Viral ads keep us laughing and coming back for more

The talking baby ads, shown on TV and also on YouTube, provide a message one doesn’t forget. (Etrade.com/YouTube.com)

Adam Jones

So everybody knows about advertising on television, on the radio, even on YouTube. It confounds us by offering products we don’t use, and delays our lives by 15 to 45 seconds at a time. Let’s face it, it’s a major inconvenience.

At the same time, some of the most entertaining content we watch is advertising. Viral advertising, according to USA Today, is advertising that makes use of pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness. Generally speaking, these advertisements are only successful if they are extremely entertaining, because they are spread by users instead of corporations. So is viral advertising a good or bad thing?

Recently, this idea of entertaining ads has spawned the Old Spice Man and the Old Spice Odor Blocker, Doritos ads, Hyundai ads, E*Trade ads and the Wheat Thins ads, to name a few.

These commercials generally started with something that was an Internet fad, and then a company either hired the creators, or paid the creators, to make a commercial for them.

Nearly everyone knows of the Old Spice commercials, wherein Isaiah Mustafa, the newest face of Old Spice, explains how the product makes literally anything a possibility. These commercials are global, and appeal to most audiences. Old Spice started this campaign on television. Shortly afterwards, Mustafa went viral with his new persona, continuing to bring attention to Old Spice products. Recently, Old Spice has begun producing television commercials again, still starting Mustafa. Ultimately this has been one of the most successful campaigns, and Mustafa is now a known pop-culture icon.

The original Doritos Super Bowl ads came from a group of fans who wanted to make awesome commercials specific to that target audience. They pitched their commercials to Doritos, received an endorsement, and advertising magic was made.

Hyundai hired the indie music group Pomplamoose to make Holiday ads to promote their cars. Pomplamoose is known on Youtube for their “videosongs” in which a viewer sees every bit of music that is made over the course of the song. Hyundai gave the group complete creative control, and the commercials were instant hits.

The E*Trade baby is also among the popular viral advertising commercials. These commercials were conceived by E*Trade itself, but the commercials actually gained popularity on the Internet, vs on television. This is kind of the reverse of normal viral advertising, but it still works.

Wheat Thins’ current campaign makes use of Twitter to surprise random fans of their crackers. People who tweet about Wheat Thins to @CrunchIsCalling have been receiving visits from the Crunch is Calling team with entertaining results.

With ads like these taking over our commercial breaks, perhaps people will be using their DVR to skip over commercials less. Advertisers know that unless the commercials are on the same entertainment level as the shows themselves, people won’t watch them.

Now where this advertising really goes viral, is the online component. The funny thing is, many people spend their time online watching these advertisements. We are purposely going out of our way to watch advertisements for products that normally we would avoid watching. It’s the entertainment value of these viral advertisements that keep us coming back, just like the television shows that they normally interrupt.

I would have to say that viral advertising is a good thing. If a commercial can keep a person’s attention enough to enlighten them as to the benefits of the product, more power to the commercial. This both helps the consumer get a product that they want, and the company sell their product, a win-win. Even if the product isn’t useful to someone, at least the commercial was entertaining.

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