A viral video ad is a video with promotional purpose placed on video platforms (YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, etc) for gaining audience via spontaneous recommendations. Viral video is the main form of viral marketing campaign with social posts.
When a viral video campaign succeeds, most part of global audience or views origins from virality / sharing and therefore is free. For real viral video campaigns, impressions or views are not paid except for the seeding phase which may lead to ad placement buying.
Most viral videos use humor as virality mainspring and others are based upon prankvertising or spectacular features as for Redbull videos.
For some viral videos it is difficult to distinguish between free and paid audiences and some can also be aired on TV commercials.
Many viral campaigns are touted as successes in marketing reviews by agencies, advertisers and observers but many more are failing when virality doesn’t gear up and never noticed.
Note that most viral video hit audiences -see examples below - remain modest when compared with TV commercial cumulative audiences. However, impact on brand metrics is likely stronger with views gained on video platforms as they are the result of a voluntary step from viewers.
Furthermore, logic and some studies suggest that video viewers are in a more receptive and attentive frame of mind following a friend’s recommendation than by accessing a video by themselves.
Recommendation impact on brand metrics (image credit Unruly’s Social Ad Effectiveness Report):
Some well known viral video successes and case studies: