes means the lowest price, but often means buying the best environment and paying a premium for that. In cracking the commercial environment, new approaches need to be taken around the board rooms (and indeed the Union halls) of Ireland’s indigenous media players, to ensure that they can deliver all levels of value to the Irish advertising community, which will in turn lead to a stronger Irish marketing community and not one that’s feeling a little unsure of itself in the current challenging environment.







It might not surprise you that I believe in advertising. I know it’s my job, but I strongly believe in the power of media. When planned well, it can have amazing effects on people’s actions and brand perceptions. If done really well it can even get people excited. Nike, Coke, Guinness, the Movie guys…all great at fostering excitement in a target audience.

But something I’ve noticed in recent times, (with the evolution of social media and other things), is that PR is starting to play a more important role than, say five years ago. Brand managers are taking it into consideration more, and consequently plugging more of their marketing budgets into it.

I agree that PR is an important part of the marketing mix, but where do you draw the line? Arun Sudhamen says that it’s set to take a bigger share. Fine by me. Maybe the PR budget can move from 10% to 15%? That makes sense. But to 50%?? That’s wrong. PR should support media. Media should lead and PR follows, not the other way round. Media should propel out the message, and PR should follow and whisper it in people’s ears.

Because a PR campaign is dwarfed without Media support. Media can stand alone but PR cant.

As Neasa wrote previously the lines are blurring between creative, media and PR. The future is messy. Media agencies brainstorm and create (our ignition facility for example). PR agencies negotiate free media. Creative’s dictate media choices.

Who does what isn’t so clear. But I think moving chunks of money out of media and into PR isn’t a clever strategy. There is a limited amount of  PR you can negotiate, but there is limitless advertising space. 


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