Algorithms killed the viral video star

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Travis Chambers at VidCon Australia

Algorithms have killed the viral video star and brands now have to pay to play on social media.

That was the bold view from Chamber Media founder Travis Chambers, whose agency makes scalable social videos. The Utah-based business creates large production videos run as ads on Facebook and YouTube which, he says, have driven millions in sales.

Chambers led the distribution and content strategy for the viral sensation ‘Kobe vs. Messi’ ad that won the title of YouTube’s number of ad of the decade, with 140 million views.

He’s worked with brands such as Coca-Cola, Amazon, Yahoo, Kraft and Old Navy and doubled the revenue of five multi-million dollar companies last year.

His resume reads like an ad for viral video, but despite these success stories he told the audience at VidCon that “algorithms have shut down virality for ads” and brands can no longer achieve these millions of views for free.

“That’s the sad, cold hard truth,” Chambers said.

“In the glory days of social media you could get millions of views for free but that’s come to an end. If you want to exist as a brand, you have to pay for it.”

Chambers gave the example of a campaign his agency did for skincare brand Nerd, featuring Facebook influencer and comedian Laura Clery, which attracted more than 24 million views and generated $4 million in sales.

While the campaign was hugely successful in 2016, Chambers said social media has changed so much even in the last two years that the spot wouldn’t work in today’s algorithm-driven environment.

“What’s crazy is we used to be able to just run this style of ad on YouTube, before Facebook video was launched and it would blow up, but you can’t do that anymore,” he said.

The social media landscape has shifted to facilitate a new ad funnel, which you can see below, that can only work with paid advertising, Chambers explained. He said the big brand splash is still important, as it connects with the top of the funnel, but video retargeting has shown strong results for his clients.

“If your strategy isn’t paid, it won’t work brands need to live in ads now,” he said.

“Pages are toast, subscribers on YouTube are pretty much toast for brands. So your audience is really what you’re spending on marketing,” he said.

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