Want to watch an entertaining video? It’s an infomercial for Chatbooks. I had nothing to do with it; US agency Harmon Brothers made the ad. They claim it’s had 75 million views and 467,000 shares. The version I saw on YouTube had only 16 million views. Even so, that’s a figure you’d expect of a music clip or a hilarious kitten video, not an ad. And, as YouTube content, it’s free advertising.

There are lots of boring ads around that you wouldn’t want to sit through, let alone share. So what makes this one, long at almost four minutes, so compelling?

The script is clever. The presenter draws you in by gaining your empathy. Any parent can relate to her situation. The advertiser then starts selling to you like crazy, connecting the different product points with a string of gags. The ad starts funny and stays that way pretty well to the end.

Now compare that with the average TV commercial or practically any pre-roll YouTube ad. We don’t choose to watch those. We’re forced to view them, at least the first few seconds, until we turn away from the TV or press the skip button.

The makers of those ads forget we all watch to be informed or entertained. What marketers have to say about their products isn’t of interest to most of us. It could be though. By engaging our emotions with humour or drama – entertaining us, that is – they might just get us to stick around for what they really want us to see and hear. With wit and charm (the honey that helps the medicine, or selling proposition, go down) they could turn what would otherwise be an annoying, interruptive ad into something we’d gladly watch – like Chatbooks’ spiel. And while we may not be their target audience when we watch their ad, we might well be potential customers tomorrow. So it makes sense to attract as many viewers as possible with entertaining content.

The Chatbooks ad probably wasn’t cheap to produce. With free media (YouTube) though, those 16 million potential customers were pretty cheap to reach. It reminds me of a quote from a famous American adman, back in 2010:

“Marketing in the future is like sex. Only the losers will have to pay for it.”

That future is now. And there are lots of losers with their boring ads in paid-for media. And there are also winners, or at least those who are losing less, with ads like this:

Chatbooks infomercial by Harmon Brothers

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