Creative determinants of viral video viewing

Duncan Southgate, Nikki Westoby and Graham Page

Millward Brown


Online video viewing is now commonplace. Data from comScore’s Video Metrix service showed that US internet users watched more than 25 billion online videos in August 2009 (comScore 2009). YouTube was comfortably the largest individual site, accounting for more than 10 billion views, while Microsoft sites were a distant second with 547 million. As consumers have spent increasing amounts of time consuming online video, advertisers have sought ways to engage this audience with their branded videos. This paper seeks to help those advertisers better understand the type of video advertising that is most likely to be viewed online.

The scope of our investigation was limited to viral video advertising. We do not focus on the broader topic of viral marketing, although some of the learning we generate may also be relevant beyond the video format. Nor do we focus on paid online video advertising (such as that which appears as pre-rolls before online content on sites such as or Our primary goal was to understand what makes an ad so good that consumers are driven to share it, promote it, discuss it or hunt it down – all of which generates voluntary video viewings – as opposed to the forced, paid viewings that are generated when a brand advertises on TV.