Two notable made-for-online video commercials endorsing Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, featuring television and movie stars from the early 60’s to the 80’s, have shown some excellent of what makes reprising pop culture icons’ roles a viral success with online video marketing. ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell and Bob Sandidge share their discoveries on the key ingredients in successful pop-political viral videos that SMBs can take advantage of in their own online video marketing campaigns.

“Ron Howard’s Call to Action” – Lights… camera… but can we have more action?

In this video, Director Ron Howard reprises his old television roles with Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler. All three appearing to portray themselves as swing voters the current Presidential election, share their reasons for why they’re voting for Barack Obama (both their real life personas and their pop culture counterparts, apparently), and why others should, too.

In less than 2 weeks, the video has garnered over 2.5 million views, great viral distribution, and a large amount of mention in the online news medi

“Icons of pop culture has another level beyond entertainment of drawing in people. Its historic in its own right of how you can draw people to just about anything.” says my producer, Bob.
The video has a lot of interest in many levels. It’s clever way to gain a lot of attention, and to put across a message – those are always two tough elements to pull off together.”

Using pop icons who have a broad appeal (especially to earlier generations), and by using creativity and humor (especially with an acknowledgement and willingness to be self-deprecating) it manages to be an intriguing political spot without being heavy-handed. ” Showing iconic pop culture figures does carry relevancy. Its talking about culture, about change, about times. The ‘Happy Days’ is an interesting metaphor of our current times.” says Bob.

But now, if the goal of these people was just to open up a conversation, that would be one thing. But Ron ends the video by saying “Register and vote…” OK, so they why end it with the Funny-or-Die logo? Why not guide the audience to the suggested next steps?  If the goal is to get people to vote like Ron Howard says, then it should have ended with a text graphic with the call to action of “Google: where do I vote?”  Now that would have brought people automatically to their voting location and registration information. Or heck, for the amount of production work involved, they could have shelled a little something to embed the link as a button on the page hosting the video on the Funny-or-Die site, you think?

Pop culture nostalgia with online video “calls-to-immediate-action”

In the video below, Matthew Broderick reprises his Ferris Bueler movie icon role with this video titled, “Matthew Broderick: Take the Day Off” – a play on the title, scenario, an script from the movie, “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off”

The video, directly from the Obama campaign YouTube channel, was added on November 3, just 1 day before the election date. Its view rate has already gone up to 80,000 visitors and counting, and which number will likely continue to surge until the polls close.

With only one days’ time, the call-to-action is direct and instructive (”Make phone calls, knock on doors, volunteer at polling places.”) much lower-key, and actually gives a direct link to the next online step for where to go to participate with event organizers.

The SMB challenge – finding pop culture icons for your online video campaign

While pop culture icons can lend themselves (and sometimes their likeness) to political campaigns, small-to-medium businesses will likely find it to be a nearly insurmountable endeavor for their own commercial marketing, both for costs and legal reasons, as I concluded from a conversation I had with a rep from Thought Equity Motion, which describes itself on its website as “the world’s largest supplier of online motion content, licensing and professional representation services to the agency, entertainment, and corporate production industries.” Their video catalog is most impressive and quite entertaining with what you can find of your favorite popular video clips that can potentially be licenses, but be prepared to start off well into the 5-figure ranges when you’re involving actors and studios, even for web marketing use.

There are still opportunities for SMBS with using pop culture nostalgia, but it takes some creative ingenuity. Here is a suggestion I have:

Step 1: Get some quality footage: Check out the library at Thought Equity Motion, which deals with licensing video footage from the major motion studios – look for any scenes that can show any familiarity or relevance to whatever pop culture reference you want to make with your own video campaign. However, avoid show any key actors in it. (Actors cost money and require more legal arrangements). Extras in the scene may be fine, but check.

Step 2: Insert yourself in the footage. The studio footage will actually be the B-Roll. You can insert yourself reprising the role of your own pop culture icon. (Check first with the content vendor and make sure that this will be an acceptable use of the footage.)

Of course, there is the added temptation to find a desperate, out-of-work pop icon in your town!