A few months after deciding not to advertise on the Super Bowl because it is too expensive, FedEx has launched a new advertising campaign that is video, but totally Internet-based. The three-minute comic spots staring actor Fred Willard are being featured on YouTube in an attempt to stir viral interest in the express shipping company.
The five infomercials, under the series name “1-2-3 Succeed,” could be called an homage to Billy Mays, although no one knew during production that the infomercial pitchman would be dead by the time they appeared on the Internet. The bits try to take the already hokey infomercial concept over the top, with absurd responses from the “studio audience” and Willard delivering his acting specialty of saying funny lines without breaking character.
In an interview with the New York Times for the unveiling of the campaign, FedEx director of advertising Steve Pacheco said the company is still “involved” with television, especially with sports and sponsorship support, but that digital advertising is taking a bigger role in the company’s over all advertising plan. He told the Times that “lunchtime is the new prime time,” with people watching online videos at their desks.
Rather than search at the main YouTube page (as we did, with results described below that point to problems with this approach for advertisers), you can click here to see the FedEx videos on a special YouTube page.
Judging by the user comments posted, and there were only six when we checked in, the reception is so-so. Fred Willard fans love it, although one identified him as “Bob Willard.” According to one poster, “This is not bad enough to be campy, and not good enough to become viral.”
RBR/TVBR observation: OK, so after reading the New York Times article, we went to YouTube.com and entered FedEx in the search box. What came up was not the new comedy videos promoting the company, but rather several videos of a FedEx plane crashing in Japan. That’s the problem with trying to go viral on the Web – no control over packaging of the message with other material.