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Viral Ads, or So the Marketers Hope

Posted by: Rob Hof on May 22, 2005

USA Today writes about how Wendy’s and Anheuser-Busch are hoping to tap into word-of-mouth marketing with “viral” ads that young people will send to each other online. Busch even hired the folks from JibJab, which made its name last year with the hilarious animated presidential election short “This Land.”

But as Mazda and others have discovered, this can backfire. Even proponents such as Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek are wary. And JibJab’s Gregg Spiridellis notes: “It’s hard to think of a concept that can be viral for laundry detergent.” Or washing machines. Or chewing gum. Or Band-Aids. Or ….

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Reader Comments

Russell Buckley

May 23, 2005 01:55 AM


I think we're going to see a lot more of "pull" based advertising and its close cousin, "viral" in the years to come, as the traditional interruptive advertising model finishes its death throes.

A similar example is the UK 3G network, 3, launching its own ad channel, that I blogged last week The key characteristic is that the ads must be compelling enough for people to download (pull) and view on their phones. Or, as with viral, send these advertising films to their friends.

I can think of plenty of examples that might meet these exacting standards, like Honda's Cog, Pepsi's Surf, Guinness Surfers or Bud's Wassup. But can you imagine ever pulling or passing on an ad for say, financial services, soap powder, office equipment or tooth paste?

This is scary enough for mediocre agencies who can't adapt. But how will "unsexy" brands, or even categories of brands, engage their customers in the 21st century?

I guess that's where community based marketing programmes enter the fray.


Paul Phillips

June 3, 2005 05:22 PM


Based in London, I can say that the latest 'viral' hit from the UK has been Since its launch in January it attracted the attention of over 8MIO visitors worldwide. The average time spent on the site is 8.53 minutes.

I think the key is not to think of virals as passive online 'films' but actual 'interactive' content with the potential of becoming epidemic. I think it's not a case of simply putting ads 'online' but to create engaging content using the medium of the internet.



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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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