Lessons From The ‘Not-Too-Popular’ Producer of a Viral Video

You might have seen us in B&T and ProBono News recently talking about a viral campaign which was blowing up our newsfeeds last month. The anti-palm oil video by American consumer group SumOfUs caught our attention for a number of reasons:

  1. It was quirky.
  2. It was surprising.
  3. It was stirring.
  4. It went viral.

This week, we were lucky enough to talk to the video’s extremely talented producer, homegrown talent Briony Benjamin. She gave us some great insights about the video’s success which we wanted to share with you now.


Image via QUT

Richenda Vermeulen: You did a great job of building a fun, quirky and attention-grabbing story within the video’s short timeframe. How important is it to develop a strong story and call-to-action?

Briony Benjamin: With everything we do at Motion Picture Company we always focus first and foremost on creating entertaining and engaging content. Important issues often get lost in the noise if people don’t feel an emotional connection and response to them. Story is key and a clear objective is essential. Often people will try and do too many things with their videos & messaging, or assume others are as passionate about the issue as they are – that’s a sure fire way to confuse and not engage with your audience.

We’ve been making content with a variety of clients for over 5 years now and we often remind ourselves: (a) Keep it simple; (b) focus on the important elements that tell that story; and (c) above all make sure the end product is engaging to watch as an outsider – not just internally.

If you look at our Getup – It’s Time video, we told a complete love story within two minutes and created a story which people from around the world could personally relate to. Once that happens an individual’s preconceived ideas or prejudices can be challenged and from there change is possible.

We don’t pretend that our videos change the world – at the core of what we do is provide one element, a voice, an opportunity that gives NGOs and Not-For-Profits the communication window and platform to amplify the great work they are doing and help them enable change.


Image via SumOfUs

RV: The SumOfUs campaign was well-timed to coincide with Doritos’ #CrashTheSuperbowl campaign, where user-generated ads compete to be screened during the Super Bowl broadcast. How long was this campaign in the pipelines for? What lessons did you learn along the way?

BB: We developed the creative for the SumOfUs campaign at the end of 2014. We knew the Doritos competition was on the horizon, however the exact date of their finalists release and what they would be was unknown – so we had to be time-sensitive and creatively prepared for anything.

With key moments like these sometimes we have long lead times and sometimes it’s a same day rapid response. Over the years we’ve developed systems where we can work efficiently and cost-effectively in both situations – which we’ve found is the key to providing effective support to campaigning organisations.

RV: Did you and the team expect the ad to have such viral success? Apart from the great creative, why do you think the campaign has spread so quickly?

BB: We’ve been really thrilled with the success of the video – to get an important message out to a global audience is great. We’ve now had over 10 million views on Facebook and 2 million on YouTube. Actually that total is far more than the views on all the Top Ten finalists of the official Doritos #CrashTheSuperbowl competition put together.

But at the end of the day we are focused on the results of the campaign overall. Having a video go viral is one thing, but actually making a difference and meeting the clients’ objectives is what we focus on. If someone comes to us and says we want a ‘viral’ video we often walk away. Focus on the objectives of the campaign, how to best tell that story, and then if it goes viral that’s an added bonus.

We’re fortunate these days to have access to such an incredible communication platform like the internet. The world is craving great engaging content, and if you focus on that others (individuals & groups) will jump on board and share your message. Everyone is rallying to make the world a better place – you don’t have to do it in isolation.

Given the way this year’s #CrashTheSuperbowl competition has panned out, I don’t think we’re too popular at Doritos/Pepsico right now.

Watch the video here:

Briony Benjamin is a Sydney-based producer at Motion Picture Company, a broadcast media agency who have worked with Telstra, GetUp!, and Commonwealth Bank.


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