Here's a great way to waste an half an hour or more: checking out the top 10 viral ads of all time, as featured in The Times online (thanks Mark!).
This whole area fascinates me. The YouTube-ableness of an ad is starting to become a new measure of success; and five years ago this was not even on most people's radars. How well the ad works in bought-for media is one measure of success. But brand teams are increasingly interested in how many people have seen the ad on the internet as well. And there are now specialist agencies that help teams understand what makes an ad "infectious", such as GoViral. This increased interest in viral advertising could work one of two ways I think.
Optimistically, it will stimulate creation of communication that is, as the article says, "So compelling that prospective customers forward it to their contacts quickly building up an audience of millions." However, it could also end up with agencies creating "sponsored entertainment": ads with viral potential that do nothing to sell any more of the product or service. Case in point is the list of attributes of the ideal viral campaign suggested by Go Viral's chaimen, Jimmy Maymann, who put the top 10 list together: "edgy, surprising, original, erotic and emotional – and taps into popular culture". Does feel like an invitation for sponsored entertainment huh? And in his notes on why these 10 ads were chosen there is plenty of mentions about creative awards, and nothing about selling stuff.
So, I have split them into groups myself, based on whether they have pure sizzle/emotion, or a bit of sausage/product as well.
SAUSAGE and SIZZLE - pushes the product, at least a bit
NIKE (R10 football boot): "more than 50 million views globally. Featuring world famous soccer star Ronaldinho hitting the crossbar no less than four times, without the ball touching the floor. From Framfab, in Denmark". You do the shoes being taken out of the box, but the R10 model is not promoted; rather, its just Nike Football that is communicated
X-Rated, not for in-office viewing: AGENT PROVOCATEUR: "Kylie Minogue rides a velvet bucking bronco wearing nothing but lingerie from
Agent Provocateur. More
than 360 million views – and still counting – more than five years after its
release." Interestingly, this is a product demo of why Agent Provocteur is "the most erotic lingerie in the world"!
JOHN WEST SALMON: Ah, here we have some sausage/salmon! "A John West employee fights a grizzly bear off to land a fish – just to go
that extra mile for quality. More than 300 million views and executed by Leo Burnett."
BERLITZ: "A viral video campaign featuring a language difficulty
in a European
coastguard station developed by BTS United Oslo, and originally pointed
to a web site
where people could download it and send it to their friends. By now -
more than a year after the launch of the viral - the clip is
represented in more than hundred versions on Youtube alone."
PURE SIZZLE - tries to create emotional connection
QUICKSILVER DYNAMITE SURFING: "How to go surf in a country without waves: a group of young men throw a bundle of dynamite into an urban lake, by Danish Saatchi & Saatchi. Watched by more than 20 million people and four days after launch, it appeared on approx. 95 per cent of all surfer related websites"
CARLTON DRAUGHT BIG AD: "Created by George Patterson and Partners (Young & Rubicam) of
Melbourne. Released on the internet two weeks before being shown on
television. Just 24 hours after release, the Big Ad had been downloaded
162,000 times and within two weeks it had been seen by over one million
viewers in 132 countries. That number has since grown at least twentyfold".
X-Rated, not for in-office viewing: TROJAN GAMES: "In 2003, to launch Trojan Condoms in the United Kingdom, the "official"
web site for the so-called "Trojan Games" was created with several
clips by UK-based The Viral Factory. Viewed 35 million times. Now four years old the site is still
active." [but where is the brand?!]
MARK ECKO – STILL FREE: "an ideological statement on the First Amendment. Has generated several million views worldwide"