Chasing viral video success can be a thankless task. The rewards are abundant, but chances of success are pretty low. In fact, according to a new study from Millward Brown, the success rate for viral campaigns is about 15%.

The good news for those falling short of viral success: popular campaigns do not always achieve message retention.

Having a large brand and reputable agency working on a campaign is no guarantee that it will become a a viral hit.

Of the 102 ads Millward Brown analyzed, only one in six achieved viral success (which actually sounds pretty high to me). The company defined high viral viewing as an ad that earned more than 1,000 U.K views per week or 5,000 U.S. views.

Millward Brown created the Creative Viral Protection (CVP) metric to help gauge viral success of ads from such brands as Old Spice, E*TRADE and Snickers (chart below). They tracked four main categories: awareness, buzz, celebrity and distinctiveness.

But not all four are necessary for success. And even the popular videos that Millward Brown studied didn’t always convey the right marketing message. According to Ann Green, svp of marketing solutions at Millward Brown:

“There was no relation between persuasion and viral potential. It’s
interesting to notice these viral ads are very engaging, but they
may not be ultimately persuasive.”

However, that doesn’t mean that advertisers should necessarily forgo striving for viral success. Millward Brown sees their new metric as a method of gauging the possibility for success. According to Duncan Southgate,
Millward Brown’s global innovation director:

“As an advertiser, your chances of a major viral success are relatively
low, but it’s a prize worth aiming for, and our new validated pre-test
metric makes it an easier target to hit.”

The company provides 10 tips for viral advertising to help achieve viral goals. Some are obvious: creativity matters. But others demonstrate that there are always going to be unknowns in the mix of viral success. Like number 10: “Cross your fingers!”

Images: Old Spice, Millward Brown