Certain parameters seem to work in favour of an ad going viral. But you can’t just start out from these factors and replicate them endlessly to ensure these ads catch on and become widely disseminated.

No Unique and Replicable Strategy for Making Advertising Go Viral

How can you set up a viral online advertising campaign? This is a question that many advertisers are asking. And it’s one that researchers from the Universities of Miami and Hartford (USA) set out to answer. A study they carried out shows that there are three variables which prompt people to share advertising online with friends. Firstly, Internet users who already have a greater general tendency to share information with others on the web are more willing to share advertising information. Secondly, if a user feels that an ad matches a friend’s interests, s/he is likely to share it. Thirdly, a person who is fond of a particular brand or a product will most likely pass on information about it. These findings are corroborated by Emmanuel Vivier, co-founder of Vanksen, an agency ‘connecting brands and consumers’. "It is important that there should be an exchange of value between the sender of the material and the receiver," he explains, but adds that: "there are however a number of useful themes which foster word-of-mouth dissemination such as having celebrities appear and also advertising carrying strong emotions such as fear or pity".

B2C versus B2B

These findings result from a survey among people thought likely to be interested in Business-to-Business or Business-to-Customer products. The researchers surveyed 418 members of the Medtrackalert site who stated they were concerned about their health, plus 248 members of the Techrepublic site who all follow the latest in technology. Those surveyed were shown either an ad for a medicine or one for a data processing service, depending on their interest category. They were then asked questions so that the researchers could calculate a level of advertising sharing according to how the responders felt about the product, the size of the respondents’ networks, and how they felt about the advertisement itself. The findings show that there is no difference between the reasons which would lead a user to share content for B2B and those for B2C. As far as Emmanuel Vivier is concerned however there are a good number of brands which ought to be spending more on paid-for media as their content is "difficult to make viral, such as brands which at face value are just not particularly attractive and therefore need to be more creative in order to compensate".

Online advertising, traditional advertising

However there’s still no recipe for creating advertising where success depends on word-of-mouth sharing, and perhaps this doesn’t differ very much from traditional advertising, points out François Laurent, co-Chair of Adetem, a Marketing professionals’ network. "There’s no set formula for finding the key element which will make a user keen to talk about an ad online, just like in traditional advertising where there are good ads and some not so good which don’t go down all that well,” he explained to L'Atelier. The solution? Find the key element which will encourage the Internet user to share the ad. And, continues François Laurent, to do that you need to "look at what the consumer is doing and at what s/he says," because this is also an aspect of the way marketing is changing. Nevertheless, comments Emmanuel Vivier, there are many differences "when it comes to sharing online advertising, depending on gender and age. A digital native will ‘get’ online advertising faster than someone over 35 ".