2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Viral Sucks

Written by Megan Simpson | February 13, 2014

At SXSW 2014, Craig Kay outlines the evidence against viral campaigns

Craig Key is the Director of Media at space150, one of the most forward-thinking digital agencies on the planet. Over the last five years at space150, he’s built the company’s social media practice from the ground up, and has worked with brands such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Dairy Queen, and American Express. This March, he looks forward to dispelling the myths of "viral" marketing at SXSW Interactive with his session “Viral Sucks.”. For this installment of the Session Spotlight, we spoke to Key to learn a few things about this so-called “v-word.” For more from Key, follow him on Twitter @craigsanatomy.

SXSW: Tell us why “viral” is a bad word in your book.
Key: The v-word. It’s the worst. Whether a colleague, boss, client, or a doctor, if you hear the word “viral” you’re in trouble. Someone that thinks that all we need is for “that one idea” that is so funny, so clever, or so disruptive (without actually changing how we do business, of course) that it will [gulp] “go viral” and our sales will go through the roof. In this session, we'll talk about unrealistic expectations, poor planning, and the belief that being really clever and hoping to get lucky trumps being really strategic and working hard to make success happen.

SXSW: Have you spoken about this previously?
Key: I have given this speech before. I gave a version of it at an AdFed Student Advertising Summit (at the University of Minnesota) in Feb 2013. It was very well received by the students, so I decided to try it again on grown ups. I delivered a 5 minute version of "Viral Sucks" to Ignite Minneapolis in May, and the talk was very well received. Dozens of live-tweeters said mine was the best or one of the best talks of the night.

SXSW: What kinds of people should attend this session? Why?
Key: Client side marketers who are leading/managing digital campaigns or agency side creative, media, strategy or account executives would all benefit from this session. Don't miss this chance to cut through the buzzwords, and get real, practical knowledge about how social campaigns can benefit from word of mouth, and reset expectations to dispel the myth of "viral" marketing and brands' content is discovered and shared in 2014.

SXSW: What about those who don’t know much about this topic - will they be able to follow the discussion?
Key: This topic will be accessible for most audiences, whether they are already experienced with social media marketing or not. They should, however have a basic understanding of digital media, and how modern digital marketing campaigns are planned and executed.

SXSW: What is the best article or web post that you have read in relation to this topic of “going viral?”
Key: I love the deep-dive into all the effort that went into making "Gangnam Style" go "viral." The world seems to think that great videos like this are just so good that they will take off. This article shows that there was clear thought, and planning put into this long before the video took off.

SXSW: Does the future of technology excite you or frighten you? Why?
Key: The future is bright. Data is in everything now, and we will be able to have "smart" recommendations more and more in our daily lives. Google Now is a great example of this today.

SXSW: Last question - what’s your favorite website?
Key: Google is my favorite website, because it changed the world.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. For tips on interesting sessions to attend, visit the new Recommendation page. Register now to attend “Viral Sucks” and other incredible programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.

Craig Key photo by Bethany Birnie / space150.