The Viral Video Manifesto is in bookstores today! To celebrate, here are our picks for the top viral videos of the year.
In the six years since our first big viral hit, The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments, online video has exploded. Now more than 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That means that there are a lot of videos of puppies that we have to watch, but by God, somebody has to do it.
While many of our picks for the best videos of 2012 were also quite popular, these are our personal picks for the best of the best. These are the videos that exemplify viral video with strong contagious hooks. You’ll see our four rules for viral video in action. There’s unforgettable dancing, extreme stunts, catchy music, and real emotion. Each of these videos got us telling our friends, “You have GOT to see this!”
Here they are, from 1 to 10:
1. Psy – Gangnam Style
930 million views
Now the biggest YouTube video of all time, this was what everyone was talking about this year. Yes, it’s a music video, but it’s unabashedly, unforgettably weird and embraces Psy’s offbeat look, his humanity, to great effect. Strengths: Music and Rule 3: Be Unforgettable.
2. Somebody that I Used to Know
140 million views
This video from Walk Off the Earth takes one of the best earworms of the year and gives it a great viral spin: five people, ten hands, all playing one guitar. It’s great music, a great stunt, and it’s all captured in one continuous shot. Strengths: Music and Rule 1: Be True.
3. A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square
39 million views
The best sponsored video of the year (brought to you by TNT Belgium) is one of the case studies we discuss in The Viral Video Manifesto. This phenomenal video is Candid Camera taken to new heights, showing both unforgettable events and people’s amazed reactions. Strengths: This video does a remarkable job with all four rules.
4. Extremely Scary Ghost Elevator Prank in Brazil
51 million views
While “A Dramatic Surprise” made it’s Candid Camera victims smile, this one makes them scream. It’s a dangerous game to play, but it’s undeniably unforgettable. Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable.
5. Isaac’s Live Lip Dub Proposal
17 million views
Here are two contagious favorites put together: a lip dub and an elaborate marriage proposal. This video showcases the strong, positive emotion that’s a consistent indicator for viral potential. Strength: Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity.
6. Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights
30 million views
It was the biggest, craziest stunt of the year: jumping from the edge of space. This is the 21st century sideshow in action. Strength: Rule 3: Be Unforgettable.
7. Dumb Ways to Die
32 million views
Do something different. This catchy animated music video from Melbourne Metro Trains shows the power of a novelty song combined with simple visuals. Strength: Music and Rule 3: Be Unforgettable (especially as discussed in Chapter 10 of the VVM: Do Something Different).
8. Where the Hell is Matt? 2012
7.9 million views
One of our favorite viral video creators, Matt Harding, returns with another dancing video that once again shows the power of simple humanity. It’s one of the most emotionally powerful videos of the year. Strengths: Matt really understands all four rules, but Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity, is what makes his videos so amazing.
9. A Conversation with my 12 Year Old Self
9 million views
Surprisingly, while we had never met him, this guy comes from the same performing arts school that we do, Celebration Barn Theater, here in Maine. Jeremiah McDonald turned a video that he took when he was 12 into an amazing conversation, 20 years later. Strength: Rule 1: Be True.
10. Catch the Ice Dude
22 million views
No list of the top viral videos of the year would be complete without at least one video of someone hurting himself. Here it is. Strength: Rule 4: It’s All About Humanity (especially as discussed in Chapter 14 of the VVM: Give Me the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat)
One video that didn’t make our list is KONY 2012, another case study we discuss at length in The Viral Video Manifesto.
94 million views
This is one of the most viewed videos of the year, dubbed by some the most viral video of all time, given how quickly it spread. While it’s a remarkable video, we find it manipulative. It uses fear and propaganda techniques in ways that gloss over important issues and real solutions. For that reason, it didn’t make our list of the best viral videos of 2012.
Coming soon: our picks for the Top 10 Branded Viral Videos of 2012.