The holy grail for marketers these days is having a video ad go viral. Not only does it provide the brand an enormous amount of free exposure, it also gives the team behind the ad major resume points for having "cracked the code" on making an ad a viral hit. However, the odds of an ad actually going viral are extremely long.
That's why a presentation I attended during IAB's NewFronts Insight Lunch last week, by Richard Kosinski, president of Unruly, really caught my attention. Unruly is a platform for social video marketing that helps agencies and advertisers get their videos watched and shared. Richard shared highlights of a new white paper, "The Science of Sharing 2014," which looked at the social performance of 14 different ads from Super Bowl XLVIII.
Unruly's ShareRank methodology has found that virality is driven by 2 key factors - creating contagious content and distributing it quickly and at scale to the appropriate audience. "Contagious" content is an elusive concept, but out of 100+ variables, Unruly has boiled it down to two: the intensity of psychological response and the strength of social motivations.
There are a variety of psychological responses (e.g. pride, warmth, happiness, etc.), and Unruly notes that great ads capitalize on more than one as Budweiser's "Puppy Love" ad (the most shared Super Bowl ad, over 50 million views to date) did. To drive sharing, an ad has to score extremely high on at least one psychological response. Unruly also found that while humor is the most common tactic used by advertisers, it's also the hardest to do well, and that advertisers should try other tactics instead.
Unruly has found 10 key social motivations that incent sharing (e.g. Social Good, Shared Passion, Opinion Seeking, etc.). The Super Bowl ads that generated the most sharing elicited multiple motivations and at higher levels.
Beyond the content itself, Unruly also found that well-crafted distribution is key to sharing success. Not surprisingly, ads that were released prior to the game got more sharing, as they benefitted from two viral peaks - the first within 3 days of release (when 25% of all shares occur) and second, immediately following the game. Budweiser scored again by releasing "Puppy Love" on Wednesday before the game.
There's a lot of other interesting data in the white paper, but one that stands out is that despite marketers' push for sharing, shares of this year's Super Bowl ads actually decreased by 29% vs. 2013, with the top 3 ads gaining 2.2 million fewer shares vs. last year. Unruly attributes this to marketers not fully understanding the key drivers of sharing, and therefore having their ads underperform online.
The Super Bowl is the biggest day in TV and advertising. As I've written previously, even though the cost of a spot has risen dramatically (now $4 million), the ROI potential is significantly higher than in the past, due to online video viewing and sharing. That premise still holds, but for marketers to capitalize will require them to immerse themselves in the rules of sharing far more than they currently do.
(Note: Join us on June 25th in NYC for the Online Video Advertising Summit, where we'll dig into ad sharing and other topics. Register early to save and to win a Samsung 50" LED TV, provided by Innovid.)