3 Viral Video Lessons From Super Bowl Ads

If your company is among those that will be waiting anxiously for their ads to air on Super Bowl Sunday, you’ve probably been thinking a lot about online shares. There’s no denying the value of digital media to Super Bowl campaigns. According to marketing technology company Unruly, the 10 most popular Super Bowl spots from last year generated more than 10 million shares across Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, an increase of nearly 90 percent over 2012.

Whether you’re a Super Bowl advertiser or not, online shares are critical to video ad success. We used to think of the term “viral” as elusive and abstract: something used to describe projects from the likes of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. “Viral videos,” meanwhile, were the kind of thing you’d find on Break.com. Both labels have since been adopted by advertisers large and small and applied to all manner of video campaigns. They come with themed hashtags like P&G’s #BecauseOfMom, and are just as likely to be found on Facebook and Twitter as on YouTube.

Given the importance of upping the exposure of videos online, we’re all on the lookout for winning strategies. How can we ensure our videos will gain traction? How can we use the Internet to support offline campaigns? Thanks to the popularity of the Super Bowl, and the degree of effort advertisers put into producing unforgettable spots, we can look to the fruits of this event to guide us. Here are three Super Bowl ad strategies that Unruly reports have worked in the past, along with some tips for applying them to your own online video campaigns.

Go Long

Research shows that the average length of the top 10 most popular Super Bowl spots more than doubled from 2010 to 2013. Super Bowl viewers expect to see longer commercials during the game, and given the size of their audience, marketers are willing to invest in more robust ads.

When it comes to the Web, though, we’ve been operating under the assumption that shorter is better. Short-form storytelling (think Vine and Instagram video) is picking up speed, but there’s a place for long-form branded content, too. The online films released by brands like Chipotle, WestJet, and Dove this year each ran for more than three minutes. They generated between 470,000 and 4.24 million online shares.

Show Them Your Play Orior to the Snap

Of the 20 most shared ads from last year’s Super Bowl, seven were supported by teasers. The equivalent of an ad campaign teaser online can take the form of anything from a short video to a nebulous display banner, but increasingly it involves social media. Last year, beauty brand Dior posted teasers to Twitter over the course of a day in order to generate buzz about an upcoming product line. The campaign included images exclusive to the social network, and posts were supplemented by two YouTube videos that also served to intensify hashtag activity.

To promote season three of the HBO hit Girls, marketers posted a trailer to YouTube, but the show’s director and star offered up a teaser on Instagram the night before. Online promotion for X-Men: Day of Future Past took a similar tack, debuting a short teaser on the X-Men Movies Instagram page in advance of the full-length trailer, which aired a few days later. By posting teasers to multiple social media platforms, brands can boost word of mouth while expanding their reach.

Go to the Video

The biggest takeaway from the evolution of Super Bowl advertising is that online video is in high demand. Between 2013 and 2012 there were nearly double the number of online video shares. Unruly estimates there are more than 500,000 shares of branded video every 24 hours, and that online video shares have increased by 30 times in the past three years.

As you consider your media buying options for the year to come, remember how much consumers’ appetite for video has grown. Internet users have become accustomed to engaging with this kind of digital content, and they’ll continue to welcome it.

Don’t meet them on the field without it.

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