When dealing with a serious subject and wanting to send a message through the viral stream, certain elements are key to the success of a campaign. SOS Children’s Villages and Save the Children, two non-profit charities, have generated awareness for Syria’s civil war that has taken a toll upon its children. How can anybody be indifferent to the staggering statistics of more than 10,000 children dead and the numbers still rising?

Two viral campaigns managed to strike a chord leaving no one indifferent. But how did they do it? Here are the highlighted formulas helping to build excellent responses to campaigns:

The Social experiment format

SOS Children’s Villages Norway uploaded a video called Would You Give Your Jacket to Johannes? Hidden cameras in Oslo were set-up catching the candid moments of people’s reactions to a young boy, Johannes, an 11-year-old actor, sitting at a bus stop without a coat in the dead of winter. Viewers are drawn in by the curiosity of what people will do, “What would I do if placed in this certain situation?”

Although human nature is steering the social experiment, a clever twist is also generating the awareness. How? With an ask at the end of the video: Donate a jacket to Syrian children. By means of a simplified scenario, Johannes embodies thousands of displaced children, the cold and lack of a jacket representing the immediate need and the various people positioned in the ask to act now.

As a result the video generated over 1.5 million views in the first day and more than 12 million views by the end of the week. Placing it in third place in the Top 20 Most Shared, Branded Video Ads During February 2014 with 456,769 shares. Not only did the video attract viewers,retain their attention and was shared by thousands, it also persuaded people to act. Text donations began to pour into SOS Mayday generating a reported $400,000 in response to their campaign.


One-second-a-day format

Save the Children’s Most Shocking Second a Day Video brings Syria’s civil war closer to home. Set in Britain, viewers embark on a series of one-second-a-day glimpses into a young girl’s life for 60 days commencing as happy, normal, everyday snippets and spiraling into war-stricken scenarios.

The one-second-a-day format is perfect, not only on a level to which people can relate to but also for its timing. People are drawn to the personal, intimate, true to life, home video appeal. Note the release date: strategically launched on the third year anniversary of Syria’s conflict which is beautifully depicted in the last scene with the girl blowing out her birthday candle in a refugee camp. At the end of the video a reminder: “Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.” Again the results were staggering, over 1.5 million views in the first day reaching to more than 24.6 million a week later.

Children as emotional resources

It’s no secret that children are a powerful force used in viral media. They remind us of our own children, of children we know and of the child that still lives inside us all. Just look at the Evian’s Baby&Me ad that made such a stir. Why? It’s all about emotional triggers. They forge a personal connection and lasting impression with innocence, which everyone can relate to, and it is a powerful tool. Therefore, it only makes sense these two charities dealing with child causes would place children at the forefront of their campaigns. Although there has been some debate whether or not the “Missing White Woman Syndrome ” plays into context and might negate the genuine emotional connection between the struggles of the Syrian children versus the fictional British or Oslo children, the success of the campaigns speak for themselves. SOS Mayday has raised over $400,000 USD while Save the Children has raised over $70,000.

Catchy titles

What’s in a name? A higher rate of response is the answer. In fact, 32 times the number of clicks. Therefore, a catchy title can either make you or break you in the viral realm. According to Upworthy, successful titles must have a good balance between: « Too vague and I don’t want to click. Too specific, I don’t need to click.”

Both Would You Give Your Jacket to Johannes? and Most Shocking Second a Day Video were successful in their titling. They peak our curiosity with the Who? What? and Where? questions. All the while steering clear from the mention of the Syrian conflict that might negate response, instead framing the headline with key words that elicit intrigue.

Generation C appeal

According to Think: The YouTube generation is a powerful new force. « It’s a term we use to describe people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection and community. It’s not an age group; it’s an attitude and mindset defined by key characteristics. »

By placing the media within the YouTube circuit, the seed was planted by the online sharing influences leaving the viral community to work its magic without any need for large budget promotions. Social networks played a key role in getting the message out and the response became loud and clear through the amount of views and shares. As a result SOS Mayday and Save the Children surpassed projected responses and were successful in spreading awareness in their campaign to depict the plight of Syrian children.

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