According to Todd Bieber, director of content and production for Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy, there are ten rules for creating hilarious and popular branded online videos. Just don’t call them viral.

During his Advertising Week panel on Wednesday, titled “How to be Funny and Filthy Rich By Making Online Branded Videos!”, Bieber laid out his tips for making sidesplitting branded clips, illustrated by work that UCB has been contracted to create for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Bieber’s first tip? Be funny in the first ten seconds, or better yet, be funny in the title.

“If you look at the analytics of YouTube videos, you’ll see people drop off almost instantly,” he said.

More important than getting the product mentioned in the first seconds of the video, is to make sure the audience is hooked. “A brand in the first four seconds of a video will make me click away,” he said. “Have confidence in your video.”

That brings us to tip number two: Don’t show the product immediately. More people seeing a video with subliminal branding is more important than fewer viewers watching something heavily branded. He showed this Excedrin semi-commercial, which has over one thousand views, and virtually no branding:

In fact, treating your videos as a creative endeavor, instead of as potential commercials is rule three. Anheuser-Busch applied UCB’s successful freestyle prank idea (watch this first) to their brand for a series of videos that don’t feel like ads, but do include plenty of branding:

Four: Keep it under two minutes. The average UCB video lasts 1:56, and Bieber’s advice to marketers was to keep short and sweet. “If you have a video that is three minutes because you have too many brand points, people will not watch.”

Five: Make it truly sharable. “People are not likely to share a funny ad,” Bieber said. “Breaking Bad did product placement [within the show] all the time. Brands have this idea that they need to create online commercials. We need to think about how to integrate our brands in to existing great ideas.”

But hiring the right people to create that content is paramount. Rule six is to know your audience. If you’re trying to reach single women living alone, then hire someone familiar with that experience.

Have a social media plan, Bieber suggested as rule seven. “You can think of them as individual ideas, but that would be wrong. It can’t just be ‘Things That Seem Normal When You Live Alone, brought to you by the Holiday Inn.’ Start an Instagram feed that encourages people to share photos of their apartments,” he offered.

Rule eight is to have a realistic timeline. Warning: do not ask UCB to make your video campaign funny at the last minute…

Nine: Kick-start your views. “There is no formula for a ‘viral video’,” Bieber said with a touch of disdain in his voice, “But there are formulas for sharable videos.” One element is relationship development. “There is advertising for advertising. You need to be friendly with the blogs you want to share your videos. Buy ad on their sites. Or just become friends with them.”

Finally? Rule ten is to hire someone funny. “That’s where we come in.”


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