This organically trending YouTube ad shows the way – ETtech

Illustration: Rahul Awasthi
Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

A nearly five-minute advertisement has been trending on YouTube India over the last few days, in what is a rare occurrence on the video streaming platform.

India’s top YouTuber — Ajey Nagar aka CarryMinati – features in the satirical video endorsing lifestyle brand Arctic Fox’s gaming backpack.

It can be viewed on YouTube’s “Trending” tab that lists the most popular videos of the day across categories on the site for each country.

Conceptualised by creative agency Humour Me, the backpack ad video has fetched over 8 million views on the Google-owned platform since its roll-out on October 2 and is essentially one that liberally criticises all existing advertising tropes.

At a key moment in the ad, Nagar is seen speaking directly to the audience about how sick he is of brands making highfalutin claims – “without this bag, you are nothing” — in their commercials. “At the end of the day, it’s just a backpack. It’s decent at what it does but it won’t change your fortune,” he says.

In an environment where buying fake views and followers have become common practice across social media platforms, one may really question the significance of an ad trending on the platform on the back of views. To this, Dhruv Sachdeva, founder of Humour Me, pointed out that the video had fetched over 50,000 comments across platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and others, within two days of going live, especially . “Not even Nike gets that,” Sachdeva said, highlighting that engagement metrics like comments should be weighed more than the views to determine the success of a piece of content.

Arctic Fox has not spent on media to push the ad across digital platforms and plans to continue banking on its organic reach to drive sales, said founder Sridhar Thirunakara.

The company has witnessed a 5X jump in sales for the backpack since signing on CarryMinati as brand ambassador last week, he said.

Normally, Nagar garners “a similar number of views for both original content and branded content as long as the content rests on CarryMinati’s channel, since the audience is more proactive and focussed there,” said Deepak Char, his business manager.

This time around, however, the commercial uploaded on the brand’s channel is the one that is trending. “It is really exciting and I’m not sure if any Indian creator has witnessed this feat in the past,” Nagar told ET.

If a video is trending on YouTube, it gets even more views because, for unsuspecting users, the “Trending” section serves as an important source of content discovery on the platform, said Praanesh Bhuvaneswar, CEO of Qoruz, an influencer data analytics firm.

Branded content videos often trend on YouTube but not ones where an advertiser is selling its product outright.

In that sense, an ad trending on the platform is rare, said Pooja Jauhari, CEO of digital creative agency The Glitch, adding that Arctic Fox will likely earn significantly from it.

“It is culturally relevant, as it speaks authentically to the youth and the ever-growing gaming community in the country,” she added.

Having their video trending on YouTube is also an important KPI (key performance indicator) for most agencies, Jauhari said.

Getting an ad to trend organically on YouTube is a phenomenon that advertisers covet as it cannot be bought or gamed easily.

“At one point in the recent past, getting videos trended on YouTube was a service some agencies offered. YouTube started pulling down those videos and removing those brand channels, so advertisers are a lot more careful now,” said an influencer marketing professional who did not wish to be named.

According to YouTube’s fake engagement policy, “YouTube doesn’t allow anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metric either through the use of automatic systems or by serving up videos to unsuspecting viewers. Additionally, content that solely exists to incentivise viewers for engagement (views, likes, comments, etc) is prohibited. Content and channels that don’t follow this policy may be terminated and removed from YouTube.”

Jauhari said the ad sets a benchmark for how influencer marketing should be done right as the video plays on influencer CarryMinati’s personality and reach as a gamer.

Nagar said he wrote all the dialogues himself and “changed the structure a bit, which gave more impact to the scenes …”

At one point in the ad, Nagar asks his manager if the client (referring to Thirunkara) has paid them yet before receiving his phone call.

Upon hearing that the money has not in fact come in, Nagar decides to massage the client’s ego by saying things like, “the bag is amazing. It can make a donkey look like a horse.” Switching off, he turns to the audience and says one has to do these things for the money.

Many brands might hesitate to give CarryMinati a free hand in bringing his tone of voice into their brand messaging, said Thirunakara of Arctic Fox, alluding to the gratuitous use of swear words in Nagar’s content.

“It was a high-risk we were taking as well, as that language doesn’t go well with our brand,” he added.

The risk, however, seems to have paid off.

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