2015 in Review: Viral Video Ads

At the beginning of a new year, it’s always intriguing to see which video ads spoke to public the most throughout the preceding year. Here is a look at three video ads that struck a significant chord with the public as they were shared on social media outlets literally millions of times. They’re not necessarily to top three most viral ads of 2015, but all three of them offer fascinating insights into the world of video-­based marketing and can impart invaluable marketing lessons for application in 2016.

Dove’s Choose Beautiful

This one is perhaps unsurprising considering the success of Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video back in 2013. This new video from Dove featured an experiment where two entrances into a building in five major cities around the world were labeled—one with the word “beautiful” and one with the word “average.” A camera crew then discreetly observed which entrances women ultimately chose, and as it turns out, most women chose to go through the “average” entrance. For some women, the choice of entrance seemed trivial and almost laughable, while for a great many others it was a decision that required some internal deliberation. The video, to date, has over 7 million views on YouTube, with undoubtedly many more views via other social media channels.

The appeal: As with Dove’s other viral videos, this video is relatable and brings to the surface many of the emotions that today’s women are feeling as they contemplate their own beauty. And whether you think you are beautiful or not, you will fit into one of the two categories presented in the video. It poses the question, “Which door would I have chosen?” and challenges its viewers to redefine self-­image.

Always’ Like A Girl

This ad actually debuted during the summer of 2014 on YouTube, but it really found its stride when it was aired during 2015’s Super Bowl. In the ad, girls and women ranging from childhood age to young adult age are asked about the meaning of the phrase “like a girl.” The ad reveals that young girls still associate the phrase “like a girl” with positive connotations, while those of puberty age and older have developed a negative perception of what the phrase means. It makes a powerful statement about how we as a society propagate a distorted perception of female ability without even realizing it, and it calls its viewers to action by challenging them to “make #LikeAGirl mean amazing things” and “champion girls’ confidence.” To date, the video has a whopping 68 million views.

The appeal: The appeal of this video is very much like the appeal of Dove’s Choose Beautiful video campaign; it makes a powerful statement about gender perceptions and self-­image, presents an intriguing exposé, and it’s extremely relatable to virtually every woman who views it. This video is yet another example of a growing video marketing trend that favors true-­to-­life, documentary­-style videos over highly produced ads.

Android’s Friends Furever

Is it really surprising that this video ad from Android did so well? With 22 million views on YouTube alone, this ad featuring unlikely animal friendships only reinforces what we already know: that animals are always a good idea when it comes to creating highly shareable content. The ad follows one long­standing ad tradition of “masking the ad” until the very end, when in the last frame the Android logo pops up with the caption “Be together. Not the same.”

The appeal: Viewers on Facebook frequently commented that they liked the ad for its “non-
salesy” approach—and of course the fact that the video was “cute and sweet.” And for those who are particularly involved in the Android­-versus-­Apple debate (and who reside in the pro-
Android camp), the ad’s caption at the very end takes a poignant stab at Apple’s tendency to require iPhone users to have all Apple products in order to enjoy cross­-device compatibility.

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