Jul. 16th, 2006

Zindane Butthead Game: Plan ahead to catch the wave.

Picture_10 It took precisely 48 hours for the first viral web hit based on French Soccer star Zidane’s infamous headbutt, to debut on the web.

And what a hit.  Well informed sources at AddictingGames.com tell MortaBlog that the game received 500,000 plays within the first 48 hours; and has notched up around 2 million views as of today (July  17).

For those of you still dwelling under a rock, Zinedine Zidane, France’s captain and by most measures the Gaul’s top soccer star, pretty much  gave the World Cup to Italy by headbutting rival Marco Materazzil in Friday’s final. Zidane was carded and sat out the rest of the game on the bench. Italy went on to win the cup in a penalty shoot-out.

Unfortunately, our sources have yet to reveal what, exactly, Mr. Materazzil said to the hot headed Frenchie.

But we DO know that the "Real Butthead" game debuted without a major sponsor — and continues to spread without the guiding hand of corporate largesse.

And you know how upset we get when great ideas flame out without moving Product.

To take advantage of viral Web hits, creative agencies (and their clients) need to plan ahead so they can ride along on great viral opportunities as they appear, rather than playing catch-up, after the fact.

If so, viral advertisers will need to think along these lines:

1. Develop and fund a relationship with a promising web publisher like Addicted, AtomFilms (remember JibJab?) or YouTube.  The remedy is simple: if you want to catch the viral wave as it starts, cozy up with your favorite publisher and strike a deal BEFORE the event.

2. Establish the criteria for an effective and relevant promotional concept. Riffs on the World cup hold almost universal interest for lifestyle and beverage brands for sure; but with a little imagination more moribund products could also benefit from a viral boost.

3. Develop an effective messaging format for piggybacking promising viral ideas. Whether it’s as simple as hosting the concept in a custom player, or going whole hog and fully embracing the generation of user content by providing branded access to the necessary tools and creative know-how via templated applications like this one from SixApart (hosts of the Typepad series of blogging tools), marketers might draw benefit from a viral’s halo effect by easing the effective distribution and generation of the message itself.

4. To spread, viral ideas have to work on two dimensions. They need to satisfy the needs of the sender; and provide value to the sendee. Users pass materials along for their own reasons, not ours. This dilemma actually creates more opportunities for the innovative integrated marketer: ride along messaging for sure (think banners, coupons, brand messaging); improved user profiling (companies like BlackFoot, DoubleClick, AOL, Yahoo and Google are already well along the path of using click stream transactions to enrich visitor profiling and targeting); and full-on visitor capture through user subscription or registration.

5. Remember us? We brought you that fabulous video, game, joke, slideshow, voicemail or podcast. Probably the hardest part of any viral promotional strategy is to tie an independent idea to your marketing requirements. Did Crispin really pull it off for Burger King with Subservient Chicken? Many feel they did; many don’t. But as Crispin’s Alex Bogusky told Business Week"I like that they are talking about the work. If they aren’t talking, then your brand is dead."

500,000 people in just two-three days? All because a crazy frenchman lost his cool. You bet you could do with that kind of attention.

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