Advertising is a very different ballgame now compared to the past. The Web has changed everything, and it’s no longer enough to just release a commercial on television and hope it resonates with the consumers being targeted. The rise of time-shifting and online video hasn’t helped either, as we’re no longer being exposed to as many ads, or being forced to sit through them, like we once were.
Thankfully all is not lost for the advertising executives and the brands they make money from promoting. They have merely had to adapt to the new reality, and create more inventive and innovative ways of getting us interested in a company or product. Rather than stand back and bemoan the Internet, many have embraced it. And that has given us some truly outstanding viral video advertising campaigns.
Old Spice: Old Spice Guy
Old Spice had something of an image problem prior to its ‘Old Spice Guy’ campaign. It was seen as a product for middle-aged men seeking to attract the same women they had (probably failed to attract) in the 1970s. And then along came Isaiah Mustafa with these innovative ads and everything changed.
The ‘Old Spice Guy’ ads had all the ingredients necessary for a viral video hit. A good-looking guy speaking directly to the viewer, some clever visual tricks, and a quintessential appeal which means you really want to share what you have just seen with other people.
T-Mobile: Royal Wedding
There were few bigger events during 2011 than the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. T-Mobile made the most of the occasion by basing an ad on the event. Except it was their own take on the ceremony using some rather impressive lookalikes.
The general idea was to have the Royal Family doing something completely out of character. And dancing down the aisle to a crap pop song definitely qualifies. This ad was a lot more fun than the actual royal wedding. Which, as expected, was a boring and stuffy affair.
Volkswagen: The Force
Star Wars characters and imagery have been used in countless adverts over the years. Their presence certainly doesn’t guarantee a commercial will be memorable or manage to sell a product. But some hit the sweet spot. Like this Volkswagen ad titled ‘The Force’.
We see one of the car’s capabilities used to make a child’s day. And his joy gives the ad a happy ending which means you cannot help but pass the video on to others via social networks. This year it was the turn of some cute dogs to don the Star Wars gear in order to sell cars.
Blendtec: Will It Blend?
Like many other people, I hadn’t ever heard of Blendtec prior to the company’s ‘Will It Blend?’ ad campaign going viral on the InterWebs. I still haven’t purchased one, but if I ever am in the market for a blender I may well do. And all thanks to a simple-yet-brilliant idea.
The Blendtec ‘Will It Blend?‘ commercials see company founder Tom Dickson testing whether various objects will blend. It started with things you’d actually want to blend, but ended up with products only fools would stick in their blender, such as an Apple iPad. No matter how tasty they may look.
Evian: Roller Babies
How to sell bottled water when most people already drink it and there are numerous choices a consumer can make? By extolling the life-preserving qualities of the stuff, that’s how. ‘Drink Evian and Live Young‘. Catchy.
This ad works for one reason and one reason alone: it contains cute babies rollerskating. You could put any song underneath the footage and have the voiceover say whatever you want, and it would still work thanks to the visuals.
DC Shoes: Ken Block’s Gymkhana
Ken Block is a rally driver and extreme sports enthusiast. He is now famous for exhibiting extreme control over cars as he donuts and tricks his way around circuits. He also co-founded DC Shoes. Put the two together and this is the impressive result.
This ad won’t appeal to people who don’t like cars and think messing around in them is a stupid activity. The rest of us will gape in awed wonder as Block pulls off wicked stunt after wicked stunt. It hasn’t got anything to do with the product it’s advertising, but who cares?
The set-up is simple: show how a very ordinary-looking model is transformed into the ideal woman we see staring back at us from the covers of magazines. Dove is asserting itself as part of the solution rather than part of the problem with its ‘Campaign For Real Beauty’.
Interestingly the official ‘Dove: Evolution’ video ad is the only video ad on this list that had embedded disabled by request. So this is an alternative upload. That’s the beauty (excuse the pun) of YouTube, however. And such copycatting helps these videos go viral.
Glaceau: Smart Water
Another bottled water ad, but Glaceau take a very different approach in trying to sell us on the Smart Water brand. They put Jennifer Aniston front and center, and add in a heady mix of all the elements needed to enjoy a viral video hit.
This is viral video advertising come full circle, with knowing nods to YouTube celebrities, and the popularity of cute animals and dancing babies openly acknowledged. The icing on the cake? It was titled ‘Jen Aniston Sex Tape’ in order to gain another few million views.
Tipp-Ex: Bear Hunter
This isn’t just a viral video ad, it’s an interactive viral video ad. Watch the 30-second opening video above and you’ll be invited to make a choice and click through to another video. What happens from there is all up to you.
This is perhaps the cleverest of all the videos here. Unlike some of the others, which lose their appeal after one viewing, the ‘Tipp-Ex: Bear Hunter’ campaign will likely have you clicking multiple times as you see what effect different words have.
Honda: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Last but not least is the Honda commercial shown during the recent Super Bowl. It sees Matthew Broderick reprise his role from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a John Hughes movie from 1986 which saw the titular Bueller having the best day off school ever.
The Honda ad uses elements from the movie while adding its own twists. As if to prove how valuable the Web has become to brands and companies, Honda released a 10-second teaser and then previewed the ad online a week prior to the Super Bowl TV spot.
These videos have all turned me on to the brand they’re promoting. I haven’t yet gone out and purchased a Blendtec blender or a Volkswagen car, but I’m at least aware of the companies and the products they sell now more than I was previously. And I can guarantee some people have made buying decisions based on these ads. Which is impressive for something which has mainly appeared on YouTube.
This is far from a definitive list, so now it’s over to you. Which viral video ad campaigns have you loved? Have you ever bought a product purely on the strength of one? In which direction should advertising companies head next in order to find inspiration for videos guaranteed to go viral?
Image Credit: Bud Caddell
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