Why and how ads go viral

Michelle de Montigny, Thomas Utzinger, Michel Clement and Edira Shehu
MetrixLab, YouTube and University of Hamburg


Creating brand impact by using "traditional" advertising has become more and more difficult. A major reason for this is the shift in dynamics from push to pull advertising. Simply pushing advertising messages to the audience is no longer effective enough. To maximise communication potential, campaigns need to have a pull factor as well. The Internet offers advertisers the possibility to create interaction between a brand and its consumers. While the decision for using online is often based on potential reach, the true benefits for the advertiser lie in interaction and sharing.

Meanwhile, consumers have become better at avoiding commercials, and viral advertising is a potentially successful way to engage consumers despite this behaviour (Eckler and Bolls, 2011). Ad virability plays a key role in generating free advertising. This is the reason why MetrixLab embarked on some research dedicated to understanding why and how an ad goes viral. The innovative methodology of this research and its results gave MetrixLab valuable insights that enabled us to pinpoint the main drivers of virability. The findings of this research are very important for advertisers and those who pursue earned media for their brands.