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[NEW STUDY] The Science of Viral Video

New Journal Of Marketing Paper Unlocks Virality 

A new paper released recently in The Journal of Marketing provides fascinating insights into high performing online video creative.

The snappily entitled study, “What Drives Virality (Sharing) of Online Digital Content? The Critical Role of Information, Emotion, and Brand Prominence” was carried out by researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Houston.

The team tested five hypotheses about what drives sharing of video ads across social media, using two independent field studies that analysed 11 measures of emotion and over 60 ad characteristics.

Gerard J Tellis, University of Southern California:

"Our findings provide marketing and media managers, advertisers, and copywriters with specific theory-based insights into how to design ads to drive virality."

"While the old mantra touted exposure, exposure, exposure for brand names, we find that minimal brand exposure, discreet information, and strong emotion are key drivers of virality."

The study included 109 brands that were among the top 100 US advertisers in 2012 as well as additional brands that were historically active on YouTube.

Informational Versus Emotional Ad Content

Much of the paper is taken up with the juxtaposition of informational ad content versus emotional ad content.

Which to use, when and how to make them work harder.

Alongside fascinating insights related to: ad structure, ad story arcs, optimal video lengths, branding and much more.

Information-focused content is verbally rich, typically involving a narrator or a voice-over delivering arguments or factual descriptions about products, attributes, people, behaviours, and events. 

Think, the majority of ads you probably saw on TV last night.

Whereas emotion-focused content can arouse either positive or negative emotions.

Most research in advertising and on content sharing emphasises emotions evoked by ads (rather than those depicted in).

Think, the current crop of ‘woke-vertising’, or some of the epic Kiwi public safety campaigns of the past decade, ‘Ghost Chip Bro?’.

Risky Business? Informational Works Best

Ad content skews overwhelmingly to the informational over the emotional.

However, the researchers’ findings imply that the effectiveness of such content is limited to conditions in which consumers perceive risk.

Product risk is high when buying a new product or service, as the consequences of product usage are unknown.

In these cases, information-focused content can provide compelling facts and arguments that describe new benefits and/or reduce risk perceptions associated with the new product.

Likewise, consumers might also share information-focused content when purchase risk is high, as would be the case with high-priced products.

Outside of these circumstances, a more dramatic, emotive approach to ad creative seems to out-perform. 

Now’t To Worry About? Ham It Up

However, within the study, only 45% of the ads were rated as emotion-focused, and only 7% of them were rated as evoking strong positive emotions.

The researchers also found that strong drama, surprise, and the use of celebrities, babies, and animals are effective in arousing emotions and creating social shares.

However, only 11% of ads used strong drama, only 10% elicited surprise, and less than 3% used babies or animals as characters in the ad.

On a related side-note, this probably explains all those weird Evian viral campaigns.

According to the study, highly shared ads are not merely emotional; rather, they unfold as dramas, with highly likeable characters and a plot.

Although drama ads have been invoked theoretically as a potential predictor of sharing, this is the first study to examine the impact of drama on sharing.

To find out how to produce more shareable online video ad creative read or download the complete study here.

 

 

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