Spreading the Virus: Emotional Tone of Viral Advertising and Its Effect on Forwarding Intentions and Attitudes

Petya Eckler and Paul Bolls

Consumers are exposed to hundreds of branded messages each day through broadcast and print media, outdoor promotions, the Internet, and more. With this clutter, the rising prices of media buys, and consumers’ increasing sophistication in avoiding advertisements (Manly 2005; MindComet 2006), the industry continues to investigate new ways to reach target audiences. Viral advertising is one such option and a potentially effective way to bypass growing consumer apathy (MindComet 2006). The appeal of viral campaigns is driven by peer-to-peer communication, in which receivers of the message are active participants who often volunteer to spread it further. The very act of spreading the message to one's social network constitutes an endorsement of the brand, which enhances its credibility in the eyes of the receiver (Chiu et al. 2007). A successful viral promotion can reach thousands or millions of otherwise indifferent consumers and motivate them to endorse or interact with a brand.