Advertisers are increasing their spend on video advertising, and for good reason. According to a recent study by IAB, marketers and advertisers are spending an average of $10 million+ annually on digital video, representing an 85% increase from 2 years ago. Videos can elicit a strong psychological response and prompt viewers to share the video with their family, friends and followers, who then go on to share it with their family, friends and followers and so on until it becomes “viral.”

A viral video is a clip of animation that is spread rapidly through online sharing. YouTube personality Kevin Nalty explains that a video can be classified as viral if it gets more than 5 million views in a 3-7 day period. Online videos have the potential to become so popular that they can develop their own catchphrases and become a part of our social references, like in 2007 when everyone was quoting “Charlie Bit My Finger.” So what prompts a video to be widely shared and what can advertisers and marketers take away from viral videos? Here’s what we can learn:

Keep Your Audience on Their Toes

A study from Elon University showed that 30% of the viral videos they reviewed included humor and 50% of featured the element of surprise. Take Apple Music’s commercial “Taylor vs. Treadmill” featuring pop mogul Taylor Swift, for example. Not one to take herself too seriously, the ad shows Taylor running on the treadmill listening to Drake’s new song on Apple Music, when she suddenly falls face first on to the treadmill and is propelled backward. The video was released on April 1st and has over 17 million views and counting.

When creating an ad campaign, it’s important for advertisers to consider how they can maintain viewers’ attention and be entertaining enough for that viewer to share it. In this case, the video was shocking, had an “American’s Funniest Home Videos” kind of humor, and to top it off, a famous celebrity. Which brings us to our next viral video trick.


With an endless supply of content at their fingertips, viewers are more selective when deciding what to spend their time watching. This has pushed advertisers to constantly develop new and innovative ways to reach their audience, thus leading to a special combination of entertainment and advertisement called “Advertainment.” As seen in Red Bull’s infamous video below, they teamed up with professional skydiver Felix Baumgartner for the Red Bull Stratos Project. Wearing a Red Bull sponsored suit, Baumgartner was the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall.

At no point does Red Bull include the benefits of their beverage, instead they created a one of a kind advertainment that was widely shared and talked about. With product and brand information already accessible online, people don’t need an overload of information about the brand in the ads, just make it memorable.

Advertising Symbiosis

Thales S. Teixeira, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, explains that the primary motivation for sharing videos is egocentricity: the viewer's desire to derive personal gain from sharing the video. When a person shares a video about a certain topic, they’re sharing their values, interest and adding to their own personal brand. Teixeira adds, "They let people broadcast their personal values the way a bumper sticker on the back of a car does."

Teixeira calls the idea of an advertiser and a viewer mutually benefiting from a shared video "advertising symbiosis.” Influencing people to watch the ad is all about emotion, but getting them to share it stems from their personality. So while emotional content drives brand loyalty, understanding the personality traits of your audience is a huge asset when developing the creative for your campaign.

While there is no set formula to creating a viral video, it’s essential to understand what content your viewers respond to rather than trying to create something with the sole intent to “go viral.” With a video ad campaign, advertisers should focus on knowing who their audience is and reaching them when and where their videos will have the most influence.

With Yashi’s hyper focused behavioral and geotargeting capabilities, advertisers can gain an in-depth understanding about who is watching their ad and how they respond. To learn more about how Yashi can target your ideal audience for your next campaign, contact a Yashi representative today!