Making money from viral videos: behind Beached Whale

Posted on: March 12th, 2009

I attended a New Media Conference last week.  By far the most entertaining speaker was Dan Ilic. His talk was more stand up comedy routine than conference presentation which at 9.30am on a Friday, was fine with me.

From his viewpoint the best virals are strong on character, content and narrative; they make an emotional connection and stay true to the idea.  Controversity, celebrity and comedy are obvious winners and his guide for time was between 45 seconds to 3 minutes, with about a laugh a minute (I know, easy for a funny guy to say).

Dan also mentioned the ‘T-shirt Economy’, that is, how viral content often ends up on t-shirts, making money for the creators – an example being Beached Whale on Cafe Press.  This reminded me of a post I never got around to posting.

At the end of last year I interviewed my friend, Jarod Green from Currant Creative, one of the guys behind Beached Whale, a hugely successful Australian viral which has had over 4 million views on YouTube.  Jarod is a film director and social media analyst and as an aside, he looks like a very young, sandy haired version of Tom Cruise.  Sometimes when I look at him I imagine him in whites and want to call him Maverick.

Anyhoo – this is what Jarod had to say about his experience:

RC/ When did you realise that you might be onto something with Beached Whale?

JG/ I’d honestly have to say from the moment we recorded it.  It just made us laugh time and time again – so much so you can actually hear Macca (the seagull) laughing in the final video.

RC/ When did it get really big?

JG/ It took about four months to crack the first million hits.  We never really tried to push it, but when Flight of the Conchords posted it on their blog and Fairfax Digital added it to all their online publications last July it certainly got a kick along.  Today it enjoys around forty thousand hits a day.

RC/ Who was the first to approach you about buying it?

JG/ TV networks in Australia and New Zealand were keen to licence the film early on.  Since then we’ve had offers from stationery companies, toy manufacturers, ring tone retailers, jewellery makers, and of course, clothing companies (like Supre).

RC/ Who have you sold it to and how much money have you made?

JG/ Whilst I can’t disclose the terms of any contracts, I can say that collectively we’ve sold over $1 million worth of Beached Whale products globally.  That’s not bad considering we only began selling the brand in late August and the total overhead cost of production, distribution, marketing and maintenance to date is about $15.

RC/ What have you learned from the experience?

JG/ The plan for us was always to use Beached Whale as a proof of concept for utilising the free distribution channels of social networking tools with a financial return. If anything, Beached Whale showed us that the business theory we build was certain sound.  It’s an exciting time to be creating content as the media industry experiences a paradigm shift into new technologies and a globalised market, but with the Old World truth of ‘value in the idea’ stronger than ever.

RC/What’s next?

JG/ A sequel?  Probably not, but you can be sure the beached whale will be returning in some capacity in the coming months.  There’s plenty of other projects we’re working on and towards as we try and keep ahead of the curve and market leaders in unleashing the powerful and rewarding opportunities of new media channels.

Posted by Renee Creer / Photo by Cafe Press

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