Looking for our picks for the top 10 overall viral videos of 2012? Click here.
Viral video is about more than people just falling and hurting themselves. It’s become a powerful way for brands to create an emotional connection with consumers. Most importantly, as more and more traditional ads just get ignored, viral video is a way you can make ads people want to watch.
A lot of successful branded viral videos, like our Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments and the Coke Zero & Mentos Rocket Car, integrate the product into the video. Others, like our #1 pick this year, connect to the brand on a thematic level and put the brand messaging at the end. It’s as if the video is a gift, and at the end, there’s a little card saying, “from the friendly folks at TNT.” It’s simple and powerful.
These 10 videos show just how great a video can be while simultaneously forging a strong connection with consumers, and the top 3 also made our list of the best overall viral videos of 2012.
These videos also illustrate our four rules of viral video from The Viral Video Manifesto, with different videos having different strengths that helped make them contagious. One overall weakness of these branded videos: Rule 1: Be True. They tend to be over-produced and dress things up more than is needed. Only a few of these videos keep it as simple as possible and get the maximum contagiousness from Rule 1.
Without further ado, here are our personal picks for the best branded viral videos of the year:
1. A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square
TNT Belgium, 39 million views
“A Dramatic Surprise” is our choice for the #1 sponsored video of the year, brought to you by TNT Belgium. Built around the phrase “Add More Drama,” this video does an amazing job of creating a strong, positive emotional connection. And the brand presence is clear but never in the way. Of all the Candid Camera-style videos out there, this is one of the absolute best. Strength: This video does a remarkable job with all four rules.
2. Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights
Red Bull, 30 million views
Red Bull tapped into the powerful draw of the biggest, wildest stunt of the year, turning this 21st century sideshow moment into great viral content. Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable.
3. Dumb Ways to Die
Melbourne Metro Trains, 32 million views
Melbourne Metro Trains dared to be different, and it paid off. This is a catchy, quirky song with simple, compelling animation. Both the song and the ideas stick in your head and are very contagious. Strength: Music and Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 13 of the VVM: Be Bold Enough to Be Unforgettable).
4. DC SHOES: KEN BLOCK’S GYMKHANA FIVE: ULTIMATE URBAN PLAYGROUND; SAN FRANCISCO
DC Shoes, 36 million views
We are once again frustrated by the over-produced camera work of the Gymkhana series and think they could be even more successful with a simpler, more viral filming style. But the stunts continue to be insane, and that’s their strength. Once again, it’s the 21st century sideshow in action. Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 11 of the VVM: Own It).
5. The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser
Volkswagen, 18 million views
Following the runaway success of last year’s “The Force,” Volkswagen put out this teaser for their ad during this year’s Super Bowl, “The Dog Strikes Back.” While “The Bark Side” presumably uses digital compositing, it’s a simpler, more contagious video with more views online than “The Dog Strikes Back.” It shows how, while “The Dog Strikes Back” was a great TV spot, simpler production techniques and a clearer hook work better online. Strengths: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 10 of the VVM: Do Something Different).
6. OK Go – Needing/Getting – Official Video
Chevrolet, 23 million views
OK Go returns with a phenomenal video for Chevrolet creating music by driving through a giant musical instrument. Once again, OK Go shows they have a great understanding of viral video techniques. Strength: This video does a great job with all four rules.
7. The Athlete Machine – Red Bull Kluge
Red Bull, 12 million views
Red Bull makes two appearances on this year’s list. At number 7, this video has some great strengths and also some weaknesses. A giant Rube Goldberg machine incorporating great athletes is a phenomenal idea, and that gives this video a contagious hook. But with too many camera moves and coming in at a lazy 6 minutes long, it lacks the punch that would have moved it higher up the list. Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable; Weakness: Rule 2: Don’t Waste My Time.
8. The Big Bang Theory Flash mob!
Big Bang Theory (CBS), 21 million views
One of the memes of the year was “Call Me Maybe” lip dub videos, with the Harvard baseball team, the U.S. Olympic swimming team, and the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders all getting 10 to 20 million views, not to mention spoofs like Sesame Street’s “Share It Maybe.” One of the most viewed is our #8 pick from CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” It’s also one of the simplest, showing members of the cast and crew letting their hair down and having a good time. That simplicity makes it particularly contagious. Strengths: tapping into a hot meme and Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity.
9. Unlock the 007 in you. You have 70 seconds!
Coke Zero, 9.5 million views
Coca-Cola has a knack for good Candid Camera-style videos like “Happiness Machine” and now “Unlock the 007 in you.” Most importantly, they create situations that make people smile – a good strategy for viral video. Strength: Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity.
10. An Unexpected Briefing
Air New Zealand, 9.9 million views
Air New Zealand did a great job of reaching out to a specific audience, Lord of the Rings fans, in the lead up to the release of the first Hobbit movie. Showing a great sense of humor, Air New Zealand embraced those fans in a very human, non-corporate way. That emotional connection is a powerful viral tool. Strengths: tapping into pop culture, Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity, and we really like the Lord of the Rings, and we want to go to New Zealand.