Every brand wants that one viral video to get noticed. Thousands of viewers who watch, post and share all on their own.

Below is the best shot at a viral video AT&T ever had while I was on the account, and one of the best opportunities for consumer engagement squandered.

Get ready for a major viral video FAIL from a major brand. 

Here’s their TV spot:

Like most brands, AT&T post their spot to web. It’s not written, shot, edited or enabled for the web, but that’s a whole other subject.

The point is they posted their TV spot. And then figured their job was done. Woo-hoo! It’s online! It’s digital content! That’s where they stopped.

Had they monitored the comments section of their TV spot post, they would’ve learned quickly:  almost every visitor came looking for the entire “viral dancing squirrel video,” featured in the spot, not the TV spot itself (which, of course, they’ve already seenthat’s why they’re here yearning for more content).

Every person was anticipating a second positive brand engagement, actually looking forward to something brought to them by AT&T, and every one of them (the majority probably 12- to 44-year-olds) left disappointed. A quick reading of the viewer comments under the spot offered proof of that.

That’s self-inflected brand damage that wouldn’t have happened had they made proper use of all their assets, and simply listened to consumers.

They spent big money for creative, then killed the ROI because: a) they didn’t know how/where to use it, and b) they neglected to listen to what consumers were literally telling them right there in the comments section.

One of the benefits of digital is having instant access to where consumers stand with your brand, however, that benefit is completely lost if you don’t act on information presented. You still have to care. If you don’t care enough to act as instantly as consumers react to your marketing, the real-time benefits of digital are wasted. Your digital efforts are simply a one-way bulletin board for TV spots, print ads and other ‘content’ someone thinks consumers want. It’s a lot easier to just listen to them. They’ll tell you.

After reading the comments, I reached out to our New York office to see if the account people could get me the raw footage, so we could give people what they were looking for. Since it was produced by another agency, getting it would have caused someone to jump through hoops, hence no one ever got back to me.

The below video was posted by a third party who wanted it bad enough that he went directly to the production company and asked for the footage, something I as a professional at another agency, couldn’t do due to contractual bindings.

worked for their digital agency. I couldn’t get it. Here it is:

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At the time of writing, this :57 of video has over 60,000 views. AT&T TV :30 spot? A mere couple thousand. You can now only find both online at third party sites. Opportunity squandered.

Large companies need to learn how to operate in the digital age. They need to be as agile as the medium, to make it easier for people to engage with them, to strip away the levels of approval process and ego that so often get in the way, because by the time they get out of their own way, it’s too late; the iron is has gone too cold to strike.

If not, they’ll find themselves left in the dust of the digital age.