A Meadville-themed video designed to promote holiday shopping at downtown businesses proved surprisingly virulent, according to the representatives of the marketing agency responsible for the campaign.

The two-minute video, which parodied a well-known Dollar Shave Club video from 2012, opened with a stubble-faced City Manager Andy Walker addressing the camera in a deadpan tone.

“Hi, I’m Andy from the city of Meadville. Where’s Meadville? We’re in northwest PA and we’ve got one of the most charming downtowns for holiday shopping,” Walker says from inside the City Building, a lamp like the stockinged “major award” in the film “A Christmas Story” standing behind him. “Yeah, holiday shopping. Is our downtown really that good?

“No, it’s flipping great.”

Released on Thanksgiving and promoted as a paid advertisement on both Facebook and YouTube, the video reached more than 136,000 viewers across the two platforms. Of those, nearly 47,000 were “organic” Facebook viewers that encountered the video independent of the paid distribution. Nearly 55 percent of those people not only encountered the video in their feed, they actually viewed the video as well, according to Mattocks.

“That’s a pretty outstanding number — think about how many times you ignore stuff that you see in your Facebook feed,” Mattocks told council. “But apparently Andy’s good looks were enough to entice people to take and click on that video and watch it.”

The video was also distributed as a paid ad targeted at specific types of user profiles in urban areas such as Pittsburgh and Erie, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown in Ohio and Buffalo and Jamestown in New York.

Of the 35,400 people reached by the ad’s paid distribution, Mattocks said, more than 16,000 watched the video and nearly 18,000 engaged with the video by commenting, liking it, sharing it or interacting with it in another way.

“That’s actually a crazy number to get that much engagement on a paid ad in a market to where people would actually on their own click on it, like it and share it,” Mattocks said.

The ad not only drew attention from viewers, Mattocks said, it received press coverage in Meadville and Erie and was shared by the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a Harrisburg nonprofit that promotes downtown revitalization across the state.

The ad’s success extended beyond merely providing entertaining viewing for social media users, according to Bull Moose’s Josh Sherretts. Since the video was released through the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page, Sherretts was able to compare traffic to the chamber’s online downtown shopping map over a similar period in 2017. An increase of nearly 44,000 people visited the map compared to 2017, Sherretts said, with the holiday video as the one significant factor that changed from one year to the next.

Furthermore, videos spotlighting downtown businesses on the chamber website saw traffic increase from a few hundred views in 2017 to a few thousand views in 2018, Sherretts said.

Mayor LeRoy Stearns said he had heard from several downtown businesses reporting increased sales for the 2018 holiday season.

“I’m hoping this was a big help because I went out and got sponsorships for this,” Stearns joked. “I know one was up 30 percent, and I’d like to put it all on this and say this did the job.”

Sherretts acknowledged that confirming a definite cause-and-effect relationship between the video and increased sales was difficult. At the same time, he said, anecdotal reports from one shop owner who asked visitors whether they had seen the video lent more support to the ad’s effectiveness.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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