Old Spice, E*TRADE ads provide lessons in viral marketing


Fewer than one in six video ads achieve high viral viewing, according to new research from Millward Brown. As part of this research, which involved analyzing 102 ads, Millward Brown created the Creative Viral Potential (CVP) pre-testing metric that helps agencies and marketers predict viral success prior to launching an ad or video.

To demonstrate the power of this new predictive framework, Millward Brown analyzed eight recently successful TV ads that became viral, including the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and the E*TRADE “Milkaholic” ad. The study uncovered four essential components to viral success: the Awareness Index (a measure of branded engagement that has long been used by advertisers to predict the success of their TV advertising); Buzz (which identifies whether an ad is likely to generate pass-along); Celebrity (the profile of a celebrity when used in an ad); and Distinctiveness (a measure of originality).

“There are many factors that drive viral viewing, including a high Awareness Index and level of TV advertising support, both of which were an essential part of the viral success of many of the ads we tested,” said Nigel Hollis, Millward Brown’s Chief Global Analyst who will be presenting the findings of this research at the ARF Annual Convention 3/24 in NYC. “This research clearly shows that creativity is mission-critical to getting people to watch your video online.”

Other ads that Millward Brown measured include those from Audi, Snickers, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Carl’s Jr., and Google Nexus One, the main drivers of which are detailed in the chart below.

(SB = advertised during
Super Bowl)


YouTube Views
(as of March 7, 2010)

  Main Viral Drivers

Old Spice
The man your man could

smell like

(1,044,646 per week)

High Awareness Index (very
engaging), very distinctive

Milkaholic (SB)

(566,790 per week)

High Awareness Index (very
enjoyable, engaging), very buzzy

Green Police (SB)

(473,088 per week)

Very engaging, very

Betty White (SB)

(307,228 per week)

High Awareness Index (very
enjoyable, engaging), very
buzzy, very well recognized celebrity


(258,786 per week)

High Awareness Index
(incredibly engaging), very

Happiness Machine

(220,994 per week)

High Awareness Index (very
enjoyable, well branded),
very buzzy and distinctive

Carl’s Jr.
Kim Kardashian

(212,873 per week)

Enjoyable, engaging (men
only); very popular online

Google Nexus One
Ninjas Unboxing

(145,445 per week)

Engaging (interesting to 18-
34s), very distinctive

Millward Brown’s Top 10 Tips for Viral Advertising:
1.     Be realistic, only a few ads make the big time 
2.   Creativity rules: a distinctive and engaging ad is a necessity 
3.   Don’t forget, an ad must leave some impression related to the brand in order to be effective 
4.   Consider whether a celebrity will fit your brand and enhance an ad’s viewing potential 
5.   Consider an idea’s campaign potential; is it more than a one off? 
6.   Seed widely: The more broadly seeded a campaign is, the more people it will reach, irrespective of the pass-along rate. 
7.   Seed well: Different media placement strategies may well be required based on the nature of the target audience. 
8.   Make the ad easy to find – use simple naming, and consider paid video search 
9.   Integrate with other media efforts 
10.   Cross your fingers!