It may not yet be time to pour one out for the overused term “viral video.” But that day gets closer and closer, as the days of companies building their businesses on one-off widely-watched hits trickle away.
Creative studio Portal A, whose projects have ranged from political ads to the award-winning series White Collar Brawler, has acquired Seedwell, the San Francisco-based production company behind a number of viral hits.
Seedwell and Portal A, according to partner Zach Blume via email, first connected almost seven years ago, in the early days of online video. “Our business instincts and creative sensibilities have been aligned from the beginning and have evolved together over time. Now, hundreds of millions of views and an endless number video campaigns, pitch meetings, shoot days, and late night editing sessions later, our forces are combined,” he said.
A big part of both companies’ business in that time has been the idea of work-for-hire viral video; Seedwell is recently best known as the production company behind YouTube Rewind Style, (s GOOG) a musical wrap-up of pretty much every trend you might remember from 2012 with an all-star cast and over 125 million views.
Seedwell has also produced a number of web original series, including American Hipster; following the Portal A acquisition, according to a release, co-founder David Fine will continue as a director of Portal A projects, while co-founders Peter Furia and Beau Lewis will serve as advisors.
Portal A has also had luck with creating viral content in the past — for example, in 2010, a music video cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” got huge pick-up, thanks to its rewritten lyrics focusing on the San Francisco Giants’ successful playoff run.
The video and song became an unofficial anthem of the Giants’ eventual World Series win, but Portal A also cleverly tied it to White Collar Brawlers, and got a surge of media attention and views for their original series.
That isn’t to say the company particularly likes the overused term for popular web content. In fact, while clients come to Portal A asking for viral video “every day,” Blume said, “We don’t keep many rules at Portal A, but one of them is to stay away from the term ‘viral video.’ It’s too loaded, will be defined differently by every person you talk to, and does not account for the vast amount of ways an online video can be successful beyond the view count.”
“There is no standard definition of viral, and no universal way of measuring viral success,” he added. “It’s a phenomenon that is in a constant state of flux, and the measuring stick is always being moved and redefined.”
Portal A recently partnered with YouTube and Ryan Higa to produce the Geek Week tie-in Naruto: The Movie, and will take on the production of YouTube Rewind‘s 2013 edition. Plus, White Collar Brawler, following its earlier successes, has since been adapted for television thanks to the Esquire (s CMCST) Network, where it’ll premiere next month.
In addition, Portal A will use its newly expanded production resources and relationships to create content for brands, which in the past have included YouTube, Microsoft, (s MSFT) Intel (S INTC) and Banana Republic.
What will be key in creating that content? According to Blume, it’s authenticity that entices people to share:
“Online audiences are becoming more savvy to branded content or brand messaging, have more choices than ever before, and can sniff out a commercial (and elect not to watch it) more than ever. That’s why it will be incumbent on brands, who want to earn an audience online, to become creators, producers of original, entertaining content, not advertisements.”
In short: Just make a good video that people like and connect with — and it might just go viral after all.