8 myths about viral video ads unravelled

Social video advertising is exploding across APAC. Over the last 12 months, advertisers across the region have released almost twice (+80.9%) as many video ads as the previous year, according to the Unruly Viral Video Chart, prompting a 95.6% increase in the number of video ad shares and a 151.5% rise in the number of video views.

Such an explosion in sharing offers marketers an exciting opportunity to engage audiences at scale across the web.

However, despite this huge surge in social video activity, average share rates have plummeted 25.4% to just 1.4%, as brands and agencies struggle to get their ads seen in an increasingly crowded market.

While ‘creating a viral video’ may be top priority on many  marketers’ wish lists, creating the next Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” or VW’s “The Force” is far from easy, as with any hot marketing trend, it can sometimes be hard separating the facts from the fiction.

So what are the biggest myths around creating a social video hit that will rack up millions of shares online?

Phil Townend, APAC MD of video ad tech company Unruly, which opened its APAC HQ in Singapore last year and has been helping brands get their videos go viral since the company were founded in London back in 2006, busts some of the biggest myths around social video advertising.

Myth 1: Content has to be funny to be internet famous

Humour is undoubtedly one of the most effective emotional triggers in social video advertising. After all, everyone loves to laugh. The problem is too many brands try to be funny and fail. It’s hardly surprising. As any comedian will tell you, making someone laugh is the hardest job on the planet.

Different people find different things funny, plus humour doesn’t always translate across borders. It’s also the most overused emotional trigger, making it harder to stand out from the crowd. So why make life hard on yourself? What we suggest when we are working with brands is think about emotions other than humour. Think about creating uplifting content. Think about creating content that will inspire. Think about making content that will make people joyful, happy or sad.

When used effectively, they can be just as sucessful as a funny ad. Take a look at the top 20 most shared ads of all time and you will see what I mean. Less than a quarter try to make us laugh. It’s not that advertising has lost its sense of humour, it’s just that it’s found a higher purpose.

Myth 2: The shorter the better

There’s a lot of talk about us being an ADD generation; that we can’t concentrate on one thing for more than a few seconds.

Certainly, when you look at the rise in popularity of short-form platforms such as Instavideo and Vine it does look like less can sometimes mean more. But good content is good content - and it comes in all shapes and sizes.

If you’ve got great content, people will watch it. And there is a lot of appetite for longer form content, if the content is genuinely engaging.

Again, if you look at the top 10 most shared ads of all time, the average duration is around two-and-a-half minutes. That’s two-and-a-half minutes people are choosing to spend watching a branded video and then going on to share it.

Myth 3: Good content will rise to the surface

This is one of the biggest mistakes brands make when they are launching a video online. This idea that if it’s good content it will somehow rise to the surface; it will go viral. The video will be found; people will find it and share it.

It doesn’t work like that now. There’s so much content in our social feeds these days. With 300 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s hard to get noticed. This is why it’s more important than ever before for brands to have a smart distribution strategy in place to make sure people are seeing their content.

Your distribution strategy is just as important as your content strategy.

Myth 4: Big views equal big success

Views are not the be-all-and-end-all and over time we have seen more brands come to recognise this. Increasingly advertisers are looking beyond views as a metric when assessing the success of their video campaigns.

Really, a view is just a measure of media spend, and when you are looking at the success of a campaign, look very carefully at the KPIs. Shares, for example, is a very strong KPI for video campaigns because it shows that someone has really engaged with a piece of content and has become an advocate for that brand with their peer group.

Myth 5: All you need is cats

We all know the internet is made of cats, but cats in themselves do not drive video shares.  A recent study by Dr Karen Nelson-Field, at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, looked at the drivers of virality, and what she found was that creative devices do not determine shareability.

In other words, it’s not about whether you have a cat, baby or a celebrity in your ad, what determines sharing is the extent to which these devices connect with the audience and create a strong emotional connection.

Myth 6: You can’t predict viral success

There is a long held myth in the ad industry which says that virality is unpredictable; that virality is a “black swan” event – a “bolt of lightning” that can never be repeated.

That’s just a cop-out. We have big data available to us now, allowing us to run regressional analysis across massive data sets. We also have volumes of academic research there that can help us identify robustly what those sharing metrics and variables are.

So we can absolutely predict a viral hit and, in fact, we are doing it here at Unruly with our Unruly ShareRank algorithm. We have 80% success in predicting virality on our global algorithm and 90% success on our local algorithms.

It’s important to be able to predict what actually drives sharing in advance so brands can operationalise success. And not just have a one-off win and wonder why, but understand why their content has been successful and build on that for the next time around.

Myth 7: Keep branding discreet

Recent research has found the number of times a brand appears visually or verbally in a commercial has little or no impact on its popularity online. The study, led by Dr Nelson-Field and using data from the Unruly Viral Video Chart, found that people share commercial videos with their friends for the same reasons they share non-commercial clips.

So don’t waste your marketing budget on putting out an unbranded video.

Myth 8: It’s all about YouTube

YouTube may be synonymous with online video, but the reality is very different. The video ecosystem has been shaken up recently with the launch of Facebook Video and short-form platforms such as Vine and Instagram, meaning YouTube’s share of the online video market has shrunk significantly recently, from 46.5% in January 2012 down to just 24.3% by the end of 2014, according to comScore.

But that still leaves around two-thirds of video views which occur outside the walled gardens of Facebook and YouTube and on the "Open Web”.