Three Keys to Successful Viral Video Campaigns


Viral video marketing is no longer a niche activity. Brands, advertisers, and marketers are using the medium in unique and meaningful ways to produce real results that greatly affect their bottom line—from increases in brand equity and share of voice to consumer mindshare.

While it’s too soon to start speaking about cross-equivalency with television, the medium can produce some impressive numbers. We conducted a joint research study on the performance of this year’s 65 Super Bowl commercials and found that, after a month, they had generated 99 million views in aggregate. Nielsen reported the Super Bowl reached 98.7 million viewers. Not too bad.

So, what can you do to achieve success in viral video if you don’t have a Super Bowl budget? What can you do to get started today?


To unlock this kind of potential not only for paid video placements, but earned, “social” ones as well, it’s critical to understand three fundamental aspects of successful viral video campaigns.


Evian’s Live Young campaign, featuring babies dancing, moonwalking, and roller skating, is the most-watched viral video campaign of 2009 so far. We all know that “content is king,” and babies are always popular, but beyond the digital bravado and cuteness, the campaign was also impeccably planned. Spots for the campaign are produced in small, compact bites, essential for easy consumption and promotion of pass-along/sharing behavior. Every piece of creative supports the overarching theme of the campaign, critical for quickly delivering a coherent and effective brand message. Additional creative assets were injected into the campaign throughout its life cycle, which helped drive sustained interest from key influencers and increased viewership. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below.





Additional planning elements critical to campaign success include considering your target audience and where they already consume video online, as well as the distribution methods that will help you to effectively deliver your campaign’s messaging.


To determine the effectiveness of your strategy, content, and supporting marketing efforts for your viral video campaign, you need to clearly understand the life cycle of your viral videos. It starts when you publish a video online. You promote it, and audiences find it, watch it, and take action through commenting, rating, sharing, copying, and reposting it—and if they really like it, they may pull it down, mash it up and remix it, add their personal touches, and re-upload it. All of these key activities contribute to how your video goes “viral,” spreading and multiplying across the online video landscape, over and over again. Make sure your campaign strategy supports and promotes these key activities.


To fully wrap your head around this process and truly understand all of this viral activity, you will need a measurement strategy. In addition, establishing a clear set of effectiveness metrics will assist you in determining overall campaign success. As an example, consider metrics such as True Reach™, Audience Engagement, and Brand Advocacy provided by Visible Measures.

True Reach measures the performance of every clip related to your original video, providing the broadest view possible for your campaign – the number of placements and views, and where and when they occurred.


Audience Engagement provides a deep behavioral metric that demonstrates how audiences interact with your creative content – how long they watch it, and whether they rewind, fast-forward, or pause at certain points in the video.

Brand Advocacy reveals how and to what extent audiences comment, share and evangelize your content.

We’ve found that the combination of these three metrics provides brands and advertisers the most comprehensive and detailed view of performance for their viral video campaigns.


After implementing and reviewing these metrics, you could learn that your viral video campaign has generated 1 million views, but without any relevant benchmarks against competitive or category campaigns, it’s difficult to accurately characterize your campaign’s performance. Is 1 million views good, bad… how can you be sure? To determine the overall effect your campaign is having on the brand and marketplace, you need effective benchmarks to understand share of voice against competitive campaigns and the overall category.

Benchmarking against competitive campaigns and knowing the viral video trends of your specific industry will go a long way in helping you understand your campaign and brand impact in the marketplace. Many of our clients and partners tell us that a better understanding of industry trends helps them quickly determine when and where they need additional content and promotion to keep their online audience engaged. 

People have always been passionate about brands. The difference today is that they have more promotional tools than ever before to freely share their advice, opinions, and experiences with and about brands—whether it be on YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blogs, etc. Keeping these brand advocates well-informed and stocked with relevant video content provides benefits and impact that very few companies could afford even if it was for sale.

The better you understand these three fundamental aspects of your campaign – planning, measurement, and insights – the better prepared you will be to take on viral video initiatives, unleash their inherent potential, and help your brands benefit from their impact.

And if you need some help sorting all this out, please give Visible Measures a call.


About the Authors:

Alex Nasson is the Director of Alliances and Channels for Visible Measures and is responsible for agency development. Prior to Visible Measures, Alex joined Interwoven in 2005 as director of Business Development where he was responsible for agency and partner sales, technical enablement and alignment with Interwoven’s North American sales teams. Prior to joining Interwoven, Alex was the senior director of World Wide Alliances & Channels at Macromedia, responsible for all  partner operations, programs and sales. In addition to his work at Macromedia, he has also held Alliances, Business Development, Channel and Direct Sales roles at Allaire, Sybase, Powersoft, Compaq and Digital Equipment.

Matt Fiorentino is a marketin
g analyst at Visible Measures. His responsibilities include writing for the Visible Measures Blog, which focuses on measuring the top-performing clips in viral video and how brands, advertisers, and marketers can optimize their content for the medium. Prior to joining Visible Measures, Matt wrote for a number of publications, including the Associated Press, The Dayton Daily News, and The Italian Magazine.



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3 thoughts on “Three Keys to Successful Viral Video Campaigns

  1. Gavin, what do you mean the media doesn’t unndtsraed it? What’s to unndtsraed? No choice in a political ad is an accident. At best, the smoking usage is a symbol for expertise, knowledge, and experience. These are tropes that should not still be related to smoking, but they still are in contemporary society. At worst though, it’s a nod to Cain’s tobacco industry cronies. Either way, it’s impossible to argue that the use of a cigarette in a modern political ad is not inappropriate (not to mention, strange and a bit awkward). Not only is this not effective advertising (the goofy song and Cain’s creepy smile at the end kind of ruin it for me), but it reinforces notions about smoking that have become largely taboo in the modern political milieu. I don’t think it’s THAT big of a deal. Just try and do better, Mr. Cain.

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