Going Viral

Posted on June 12, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In my last posting, I wrote about how advertising is everywhere these days and, as a result, we’re all getting a little numb to it. We fast forward through commercials, we barely glance at print ads, and heaven help the telemarketer who calls our cell phones. Thanks to technology (e.g., TiVo, caller ID, pop-up blockers), we have more control these days—and we’re using it to take a stand against advertising.

For the marketing industry, this shift in power means it needs to raise the bar to create advertisements that we want to watch. Ads that don’t interrupt our entertainment, but in fact, are entertainment. Ads that we just have to share with friends. Ads that, in the best case scenario, go viral.

An Ad Age article lists the top 10 viral ads of all time. While most ads are unceremoniously passed over by consumers, the top video ad of all time has more than 134 million views. It’s not for a soft drink. Or running shoes. It’s for a blender. Blendtec created an Internet sensation by blending everything from iPhones to glow sticks to golf balls.

So, what makes an ad go viral? According to the Social Times, no one cares about your product and its many benefits. Rather, they want compelling content. “You need to tell a compelling story or show something that is so funny or unique that viewers just can’t help but share your video with their friends.” Blended iPads, dancing hamsters and flash mobs all seem to fit the bill.

A Mashable article adds that video advertisements that provide good information are also candidates for going viral. People not only like to learn interesting, useful things, but like to teach them to others by sharing via email or social media.

A powerful combination of emotional content and valuable information has created a success for a new ad by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. Despite being five minutes long (forever for a commercial), this video about skin cancer is so compelling that it has received 2.3 million views in just over one month.

With the dawn of YouTube and social networking, friends can share memorable video ads with the click of a mouse. What are some of the ads you have deemed worthy of sharing, and why?


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15 Responses to “Going Viral”

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I *just* shared a link to a commercial earlier today on Facebook!

This ad spoke to me on so many levels … I’m a comic-book geek and also someone who almost instantaneously recognized the “woman of my dreams” when I met her. The tag line “Gotta Lock That Down” made me laugh out loud, and I had to share that with my friends!

What a great video! And you make the point that we often share ads with which we identify. Thanks for sharing it!

the little darth vader kid with the car, of course!

I love that kid! First the Superbowl, and then he got passed all around Facebook. Kudos to Volkswagen!

Of course my introduction to viral you tube videos are what I saw on Good Morning America and it involved animals and babies – these two one can never go wrong with. All of those I have seen were sent through email or posted on FB. I usually enjoy them and wonder who has the time to find them, but then I found myself looking for something remarkable to put on FB for all my friends who are moms. I found a link and it actually was a PSA, where views earned the project money for future projects. I found myself looking at their other endeavors. The reason I liked it was a question was asked and they just asked people on the street to answer – it is always insightful what people think at that given moment when put on the spot and I began to ponder my own answer and glad I did not have to answer right then. It was something I connected with as a teacher and compelled me to post it as well as view other “questions” done.

I looked at the 10 top viral ads and loved the T-Mobile one most because of the music, the fun – I guess I did identify with it and that’s what the “experts” say. I actually did not like the blender one mostly because I do not like gadgets and such. I would happily put my cell phone in one only to rid myself of the attachment 🙂

Other than that above example, I usually only share what others share with me – just have not found the time or effort into searching for those things.


Like you, I generally just share viral videos that others have shared with me. It would be fascinating to see the trail of how these things spread so quickly. Thanks for all of your comments!

I do not recall sharing any ads, but have often times discussed the Liberty Mutual Responsibility ads. They are among the extremely few ads that capture your attention with its genuineness. So many of today’s ads are humor based. And humor varies greatly generation to generation. Yes, many ads target 1 or 2 generations but offend others. We need more ads like Liberty Mutual’s.


If you get nostalgic for the Liberty ads, they are online! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uDLhUGIVhk) This one does capture your attention in a feel-good kind of way.

In my opinion, advertisements that are the strongest and have the best chance at going viral are ones that discuss the brand and how it works but not directly. Often times it will show you. For instance, Intel developed the “Museum of Me” advertisement (http://www.intel.com/museumofme) that shows the brand’s capability. But rather than just discussing the brand and what it can do, it shows you. This makes an ad able to be discussed. Often times it is something we haven’t seen before or a new way of looking at things. But when I first viewed this “advertisement”, I was sure to relay it to my friends and coworkers because it’s something cool and different; therefore spreading the brand message for Intel. Thanks for your post. I really enjoyed watching the ads you discussed.

Thanks for the comment and link, Dan! The “Museum of Me” is an impressive marketing piece. I think a big part of its allure is its interactive nature.

Ads during super bowl Sunday. Memorable, funny, poignant, touching, (miserable football player handing kid taking a sip of Coke the kid gave him to drink).

Any ad that makes me laugh makes me talk about it with my friends at, lests say, at holiday get togethers. Or, ads that having sticking powers like the “Keep it Simple” button at Staples.

That’s a good point that, before we could share things on the Internet, the “viral” ads were the ones we talked about the next day or at parties. Thanks for commenting, Ann!

In “UnMarketing, Stop Marketing, Start Engaging,” one of my favorite marketing books of all time, author Scott Stratten says that for a message to go viral, it also has to have the “wow” factor.

Stratten definies the “wow” factor as “I don’t mean wow as in, ‘Wow, you got new shoes. That’s cool.’ I mean, ‘Holy sweet mother, did you see what just happened?!'”

“You know it’s viral when in your mind you say, ‘I’ve got to show this to somebody.'”

I love that definition of “wow!” It makes the point that there are a lot of great ads, but there are only a handful that catch you off guard enough to make you laugh out loud, gasp in surprise or stare in awe. Thanks, Pat!

This is a nice perspective on the conflict between consumers’ frustration with ‘invasive’ advertising and the need to market to them.

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