What makes a great viral video? This is a problem I’ve been coming up against recently, especially as there’s always the simple risk that when trying to do anything viral: it will either work or it won’t. 

This is something I’m going to try and explore across a couple of blog posts in the next month or so, as the subject is so huge and complex, but a good starting point seems to be to showcase some of the best examples of viral advertising that currently exist.

A great deal of viral advertising online seems to be composed solely of the big boys, brands that can afford to take a risk, due to the sheer scale of their global presence, revenues and outrageous marketing budgets. 

It’s interesting to note, that certainly in the past twelve months, the presence of viral videos seem to have ebbed away slightly, as the economic uncertainty has forced organisations to tighten down the screws on marketing budgets that are fool-proof. 

However, as 2010 approaches, I very much feel that some companies will be trying to force viral videos into their marketing strategies. Whether or not this is something I believe will work will be discussed in a follow-up article, but for now, I’ve selected some of the most successful and compelling brand-led viral videos that currently exist. 

Feel free to chip in with suggestions if you think I’ve missed anything, just bear in mind that I’m trying to demonstrate and collect big-brand examples. 


If you haven’t seen this, where have you been? A pre-planned flash-mob invade Liverpool St train station in London and shake their stuff to some funky beats. Remember, life is for sharing. It’s had nearly 15m views on the official channel alone. 



The Evolution video was part of a wider
strategy of Dove, being part of their Campaign For Real Beauty. However, the
video has proven to be a great success. From something that cost $50,000, it
saw over 12m hits online within a year and generated an estimated $150m worth
of media space and Unilever reported that its overall sales in the period
following the release of Evolution rose by 5.8%.



The chocolate giant secures two spots. One for their Gorilla ad, which spawned hundreds of copies and spoofs, giving them huge online coverage and the second for their Eyebrows video, which saw similar results. It’s worth noting that it’s not been all success for them though, with the often-criticised airport-runway-race. That said, between the two videos here, the company has clocked up at least 15 million views.




The alternative-sport giant indulged in a low-budget spot of urban anarchy. People are still arguing if it’s real… And the result? Well in excess of 1.5m views. Boom. 



The car-manufacturer is a legendary advertiser, however it’s their Cog ad that makes the grade here, not least because it was one of the first virals I personally experienced, many years ago. I love the fact that none of it was faked – and globally, it’s had millions and millions of views since it was released.

Isn’t it nice when things just work?



Last year, Adidas pulled together 25 short videos that were released online. This is one of the most popular, having amassed in excess of a million views. however, as part of a wider viral campaign, all the videos turned into an online pandemic, with football fans around the world embedding and sharing. 


Originally intended as an April-fools TV ad, the BBC cleverly seeded this video of unusual penguins online. The result was a flurry of user-sharing, generating hundreds of thousands of views within only a few days. 

Diesel (NSFW)

The fashion brand’s infamous SFW XXX video needs no real introduction. The video originally ran for 24 hours online in celebration of Diesel’s anniversary and was quickly rooted across the internet.

The campaign is a brilliant example of how to create attention, but without too much controversy or breaking regulations… although it raised debate as to what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. To date, it’s had over 5m unique views. 


The sporting giant pulls out all the stops with its visual ads… Such as Take it to the Next Level and Good vs. Evil, but it’s the Ronaldinho: Touch of Gold video that went crazy online. The original seems to have been taken offline due to a copyright dispute, but it had over 20m views and can still be found elsewhere. 

What did I miss? What other great examples of big-brand virals are out there? Leave a link in the comments section below and I’ll try and get them posted online. 

Great submission from KerryatDell  

Suggestion from Peter…