In this article we will review the most successful branding or “online commercials”. While not yet as viral as the likes of Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition (over 100 million views in just one week) or the “world’s worst song – Rebbeca Black’s Friday (just under 100 million views) branding/advertising videos are getting better and better at attracting general interest with clever and interesting concepts.
When discussing viral online commercials it is hard to go past Marc Ecko’s “Still Free”.
Shot in a shaky, underground, hand-held point of view style this commercial/public statement shows a group of young men sneaking into a secret USAF base and tagging the presidential plane, Air Force One. Perfectly executed, the video scored over a million shares within a week of being released in 2006.
The video was staged but convincing enough to get it a nation-wide media coverage. Even today it stands out as both a piece of pop culture and a very clever branding exercise.
Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos have created its own genre and spawned numerous copies, tributes and parodies but there is no denying the original project, released in 2008, hit a bull’s eye with its special brand of humour, irreverence and stunt driving.
Now in its fifth incarnation, the gymkhana shows no signs of slowing down with the latest realease boasting a massive 56 million views.
Moving forward to this year and we can see that a lot of big brands investing heavily in producing creative and engaging branding videos.
According to the Unruly Media's Viral Video Chart the most popular online ad of 2013 was the Dove Real Beauty Sketches. With a staggering 130 million views and over 4 million social media shares it showed that a branding message can be successfully delivered to the wider audience via a popular digital media platform.
Analysing these videos we can notice a number of common threads:
1. It’s all about the story. All three commercials have very strong, original and well executed scripts. They could almost stand on their own as short films.
2. The branding message is subtle, very much secondary to the story.
3. They are emotionally charged connecting with the viewer via the story, the visuals and the music. To put it simply, they are ENTERTAINING.
If we want to draw lessons from these highly successful examples we don’t need to look very hard. It is not the hand-held, night-vision look that made “Still Free” so popular, it is not the super slow motion that gave Ken Block millions of views nor was it the soft-yet-inspirational soundtrack that made the Dove commercial spread like wild fire.
It’s the original, well planned and well executed stories that are at the centre of all three commercials. So at your next marketing strategy meeting, rather than trying to copy someone else’s successful formula try to come up with one of your own. Create your own story, your own concept, or your own take on things. Make it fresh, exciting and entertaining. Make it a unique concept rather than just another copy amongst countless copies of successful commercials that fade into online obscurity every year.