Early this week I received a phone call from a Naked Communications representative, explaining that the agency’s CEO, Mat Baxter, wanted to have a chat.

A chat? What about? Is there anything else that can be said about the Witchery ‘viral’ campaign that featured in the media for nearly two weeks? That was splashed across TVs from Sydney to Los Angeles? That was analysed through hundreds of Tweets, forum postings and blogs (such as Marketing‘s own)? What else could he want to talk about?

What has been of interest to marketers about the ‘viral’ component of Naked’s Witchery campaign is the speed at which media outlets picked up on it. There seemed to be a common thread within mainstream media of hostility to the use of the medium.

Earlier in the week of the ‘Heidi Clark’ controversy, Qld Tourism was ‘outed’ for posting a video on YouTube of a competition entrant who tattooed her arm to win a dream job (which was explained by the department as a ‘how to’ video, though not many people in the media bought it).

It was as though media outlets were shocked that we all could be deceived in such a manner – how dare a marketing medium try and sneak under our influence radar, they gasped!

When I asked Baxter about Naked’s decision to use viral as its method for the campaign, he was well prepared to respond.

“The realities are that the format and the concept have to work hand in glove. To large extent, the format to which you’re playing with dictates a lot of the creative variables or parameters that you use.”

The agency reportedly began working with the Witchery account about a year before the campaign began. Since the video was posted, Naked commissioned a ‘post-reveal report’ from research company, edentify, for the purpose of proving the validity and success of the campaign so far due to the viral video.

Through all the statistics and respondent comments, the cut of it was that Naked received more positive and ambivalent replies than negative. Secondly, Witchery is happy with what is going on with campaign – no problem there. Baxter suggests that the media coverage has done more good things for the campaign than being detrimental. So what got the mainstream media’s goat?

I suggested to Baxter that perhaps if the tone of the video had been more obviously aimed at men, like the Kylie Minogue Agent Provocateur TVC, then there would have been less of a problem.

“You can attract young men by getting a scantly clad Kylie Minogue and putting her in a beautifully shot TVC. Problem is that not every brand is right for that as an execution and the other problem is that not every brand can afford that. We weren’t working on a brand brief with unlimited funds, and were looking for something that was absolutely going to be capable of dragging what is a really strong female brand… and convince men that they sell men’s clothes and it’s ok to shop at Witchery. That’s a really big shift and we needed to do something that would be capable of moving the brand the way we wanted to move,” explained Baxter.

Kylie appearance or not, the video that Naked released on YouTube was not only a national topic – reports on the video appeared in news outlets in China and the US, according to Baxter. What the media seems to have criticised Naked about most was not so much the content of the video, but its execution. I asked him whether this sort of criticism was a good or bad thing for the agency.

“There’s no doubt that the subsequent media post reveal that’s gone both local and international is commentating and critiquing the execution as it unfolded. I think that the initial media, where it was reported as news, had nothing to do with campaign execution it to do with the media jumping on a juicy tabloid story that felt could move more product for them.”

From Baxter’s perspective, there has always been positive and negative sentiment when it comes to marketing. The difference with social media is that there’s now an outlet present that gets people’s opinion to masses that doesn’t exist in other media.

“When you choose to go into the social media environment, you have to be prepared for the good the bad and the ugly all to be posted up there for all to see. There was always going to be a level of polarisation in this campaign, just as there is in any campaign, that is in any way shape or form controversial or just a way for people to radically reassess the brand.”

Radical measures for a radical change in brand positioning, when it comes to Witchery launching its men’s line. But now that the campaign hit its KPIs so early, what if it gets stale before the actual launch date. Baxter admits that whatever strategy Naked had before this furore is now moot, leaving the agency a small window to reassess and continue is projected campaign.

“I would be mad to say that we haven’t taken stock following for what has been a fairly manic week for us and the client and we have made some changes to the campaign strategy. We are in a very different place… we’ve essentially achieved an entire campaign outcome in a week, for something we planned to stretch over five, six or seven weeks, with exposure, conversation, coverage and brand shifts in a way we never expected. But there are other components to the campaign and they will be going ahead.”

So what do we take away from this whole experience? Mainstream media has always had the tendency to make mountains out of mole’s hills, jumping on a marketing technique because it doesn’t appear to be transparent enough to the naked eye (no pun intended).

The episode only encourages marketers to delve further into the viral world for their own campaigns, if not for more education on the subject. As a marketing medium, it will certainly appear again.