Using YouTube as a Test Lab for Commercials

I’m probably not the first, but I’ve noticed two recent examples of brands converting successful online videos into television commercials.

Pepsi Max had a disguised Jeff Gordon take an unsuspecting car salesman on the ride of his life. That video has over 35 million views and a few days ago, I saw a pared down version as a television commercial.The other is Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” video, which after becoming a viral success, the company announced it would begin airing the ad on television. (Both can be viewed in a few paragraphs. Keep reading.)

What’s interesting is the potential here for testing television commercials on YouTube. Before, the commercial came first then went to YouTube, except for recent Super Bowl “leaks.”

In Kmart’s case, what if the plan all along was test the reaction of a risque play on words. Compared to a more traditional television audience, the internet is more appropriate audience because they almost expect this type of content in that space. Reading through comments on the video, blog posts about the video and monitoring other social channels, Kmart could determine if it was safe to place on television or let it have its 15 seconds of internet fame and move on.

Instead of testing in front of a sample audience, YouTube gives advertisers the entire world as a test bed. Reading comments on the video itself and postings on social channels will allow for feedback that can be measured. You could argue that results are more organic as the audience doesn’t know it’s a test.

On the flip side, if it has been seen millions of times on the internet before it hits television airwaves will it have the same impact. What do you think?

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