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Go viral using social video: the Ubisoft approach

Social video is one of the most powerful tools in the video marketer’s tool belt  but one that is inexplicably overlooked. Retina Burn looks at how to create a successful social video campaign, and analyses Ubisoft’s recent campaign for Assassin’s Creed 3.

One of the major stumbling blocks for brands hoping to create a viral video, is the fact they think they have to do it alone. The myth of the viral is indeed alluring, and the belief that a brand can conjure up millions of views and new fans from a single upload is so enticing that common sense seems to be ejected from the process.

If a massive view count is your goal, then there is a shortcut and for once, shortcut is not to be used in the derogatory sense. As Kevin Nalty emphatically advocates in his book, Beyond Viral: How to Attract Customers there is already an established audience for your product or brand out there, and it lies in the hands of hundreds of talented and creative YouTube stars and video creators. These stars have been producing videos and building a loyal fan base for years, and the intimacy and strength of that relationship is more than most brands can ever hope to achieve. However, these stars still need to earn money and many of them will happily tailor one of their videos to your product or brand, and launch it directly to their audience of millions.

social video & assassin's creed 3

Now of course, there are a number of caveats when working with a YouTube star and the most important of these is learning to trust and defer your usual brand guidelines to their own creative approach. Forcing your creative input on an established creator destroys the credibility of your brand, the star and the co-production, and may turn fans and viewers against your marketing efforts. Retaining the integrity and essence of a YouTube star allows fans to forgive and tolerate the commercial repurposing, after all, everyone has to earn a living, and providing the marketing doesn’t come across as disingenuous then a happy and profitable medium can be reached.

Social Video & Assassin’s Creed 3

Ubisoft, the video games producer, has recently launched a singular and exceptional social video campaign to promote their latest release, Assassin’s Creed 3, that exemplifies all that I’ve written above. It forces you to realise that if a major brand with an already major following turned to established YouTube outlets to market their product, why other businesses, large and small aren’t doing so too, or at least…doing it correctly. In the Ubisoft example, the brand commissioned videos from channels such as Smosh, Corridor Digital, DevinSuperTramp and FPSRussia, giving them unfettered freedom in crafting their video odes to the game. These ranged in style from music videos to parkour, short films and historical documentary all without creative control being forced upon the creator. The result? A beautifully diverse and entertaining social video campaign that reaches millions of viewers in new markets beyond the usual Ubisoft YouTube channel, and established fan base.

The combined subscriber base of the Ubisoft YouTube channel and all their satellite Assassin’s Creed channels amounts to over 635,000 fans. However, a single Assassin’s Creed video on Smosh’s channel (with their subscriber base of 5 million) has already racked up over 12 million views. Combine this with the 7 million or so views from the other channel mentioned above and you can see that Ubisoft reached a wide and varied swath of the internet community that would otherwise have not have been reached via their own efforts.

Finally, being a video blog, I guess we better take a look at some fo these creations. Note how little Ubisoft branding features in each video, and how diverse they are in production.


Let us know what you think of social video campaigns, and let us know of any other successful or creative examples.

  • Dallin

    Interesting article. You might know that the entire reason Ubisoft started this marketing campaign was due to DevinSuperTramp’s original ‘Assassin’s Creed meets parkour’ video. Up until that point Assassin’s Creed 3 had launched countless internet ads, but were absolutely astounded at the results produced by one single video launched. Immediately after they sought after the big youtube names to commission 4 different videos.

    • http://www.retinaburnblog.co.uk/ Ryan Stone

      Amazing! Thanks for the insight Dallin, and for taking the time to contribute. Hopefully we’ll hear more from you on the blog! 🙂

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