What the Viral Ads of 2013 Tell Us About Video Marketing

Several publications and websites have released what they calculate to be the most shared video ads of 2013. I’ve watched them all — some for the 20th time — and I’ve discovered some factors that may be useful when you’re creating your own video content.

Fool Me Once…
Two successful 2013 ads featured pranks. MGM, which released a new version of Carrie this year, set up an elaborate illusion in a coffeehouse that made it appear that a young woman had Carrie-like magical powers — which terrified the unknowing customers. Meanwhile, Pepsi Max disguised NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and had him take an unsuspecting car salesman on a high-speed test drive that left the salesman breathless.

Playwrights call audiences knowing something the characters don’t “dramatic irony” and it’s worked since Shakespeare’s time. But be careful: Ads like this can come off as mean-spirited tricks. Lucikily, these two ads stay on the right side of the line.

Tug the Heartstrings
Some of the most viral ads of 2013 tried to make us cry. Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” ads illustrated that women often aren’t aware of their own beauty: A forensic sketch artist, hidden from his subjects, drew a sketch of a woman as she described herself. He then drew a sketch of the same woman, this time described by a stranger. Each time, the stranger’s sketch was more beautiful than the woman’s description of herself. The message was very powerful, making it the most viewed ad of all time.

Extra Gum’s “Origami” ad had another touching premise. It told the story of a father who makes origami cranes out of gum wrappers for his daughter over her entire childhood. As he packs her things for college, he finds a box full of the cranes; unknown to him, she had kept all of them through the years.

Many of us remember the most funny or shocking or raunchy ads, but pure, unironic emotion can also be very effective. Especially when combined with…

Animals
Two of the most viral ads of 2013 touched us by featuring adorable animals. GoPro’s “Be a Hero” ad showed a firefighter, wearing the company’s new camera on his helmet, as he found and revived an unconscious kitten after a house fire. Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” spot, which aired during the Super Bowl, showcased the bond between a horse trainer as he raises a foal to become one of the brewer’s famous Clydesdales — and who remembers the trainer after years apart.

People love stories about animals, and about the connection between humans and their pets, so it’s no surprised that these ads were shared so widely.

Make ‘Em Laugh
Of course, comedy still sells. AT&T showed that with its series of “It’s Not Complicated” ads featuring children saying the darnedest things. Kmart delivered some clever wordplay with “Ship My Pants.” Ron Burgundy presented his usual clueless arrogance for a dozen Dodge Durango ads. And Doritos even got a joke across without any dialogue in its Super Bowl ad “Goat 4 Sale.” Humor, in all its forms, is the most shared content across the entire internet, so don’t be afraid to show your silly side.

Ads That Defy Description
Not every popular ad of 2013 falls neatly into one of these categories, of course. Did Geico’s “Hump Day” ad go viral because it starred a camel, or simply because it was funny? Was Evian’s “Baby & Me” so popular because it featured babies, or dancing, or dancing babies? And no other company staged a stunt this year like Volvo Truck’s “Epic Split,” in which Jean-Claude Van Damme does the splits between two 18-wheelers while they’re moving.

Length doesn’t seem to be a factor in creating shareable content. For example, Dove released a six-minute version of its “Real Beauty Sketches” that was almost as popular as the three-minute version. While the longer version never aired on TV, availability doesn’t seem to be factor in viral ads; But Geico’s “Hump Day” was on TV all the time — yet it was the second most-viewed internet ad of the year.

Ready to create some video content with a good chance of going viral? Whether you want to be emotional, feature an animal, or pull a prank, Brandemix can help.
Contact us and we’ll talk.
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