Chuck McBride: Using ‘virals’ for Internet ads

Chuck McBride and his partner, Brad Harrington, are looking to change how big business does advertising — one story at a time.

Only three months ago, McBrideleft internationally renowned ad agency TBWAChiatDay to start Cutwater, his own boutique agency with Harrington. Their plan: Focus on using new media and “virals” — online videos, songs or memes so entertaining that people spread them across the Internet — to strategically brand products.

The idea of using virals to gain market attention isn’t new. Many large corporations — from BMW to Sony — have effectively used them.

McBride believes virals are rapidly becoming the face of mainstream advertising.

“I think that, philosophically, this business has changed so much over the last four years, and it will change more over the next five,” he said.

It hasn’t taken long for the industry to notice the power of this new trend, McBride says. Already Cutwater has secured contracts with Fox Sports Network, Ray-Ban sunglasses and most recently, Jeep.

For Ray-Ban, Cutwater developed seven viral videos showing what appears to be a pair of average guys doing crazy things with their sunglasses. Sporting the message “Never Hide,” the videos remain the most viewed Ray-Ban videos on video-sharing Web site YouTube.

McBride says that many ad agencies today have forgotten how personal stories can sell a brand. For example, he says, rather than trying to create different marketing strategies for each model of Jeep, he and Harrington recognized the Jeep brand already had a loyal community and decided to build on it.

Cutwater’s current ads for Jeep can be seen most prominently, he says, at the Montgomery Street BART station.

McBride says the future of advertising is already out there, in the minds of people using the Internet and other new media. What it is and what it looks like, he’s not sure, but he does know that it will be interactive and it will allow user contribution. The key, he says, is finding the right team of marketing people to figure how best to use technology to their advantage.

Edie Sellers is a writer, podcaster and talk-show host on KGO newstalk radio 810. Read her blog at www.kgo.com.

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