April 13, 2005
Case Study

Viral Advertising Showcase: Top 12 Campaigns & Results Data to Inspire You

SUMMARY: Looking for practical inspiration? Our Viral Ad Showcase is a Case Study Wonderland packed with great creative, seeding details, results data, and lessons learned. Includes real-life campaigns that worked for:

-> Consumer Packaged Goods

-> eRetail

-> Charity

-> Entertainment marketing -> Automotive

-> B-to-B prospecting ...

and even the British Government (more fun than you might think).
75 viral ad campaigns were submitted for the MarketingSherpa/VBMA Showcase -- but the judges were tough and just 12 campaigns made the final cut. Each winner featured best practices, above-average results, and unique creatives. Plus, almost none were what you might think of as "typical" campaigns -- online games featuring humor, action, or sexual content aimed at young men. Those campaigns can be very creative and highly effective but let's face it, the rest of the marketing community can't really copy much from them. And, as always, our goal is to bring you proven real-life tactics you can use no matter what you're marketing.

Here are the top 12 winners in our Showcase for your delight, awe, and hopefully inspiration. Click on each one's link to view results data, campaign and seeding details, lessons learned, agency info, and creative samples.

#1. BBC Learning's Boring Boring Boring

MarketingSherpa Summary: This fabulous business-to-business campaign proves viral ads aren't just for entertainment property (games, movies, music) marketing. HR professionals around the world played this online game more than five million times and 50,000 opted in to receive email about professional training DVDs. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/1.html

#2. Mazda Motors UK Women Drivers/Parking Video

MarketingSherpa Summary: Campaigns that go outrageously viral all tap into the deepest levels of the human zeitgeist. In this case, who sucks more at parking, men or women? (Hint: The campaign was aimed at women.) We also love this campaign because it drove measurable car sales as well as via the 4.2 million video views. Key: Viral ad success is not just about making you famous online or being entertaining, it's about selling something. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/2.html

#3. BMG/RCA's Elvis Presley #1 Hits eJukebox

MarketingSherpa Summary: Ok, so any brand with as big a fanbase as Elvis is almost guaranteed some viral success. But, this campaign's clever "Roll Your Own" personalization feature makes it a Viral King. Plus, kudos to BMG/RCA for allowing the campaign to stay live for more than two years now instead of treating it like a one-time pop hit. They know great viral campaigns have loooong lifetimes. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/3.html

#4. Jewelry.com's Jewelers for Children Charity + Eretail Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Yes, you can combine the human impulse to help a good charity along with eretail traffic. The key lies in complete and utter sincerity. Jewelry.com's email letter announcing the campaign is so obviously legitimate that it won despite high consumer skepticism and concerns about email charity frauds and scams. Plus, marketing partners including Macy's and Zales were impressed. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/4.html

#5. QuickyMart eCommerce Software's "Impress Starbucks Execs" Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Stunningly clever use of viral in a business-to-business setting. If you need to get absolutely everyone in the executive suite (and below) in a particular Fortune 500 to notice you, a targeted viral campaign may be your answer. This campaign infiltrated every desktop at Starbucks' corporate offices back in 1999 using tactics B-to-B marketers could use today (except for the spamming thing -- only use opt-in emails please). Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/5.html

#6. Switch Interactive's Xmas Bash Self-Promo

MarketingSherpa Summary: Loads of ad agencies submitted viral campaigns for this showcase, but only Switch won a place (so far). Why? The campaign not only generated an astounding amount of traffic but it also resulted in real-life paying clients. Let's face it, no matter how "creative" or fun your viral campaign is, the real point is your bottom line. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/6.html

#7. Brawny Towels' Custom Instant Messaging Wrap

MarketingSherpa Summary: Creative competition for instant messaging (IM) wraps is getting intense, with portals such as Yahoo! offering dozens of branded IM options to consumers. We love the fact that a paper towel company was creative enough to OK an IM campaign test, and well over half a million consumers downloaded it. The campaign got truly interactive by taking advantage of the well-known psychographic fact that most women adore quizzes. It's genetic. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/7.html

#8. Virgin Record's Ben Harper Fan Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Viral campaigns targeting music fans aren't anything unusual, but we were impressed by the exceptional average site visit -- 24 minutes! (To put this in context, we've heard other entertainment sites brag proudly about visit times of 8-10 minutes.) Plus, we liked the fact that the site linked to ecommerce -- so many other entertainment sites fail on that front. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/8.html

#9. Big Blue Squid's Who Dunnit Launch Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Big Blue Squid's in-house marketing team created this launch campaign on a shoestring budget proving you can do successful viral marketing without hiring an agency -- if you're exceptionally clever and in tune with your niche marketplace. In this case, the underwater diving community. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/9.html

#10.Dr. Comenge's Mona Lisa Makeover Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: More consumer packaged goods firms should think outside of the online ad box. (Hello, we're all bored to death of same-old, same-old sweeps campaigns.) This launch campaign for a new line of women's skincare products will make your mouse-finger itch to play with it. More than two million visitors have played with the viral app so far and helped propel the brand onto retail shelves at Sephora, Nordstroms, and Saks. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/10.html

#11. World66.com's Extreme Blog Linking Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Free offers can go wildly viral if you truly understand what makes your target demographic tick. More than 100,000 bloggers responded to this campaign, linking back to the site in question. The resulting traffic bump was OK -- but the true goal behind this viral campaign was search engine optimization. Google spiders are far more likely to rank sites in the top listings when there are loads of other sites linking to them. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/11.html

#12. The British Government's Adult Sexual Health Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary: Can you say classy? When the British Government wanted to teach young adults about avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, they hired ... an opera singer. The resulting audio feature "12 Days of STDs" Web site has become a pop-culture icon reaching more than 2 million people and generating a fresh wave of viral traffic three Christmases in a row now. There's no measurable data on the number of AIDs cases it's prevented, but even one is immeasurably worthwhile. Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/vas/12.html

(More) useful links related to this article

MarketingSherpa's special report, " Viral Advertising in 2005 -- Top 7 Tactics, How-Tos, and Measurement Data": http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2957

Viral & Buzz Marketing Association: http://www.vbma.net

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