It all started with Dove, with a video focusing on aesthetics and authenticity. The video changed the history of modern communication, and ended up being remembered as one of the top viral videos of the Web as we know it.
“Dove Evolution” – directed by Tim Piper and Yael Staav for Ogilvy and Dove in 2006 – was part of the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”, and today it’s still a reference point in the commercial use of aesthetic, both on and offline.
Lately, the theme of aesthetics as a potential danger has been the focus of two online campaigns that have already garnered international attention.
The campaign “Don’t cover it Up”, by British charity Refuge, plays with the typical style of Youtube makeup-stars videos: the protagonist Lauren Luke – known for his video-tutorials under the nickname Panacea81 – explains how to cover the signs of domestic violence:
Disarming and disturbing at the same time, the video is intended to draw attention toward the silence that often follows domestic abuse – which according to data represent 65% of total cases in UK.
In Germany, DDB decided to involve Dutch web makeup star Nikkie de Jager for a Volkswagen campaign aimed to raise awareness about the dangers of putting on makeup while driving.
According to data cited in the video and reported by the Telegraph, over 500,000 accidents were caused by women who attempted to make up while driving a car.
In both cases, the videos tap into with something web users are familiar with: the “web-grammar” of Youtube makeup stars.
We can see a series of elements – the foreground, the tutorial, the tone Lauren and Nikkie are using – that many people will recognize. The success of the two campaigns is due to the fact that such videos are part of the daily experience of millions of Internet users, and their web-habits makes them more sensitive toward the subject of the campaign itself.
In fact, nowadays we can speak of a genre on its own, traceable throughout the world: just think about the fact that Lauren is a New Zealander and Nikki comes from the Netherlands. We saw the first Youtube makeup stars appear around 2006, like vietno-American Michelle Phan – which in 2010, after hundreds of millions of views, has been called to work at Lancôme.
The campaigns for Volkswagen and Refuge have been a great opportunity to come into direct contact with users in a deeper way: in the case of Lauren’s video, the more than 2,000 comments to the video are mainly focused on the “reality” factor of the video (which is quite realistic and credible).
The subsequent relief, after discovering that it actually was a campaign for Refuge, generated a significant amount of conversations, helping the video to go even more viral.
The same applies for Volkswagen: the brand acted directly in response to more than 3,000 comments posted. The video is not just a simple “PSA sponsored by Volkswagen”, yet has become a way to demonstrate VW’s practical interest in the theme, and its attention toward motorists – referring specifically to a female target, indeed.
After all we are accustomed to a world where marketing try to blend organically with phenomena born of Youtube: we have explored this last year, talking about The Annoying Orange.
In a context where the user becomes more experienced, and the boundary between user generated contents and professional productions becomes more and more thin, the best way to reach people – and establish a real dialogue with them – is to understand web platforms and their “grammar” .