Krista Hoffbeck Professor Fokken Persuasion 4/2/13 Viral Videos in

Krista Hoffbeck
Professor Fokken
Viral Videos in Advertising
In today’s world, viral videos are everywhere. You might recall some famous ones in
2012 like “Gangnam Style,” “Kony 2012,” “Call me Maybe,” “Extremely Scary Ghost Elevator
Prank in Brazil,” or “Catch the Ice Dude.” All of these videos have millions of views, with the
Kony 2012 video having 96,852,641 as of March 2013. “Call me Maybe” is a music video with
such catchy music that it became a hit, “Catch the Ice Dude” is a video of a man jumping into a
pool he didn’t know was frozen, and “Kony 2012” is a video trying to end the use of child
soldiers in Africa. Each of these videos is very different from each other and they all became
viral online for their own reasons. With as much attention as these videos got/are still getting,
advertisers are trying out the tactic of using viral videos in hopes of getting that kind of attention
on their products/services. They hope these ad videos will be a good tool of persuasion.
So what does it mean for a video to go viral exactly? According to the dictionary
definition, “going viral” means to spread rapidly through the internet or other media; becoming
popular circulating around. A viral video is shared on social media sites, reposted on blogs,
emailed to friends, and more. There are different kinds of viral videos as well. Some are
unintentional where the creator never intended it to go viral, where others are humorous videos
that are created to entertain people. There are also promotional viral videos that are designed to
create brand awareness (Janalta). Although viral videos come in all shapes and sizes, there is one
quality that binds them together: persuasiveness. This makes them an irresistible tool for
advertisers and with the continued development of technology and increased internet usage, the
use of viral videos in advertising has become a huge trend.
As advertisers try out this new tool of persuasion, their main objective is to try and make
it successful. But just how can they get tons of views on their video while at the same time
sending a message to consumers about their product/service? By looking at other viral videos
you can see the common qualities those videos have and what leads to success.
With more people going on the internet with the increase in technology, video sharing
sites like YouTube or Google Video are becoming more popular than ever. Statistics show that
seven in ten adult internet users have watched a video on an internet sharing site. From 2006 to
2009 alone, it doubled in the amount of users who watched videos, from 33% to 61% (Eckler).
Ads were watched 4.6 billion times in 2012, which makes them watched 13.2 million times a day
and 150 times per second (Fiorentino). Spending on video advertising is expected to reach 5.8
billion in 2013 (Lee). With even more money planning on being spent on ads in 2013, the
number of people watching will likely increase as well.
Viral videos are playing a bigger role than ever in today’s campaigns. Creating videos
and spreading them around the web has become a big part of marketer’s strategies (Learmonth).
If advertisers are successful, they can reach thousands or even millions of people and motivate
them to support or interact with a brand. This potential has made viral video advertising a
popular promotional tool (Eckler). Viral videos are also a great way to reach the younger, tech
savvy generation (Digital Strategy). With as many people as advertisers have the possibility of
reaching; it makes the use of viral videos pretty appealing.
In 2009, one third of the all brands worldwide tried the viral video approach. In a survey
of 40 executives at top U.S ad agencies and media buying firms, they discovered that 72% found
that their clients were interested or very interested in using a viral video as part of their
campaign. 86% of clients had created a viral video in the past year. This shows how big of a
trend viral videos are becoming. They are becoming so popular that in 2009 Advertising Age
began publishing a weekly chart of the top ten viral videos (Eckler). Although to now be able to
make the charts, it takes at least 1.5 million views. The average view when it first started was
only 220,000. This just shows the enormous increase in people watching viral videos. According
to Advertising Ag, if campaigns launch an ad before the Super Bowl, the campaign can generate
600% more views. Previewing the video online can generate a lot of views. This shows how
audiences can be pretty eager to see some ads (Fiorentino). It also shows how viewers are taking
the initiative to look the video up and watch it instead of just waiting until the premiere on TV.
One reason advertisers are using this tactic of creating viral videos is because it’s less
expensive than having ads on TV. It still costs money to create the video, but advertisers don’t
have to pay to upload the video to YouTube. Out of the hundreds of millions of views from
online movie trailers for “Halo” and “Harry Potter” for example, 75% of their viewers were free.
As Josh Brandau, director of distribution strategy at Periera & O'Dell says, “For the price you
would spend on a broadcast commercial, you get success that is untouchable on TV. Besides
that, consumers do the work of getting the word out.” Brian Shin, CEO of Tubemogul says, "The
traditional model was, 'he who had the most money bought the most air time and could get in
front of the most consumers. Now, consumers are doing the distributing--it's a realization that
consumers are driving everything” (Learnmonth). So not only does it cost less for advertisers,
but viewers are doing the advertiser’s job of getting the word out. Viewers are sharing the videos
with friends, reposting it, and telling others about it, which saves advertisers time and money.
Plus, would you rather watch a video a friend tells you to watch or an advertiser does? People are
more persuaded by their own friends than by advertisers.
With so many companies using viral videos, it means advertisers really have to fight to
get attention on their ad. Just a few years ago it was much easier, but now there is a lot more
competition (Fiorentino). There is a lot of pressure to make creative videos that people are going
to want to watch (Learmonth). As more videos are being created, it gets harder and harder to
come up with new ideas as well. Although there are many positive statistics of how many views
online ads are getting, it can be hard to be one of those lucky people. In a recent survey,
researchers found that only one in six ads are viewed more than 5,000 times a week in the U.S.
You can’t control how many people will choose to watch. As Terry O'Reilly, co-author of The
Age of Persuasion says, "You can't control that. You put it out there and you hope that it gets
picked up virally. That's every marketer's wish" (Cowan). Sometimes it’s just a lot of luck, but
there are things advertisers can do to increase their chance of making it big.
Campaigns that use viral videos tend to focus more on the emotional impact of the ad
than on the actual product itself. You may have seen viral videos online where at the end you are
thinking, “Wait, what were they advertising?” Advertisers are creating videos that generate
strong emotional feelings to grab your attention and make their video stand out from all the
others. One factor that contributes to success is the forwarding of the viral video on to others.
Messages that spark high emotions of humor, fear, sadness, or inspiration are likely to be
forwarded. Many ads also focus on emotional appeals related to sexuality, nudity, and violence;
more often than TV commercials do. Advertisers know they have to have content in viral videos
that are usually not shown on television. Studies have showed that the main reason someone
forwards a video is because it was funny. Other reasons include excitement about the message
and positive involvement with the brand (Eckler).
One company called Unruly Media runs focus groups where participants watch client
videos while hooked up to machines that measure psychological and emotional responses
through changes in heart rate, eye movements, facial gestures, and even skin movement. They
then study the responses. They have found that the videos generating a strong emotional impact
are twice as likely to be shared and those that trigger positive emotions are 30% more likely to be
shared. Sarah Wood, cofounder of the company says, “If brands want to get people sharing their
content, the most important thing they need to do is make an emotional connection. They want to
make content that gets people laughing out loud or sends shivers down their spine or has their
hair standing up on the back of their neck” (Sanburn).
Some of the top viral video advertisements ever are “Will it Blend?” by Bledtec, “Roller
Babies” by Evian, “Responses” by Old Spice, “The Force” by Volkswagen, “Evolution” by
Dove, and “Gladiator” by Pepsi (Learmonth). All of these ads received millions of views and
plenty of positive attention from their viewers. Besides that, they were all successful because
they appeal to your emotions.
One good example of a successful viral video is an Old Spice commercial titled “The
Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” This 30 second clip has had millions of views and shows
how humor is used to persuade viewers to share the advertisement. In the video there is a goodlooking man in a towel who is addressing females (Cowan). He says “Hello ladies. Look at your
man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me. Sadly he isn’t me. But if he
stopped using lady-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like me.” So
many people shared that video along to their friends because it was so funny. Humor can be a
powerful tool. Dennis Hurley, a creative strategist with Tribal DDB says, "Humor puts your
brand in the best position to benefit from that connectivity. If you make your users laugh, your
relationship with them will benefit and they will probably pass your creative on to friends." You
also have to be really careful with humor because people can get the wrong idea. Just because an
advertiser has a good, funny ad doesn’t mean it will be a big hit (Cowan).
Emotional impact, like humor can be a beneficial trait that leads to a successful viral
video. Another factor that leads to a successful video is the content. A good viral video has to be
entertaining, while at the same time sending a message about your brand that the audience can
identify with. According to Glen Price, senior manager at Molson Coors, “Viral videos are a
great way of getting away from the interruption of pushing messages at people and instead using
entertainment and an emotional connection to encourage consumers to pull your message to
them,” (Digital Strategy). The content needs to be creative with as many viral videos as there are
out there. A good example of a creative viral ad is “The T-Mobile Dance.” In the video there is a
flash mob, where people just suddenly start dancing. Besides the fact that it is creative, it shows
the point where advertisers are focusing on the content, not the product. They don’t even show a
product in their ad and the only thing said that makes you even realize it’s even an ad is at the
end when it shows the words “Life’s for sharing. T-Mobile.” You need to get the audience’s
attention so they’ll want to share the video on and eventually make it go viral across the web
(Eckler). No one wants to share an ad with others that looks like just a basic commercial.
One viral video that keeps the audience entertained is called “Unlock the 007 in you. You
have 70 seconds!” In the video, Coke Zero challenges unsuspecting train passengers to unlock
the 007 in them for their chance to win tickets for the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. It’s a very
entertaining advertisement. It starts off with several different men walking up to a Coke Zero pop
machine. It asks them on the screen if they want a chance to win tickets, so they put in their
name. As they do that, a woman is playing the James Bond theme song on a violin. It tells them
to go to platform 6 and that they have 70 seconds. So the timer goes and they start running. It
isn’t easy for them though and there are tons of obstacles, like people getting in the way and
oranges dropping everywhere. This is a good example of how entertainment is used in a viral
video to grab your attention and get you excited about what’s being advertised.
It’s good to have a “surprise factor” as well. As an example, “Will it Blend” by Blendtec
has just that. In their video, a guy is showing how Blendtec blenders can blend anything, even an
Ipad. So he ends up blending one in a blender. This sends a surprise factor to the audience
making them wonder if the video is real or not. Another example is a viral video called “A
Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square.” This video takes place in a quiet city. Then a red button
with a sign that says “Push to add drama” is placed in the middle of the square. People start
pushing it and surprising things start happening like people falling off their bikes, police showing
up shooting their guns, and completely random people showing up like football players and a girl
driving a motorcycle in her underwear. Completely unexpected events keep happening, leaving
the audience wondering what on earth will happen next. The background music alone is dramatic
enough to drive you to keep watching. It’s videos like these that really capture the audience’s
attention. If advertisers are able to do that, they can only hope you will share it on to others and
eventually make it go viral.
Going back to some other successful viral videos, you clearly see how advertisers are
using emotion appeals. It’s not just happiness, joy, and humor being used either. Looking at
another top successful viral video, “Evolution” by Dove aims at other emotions. In the video,
Dove shows how much is altered on a female to make her look “pretty” for a billboard. It brings
sadness to viewers to see how much is needed to change on a girl to make her look what society
considers “beautiful.” This video also has a “surprising” factor which may be the reason it has
gotten so many views; people never realized that much was edited on a person before being
It’s not always easy for advertisers to use this persuasive tactic though. It can be very
unpredictable whether or not the video becomes a hit. Even if it does become a hit, it’s not
guaranteed to help sales, etc. The viral ad, “Evian Roller Babies” was the top viewed online ad in
2009, even making the Guinness World Records (O’Leary). In the video, there are a bunch of
babies roller skating in this advertising campaign to “Live Young.” The advertisement was also
the top fifth most viewed video on YouTube. It may have become really popular online, but one
thing it didn’t do was boost the company’s sales. They actually had a drop in sales. The first two
quarters of the year it was down 26%. It’s hard to tell if the ad had an effect on those sales or if it
was solely from the economic times. It may not have increased the company’s sales, but it did
create awareness, and that is one benefit viral ads can give companies (O’Leary). According to
an analysis of the top 2009 ads, “The best a marketer can hope for is to raise awareness and drive
traffic to a Web site. For many, that may be enough.”
While technology continues to develop, we can only expect that viral ads will become an
even bigger trend. Today, video sharing sites are attracting more people and videos are getting
more views then ever. Advertisers are now using them as a big part of their campaigns. As that
happens, advertisers can only hope that their ad will generate a wave of attention. Advertisers
use viral videos as a tool of persuasion. They do that by sparking high emotions in order to get
you to share the video on to your friends. There are many benefits to using viral videos as part of
a campaign, including being less expensive and customers doing the big project of promoting.
It’s not all easy for advertisers though. They can’t just post their video onto YouTube, expecting
there to be a million views the next day. They have to create a video that will be entertaining
while at the same time sending a message about the brand. Successful viral videos like “Old
Spice,” “Roller Babies,” “do just that. Although viral videos come in all shapes and sizes,
persuasiveness is the one quality that binds them together. Advertisers are definitely taking
advantage of this trend and in the future we can clearly foresee more of these videos.
Works Cited
Cowan, James. "Viral ads that smell as good as this guy." Canadian Business. 2013. 83.7 (2010):
85. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Eckler, Petya, and Paul Boll. "Spreading the Virus: Emotional Tone of Viral Advertising and Its
Effect on Forwarding Intentions and Attitudes." Journal of Interactive Advertising. 11.2
(2011): n. page. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Digital Strategy. "How viral video could do more than a TV ad." Marketing Week. Centaur
Communications. Web. 28 Mar 2013.
Fiorentino, Matt. "Ten Stats That Will Change the Way You Look At Video in 2013."
Advertising Age. 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 Mar 2013.
Learmonth, Michael. "The top 10 viral ads of all time." NBC News. Advertising Age. 2013 Web.
28 Mar 2013.
Learmonth, Michael. "Beyond TV, marketers look to 'earn' love for video ads." Advertising Age.
82.20 (2011): 14. Web.
O'leary, Noreen. "What's the ROI on Those Skating Babies Anyway?" Brandweek. 51.13
(2010): 6-8. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Sanburn, Josh. "Testing the Science of Sharing at the Super Bowl: Can Viral Ads Be
Manufactured?." Time Magazine. 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Mar 2013.
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