A viral video which has become an overnight success on YouTube, viewed over 600,000 times in the last 10 days. This is in fact viral advertising for Smirnoff Raw Tea, a new product launch. The video from Smirnoff’s agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty was directed by music video veteran Julien Christian Lutz of HSI Production. In the past few days, this video has garnered mainstream press coverage including stories on CNN. The 2:15 spot is a like a shrunken rap video featuring preppies instead of rappers. They talk about their life and lifestyle and make a soft pitch for Smirnoff Raw Tea.
Viral video, particularly the emerging YouTube variety, is a tricky game. Promoting a brand this way can backfire easily. If you push the brand too hard, users will reject it as overtly commercial. On the other hand, hiding the brand too carefully and you will be accused of deception. Tonality is also very difficult as YouTube is a democratic system and the standard ‘advertising as a committee decision’ product rarely rises to the level of quality and quirkiness that viral video demands.
Smirnoff and BBH have hit the mark with this spot, however, by embracing Ice Tea’s geekiness instead of trying to run away from it. Improperly launched, alcoholic ice tea would probably have all the appeal of a lime wine coolers. By confronting ice tea’s prissy image head-on, Smirnoff gives this new product a fighting chance. Consumers reward brands which are comfortable enough to make fun of themselves when the result is actually funny.
The BBH video leaves the new brand with a perilously thin brand positioning which will need to be maintained for Smirnoff Raw Tea to have a shot at succeeding. The brand positioning here is based on the ultra-preppy, perhaps more of a mythical creature than a real demographic group. However this advertising blog believes that this can be an effective positioning. The user imagery is distinct and ownable. The product underlying the brand makes sense for this user and the effect should be to give the brand expertise which will make it appeal to a much broader audience. To make this work, Smirnoff has to play the risky game of truly embracing these absurd preppies and committing to them for the long-term, not just as a one-off stunt.
Branding Bottom Line:
The Tea Partay looks suspiciously like the last wedding we attended.