Key techniques in viral advertising

This article looks at some of the key techniques that have been used to create viral advertisements and looks at their applicability in future attempts at viral marketing campaigns.

Viral advertising is a dream come true for marketers around the world. Thanks to sites like YouTube an advert can be watched by millions of people all of whom will be exposed to your brand and your products. A successful viral campaign is so successful because people will go out of their way to view your campaign and then spread it to their friends for you. Some of the best viral advertisements have hundreds of millions of views on YouTube; which effectively does have the work of an advertising campaign for you. With that in mind we decided to take a look at some of the most successful viral techniques and judge their success.

By far and away the top viral technique has proved to be humour. Humour of course can take many forms and you might be unsurprised to learn that the most successful advert ever has used what many would consider a very low form of humour – destruction. This references Blendtec’s incredibly successful campaign that shows various everyday items (including IPads) being put through a Blendtec blender. This has been incredibly successful but humour is used in a variety of guises within the majority of successful viral advertisements. It can be used situationally to mock certain human behaviours, it can be used farcically to make light of fears or simply just for silliness’ sake or it can be used extrovertly to shock and amuse. Out of the twenty most successful viral advertisements 16 of them use humour as their primary means of promoting a product. This clearly shows that the most successful form of advertising is now humour but how you use it is of course incredibly important. With that in mind we’ll now look at some of the other techniques that have been used to successfully promote products and encourage viral spread.

Initially we’ll take a look at star power. Interestingly in the top ten viral advertisements of all time only one (Pepsi’s gladiator) uses star power. This advert used 4 well known, high profile stars and placed them in a comic situation. The advert spread virally largely thanks to the humour but the star power itself was exceptionally important. However the fact that other adverts have not needed star power to spread virally shows that star power alone is not enough and that adverts that relate to the everyday person are more likely to succeed in the modern advertising world.

Interestingly sports seems to play a prominent (although secondary) role in many of the most successful viral advertisements with Evian’s Live Young, Pepsi’s Gladiator and Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl all featuring sporting activity or reference to it. Whilst, with the exception of Dorito’s, the actual sport generally plays a background role we cannot ignore the fact that these advertisements are attracting millions of extra views and spreading virally. Sports still has positive connotations of well-being and activity – creating and adding a dynamic feel to advertisements. If used correctly it clearly has a strong role to play in securing viral spread of a campaign.

Finally it is worth noting, briefly, that out of the top 10 viral advertisements only one was done in house. This is actually the most successful one – Blentec’s Will it Blend – however it shows that the professionals have the most success in creating viral content. This shows that many companies are quickly adapting to the myriad changes taking place in the advertising and consumer realms.

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