I'm sure if you sat down and thought about it, you could probably think of at least one viral ad that you've seen in your lifetime. Maybe it's the Budweiser Frogs, maybe it's the Old Spice Man on a Horse, or how about the Always #LikeAGirl campaign?

Ads are constantly going viral for various reasons, but is there a secret behind virality?

In this first episode in our Going Viral series, Lindsay Smith and Nathan Spell welcome Ari Diozon onto the show to talk about, and react to, recent viral ads.

Podcast Transcript

 (0s): We actually use Scribd in our home. 

 (3s): Do you really love your sleep number? And we do 

 (6s): Vizzy has been 

 (24s): So a few years ago. I don't know if you guys remember this, but the internet was chock full of these people complaining about vertical video. I saw this on Reddit. A lot. People would take some video of something funny in their backyard, innocently upload it, and then just get totally eviscerated in the comment section today in 2022, all of the major digital platforms are fully mobile. You have tick-tock Instagram video, all going vertical, even YouTube has got YouTube shorts. So they're reluctantly embracing vertical video. 

So yeah, a lot has changed since the days of the first viral videos, Charlie bit my finger, keyboard cat David after the dentist, all of those oldies, but goodies yet at the same time, I think the biggest change to digital culture has nothing to do with the orientation of our screens. It goes so much deeper to the very heart of the internet as we know it. So if you haven't figured out from the title of this podcast, I'm talking about the phenomenon that launched a thousand memes, the idea of going viral, you know, in the early days, YouTube was still niche and Facebook still started with the, so the most that you might've ended up with after going viral was just this kind of bizarre, really narrow kind of fame. 

I'm thinking tase on day after chocolate rain. I think maybe 30% of our listeners will know who I'm talking about, but they'll really know who I'm talking about. And that's exactly the point. But today going viral is about so much more than just becoming a fixture on the Internet's hall of memes, because virality has become this turbo boosted rocket engine. That's capable of launching you and your content into the stratosphere of cultural awareness. So it's not a surprise, almost every single content creator influencer brand. 

They're practically falling over themselves to get a taste of that instant fame that virality can bring, because you know, whether it's a slap at the Oscars or super bowl ad for Coca-Cola going viral means becoming a near permanent part of the culture for better or for worse on today's episode of on the mic. Our ideas on joins us to kick off a new series all about going viral today. She'll share some of the ways brands have used virality in their advertising. So without further ado, let's dive in, shall we? 

So Ari, welcome back to the show before we get started. Why don't you introduce yourself for any listeners who haven't met you yet? 

 (2m 50s): For sure. Hi, I'm Ari. I'm a senior copywriter at ad results media. And part of my job is exploring how the way we interact with digital content kind of evolves as our culture changes. And as folks who work in the advertising side of that industry, we try to keep up with that change as best we can. And we also had the additional challenge of trying to connect what attracts audiences to a brand's story or product. 

And I've gathered some examples of companies and brands that have tried various ways to grab as much of our attention as possible. Some more successful than others. You can follow along with us via audio, or you can check the show notes for the video links. And after we watch each spot, we'll discuss what we think made it successful. If we think it was effective and also discuss anything that we would do differently. So up first we have a commercial for Amazon Alexa. 

 (3m 53s): Hey babe, check this out. Alexa. It's game day 

 (3m 58s): Football on prime video, closing blinds, chilling rose. 

 (4m 3s): Well, it's an afternoon game. It's like she can read your mind. I love that we get to sleep 

 (4m 18s): Ordering fresh mint, mouthwash, extra strength. 

 (4m 24s): Okay. I shouldn't get a spray tan, you know, cause that's on Wednesday, 

 (4m 28s): Blender 

 (4m 28s): Funerals on Monday. 

(4m 38s): Can you see the taser all along? 

 (4m 43s): I love the eyepatch it's what does the show open March 8th, 

 (4m 48s): Setting reminder to fake your own death on March 

 (4m 54s): And you have to do those love scenes with hot guys. Is that fun or is that like the worst? That's the worst? This bread is delicious. Can make it from my gametes 

 (5m 9s): Announcement. Gammy is short for, she bought it at whole foods announcement. Colin left the oysters in the car for five hours. 

 (5m 17s): It's probably better. Alexa, can't read your mind that idea 

 (5m 24s): For our listeners at home, that spot was an Amazon commercial that featured a peek into the theoretical home life of Scarlett, Johannson and Colin, just with an Alexa device that could read their minds. So what do we think made this so successful? 

(5m 42s): A recognizable celebrity couple definitely grabs the attention. People recognize them. They know who this is, except for me. I didn't know who he was. 

 (5m 51s): Yeah. I people like the celebrity aspect and I think also it just really humanizes both of them. So I could, I could see that resonating. I also wonder if whole foods got a little bump there. I noticed there's a little, not so shameless plug for the whole foods bread in the middle of the Amazon app. 

 (6m 8s): Oh, I didn't even think about that. Yeah. You're right. Delicious bread. I mean, Amazon owns 

 (6m 13s): Oh yes. But yeah, I thought it was, I thought it was good. I thought it was just really humanizing. 

(6m 21s): So do we think it was effective as an ad? I think 

(6m 25s): So. 

(6m 25s): I feel like I heard a lot. I mean, I tried not to pray for this podcast, but I definitely heard people talking about this ad. So I think in that sense it was definitely effective, but I, I'm not sure how people took it. 

 (6m 36s): So if you peek into the comments, there were actually a lot of people who were really turned off by it. So even though they got a lot of eyes, not necessarily all of the attention was positive, especially since a lot of people are pretty fearful of technology kind of snooping in on their lives and you know, like trying to make choices without our consent and things like that. So I think, I think they really tried to tap into that and diffuse it with humor, but I'm not sure if spending like 90% of the ad doing the thing that you're afraid of it doing was necessarily like communicating it in a way that they would want it. 

That makes sense. 

(7m 20s): So there was already kind of this, this viral idea of Alexa reading your mind, which they were playing with. And you're saying that maybe they actually played into the wrong side of that idea? 

 (7m 33s): I think so. I personally, like when I first saw this, I reacted pretty negatively cause I was like, oh, okay. So here's literally a minute and 30 seconds of you showing me Alexa doing the thing that I, 100% do not want it. 

 (7m 48s): I'll tell you when to chill my Rosa, thank you very much. 

 (7m 52s): I'd like to do that with a manual button that doesn't think so. Let's compare that to a commercial for the iPhone 

 (8m 11s): Felix, date of birth November 5th, 1986. 

 (8m 53s): Why don't you mind your own? Why don't you? 

 (9m 1s): Okay. So in that spot, our protagonist Felix is going about his day of running errands and over time more and more people are following him around and taking and sharing his information with other ne'er do Wells. 

 (9m 19s): Has there ever been a more perfect song choice for an ad? That was just, that was just hilariously perfect to me. 

 (9m 26s): And it was like, it was really nicely upbeat too. Yeah. 

 (9m 30s): Also there's some details that listeners won't be able to hear. Like the first person that we hear talk, I think is actually the barista and the barista is the one who's saying Felix, his date of birth because the barista is now following them around. And like the cup that the barista handed him had like his IP address on it. Like little things like that. Or so it was like his IP address or something, some sort of digital info he shouldn't have had. So I guess it's supposed to be like merchants, different merchants that are following him 


 (9m 58s): Around his 

 (9m 59s): Bank. Right. 

 (10m 1s): So the goal of these two spots is pretty similar, right? Like it's, it's playing on that fear that we have about our privacy and being tracked by our devices. But somehow people really reacted to this spot more positively than the Alexa spot. And I've been trying to think of what differences in approach made it. That way. 

 (10m 27s): One thing that I think of is I see myself like Felix, way more than I see myself like Scarlett Johannson or, you know, Colin just as much as that Alexa ad really did humanize those two people. I connect to Felix his experience a lot more readily. 

 (10m 45s): I think another part of it is kind of this scale that they do it at. I think the iPhone spot really blows it out of proportion so that the humor is more obvious, right? Because by the end of the spot, he has like dozens of people around him and it's completely unrealistic and ridiculous. And I think with the Amazon spot, it's still happening in their home. It's still like one gathering one source of all, knowing that is still kind of creepy. 

 (11m 18s): Yeah. The Amazon one has like a series. It's a series of bits and that the apple one, that's a concept that builds on itself. And like you said, it's like visually striking at the end. He's just like swamped with, how do you describe it? Ne'er do Wells who are peeping at his private data and yeah. Like you feel him smothered and you see it it's it reminds me of like a really good print ad from like the early days of advertisers. And it was like visually striking concept that just hits really well. 

 (11m 48s): Yeah. And then also at the end of the ad, he's back in control of the situation. Right. So apple gives him the option to say not dog. And so by, by the end of the spot, it's not just a, oh, well good thing. It doesn't do it's it's like a, I guess like the transfer of power is back to the user, AKA the consumer. 

 (12m 13s): Yeah. That's what I was going to say. It gives you that power back. 

 (12m 16s): There's this idea of like the hero's journey and like the, having that guy as the protagonist, as you described, I think maybe that's what it is. It's just, he feels like the hero and apple is there, but like Apple's not the main thing. Like it's his transition. That's so awesome. 

 (12m 33s): Yeah. And apple slash the iPhone is kind of the vessel for being in control of your information. 

 (12m 41s): I like that. 

 (12m 42s): So switching gears, here's a spot from Phil beat. 

 (13m 48s): I like that one. I liked the, the opulence that it kind of brings forth. 

 (13m 54s): Yeah. So this spot was kind of an attempt at more surreal humor where folks are treating Phil FIDA, like a summer treat or a luxury item. So eating it out of an ice cream cone or drinking it like tea with an operatic music, backdrop, 


 (14m 14s): I would absolutely eat macaroni and cheese in a kiddie pool in my backyard. I related to that imagery. 

 (14m 26s): I thought it was gross. I was like 

 (14m 30s): Waiting for someone to say it like, 

 (14m 32s): Like I know, I know what they're trying to go for. And I get like, I get the joke, right? Like Velveeta is not caviar. And it's not the first thing that you think of when you think of like a hot summer day and relaxing. But I li I could just like, feel it like in the back of my mouth. Like 

 (14m 53s): That is so funny. No, it honestly, it makes me think of Velveeta and Rotel. And that's what you eat at like a summer barbecue or like tailgate. So it didn't, I don't know. It wasn't like gross to me. I like it. I think, 

 (15m 10s): Look, I am not grossed out by Velveeta at all, but I do I get why you might be grossed out by like the, some of the images. Cause like it's funny, it's like the decadence of everything and that's what, that's the whole joke, right? It's like as Velveeta decadent, it's like, is it even in the cheese aisle? I don't know where, 

 (15m 29s): Oh, where is 

 (15m 30s): It? It doesn't even have to be refrigerated. Like the 

 (15m 32s): Snack aisle. 

 (15m 33s): Yeah. You can find it like with chips. 

 (15m 35s): Yeah. So it's a room temperature block of something cheesy, whatever it is. 

 (15m 41s): I mean, it's so good though. So this one probably did not perform as well as the agency or the brand would have hoped. 

 (15m 48s): Oh no, it would have performed well with me. I like when brands don't take themselves too seriously. 

 (15m 55s): I agree. 

 (15m 56s): It's a very fun ad. How did we feel? Because the listeners, if you're not watching along, there's a pun at the end. The tagline is La dolce Velveeta. Do we think the pun is too much? Did it work? I need to know. 

 (16m 11s): I think it's perfect for exactly what it is. I just didn't like what it was. 

 (16m 17s): It sounds that the imagery reminded me of Matilda. Is that a weird connection? Like the kind of like saturated colors and mid-century and then surrealists 

 (16m 28s): Mid century modern. 

 (16m 30s): And that like the color grading. 

 (16m 31s): Yeah. It kind of had that feel to it 


 (16m 35s): That that landed in several lists of the worst ad of 2021 

 (16m 42s): May, may or may not go down in history is, is the worst use of a Velveeta pun. We'll see. 

 (16m 50s): Okay. So this next ad, I immediately thought of Nate when I saw this one. 

 (16m 57s): Oh, is it bread? 

 (16m 59s): Oh no. It should have been, Want to give it a spin. 

 (17m 5s): Coffee's enough excitement for me. 

 (17m 7s): Come on. 

 (17m 9s): <inaudible> Catherine. 

 (17m 32s): Be there in two seconds. Cock-a-doodle-doo Watch the coffee. 

 (18m 2s): Okay. So that Nissan ad features Eugene Levy as an unlikely action hero. He's got knuckle tats. He's got the long Keanu Reeves hair. And of course there's a car chase scene, which everybody loves. 

 (18m 17s): So you thought of me because of the knuckle tats and the, the hair I'm guessing. Not because of my use of Moira rose Jeff's and slash. 

 (18m 28s): So there, there was a, there was an extended period of time. I honestly can't tell how long it was, but for awhile, Nate was exclusively using gifts from 

 (18m 40s): Schitt's Creek. Yeah, you're right. I literally made a point. I sometimes go too far with a joke. You might have noticed 

 (18m 48s): It was good. It was really good, but like I saw it and I was like, no, 

 (18m 52s): Yeah, there was, there was at least a three-month stint there where every Geoff had to be Schitt's Creek. It's a great show. Was this ad a great ad? That is, I guess our question though. 

 (19m 3s): I think the casting in this one is interesting. Like you've got part of the cast from Schitt's Creek and part of the cast from Marvel you've you've got some guardians of the galaxy and there you've got Brie Larson, so I'm not, I don't know. I don't know what the casting like would go over well with viewers, but you know, the, the car chase scene that always people love those. 

 (19m 28s): I guess I'm wondering like, are they, are they actually trying to say like that, that this car really is for the person who's like, oh, you know, coffee's as much excitement, but like secretly you have this like underbelly where like you actually, you kind of want to let loose and have a car chase in your life because honestly I've never wanted a Nissan more than after watching this ad. Personally, this ad was a hit 11 out of 10. We'll be buying a Nissan. 

 (19m 52s): I think the casting was so obviously like medicasting with the Marvel cast, it's kind of it's super current. And then the casting of Catherine O'Hara along with Eugene lovey at the same time, you're capturing also that audience. And I guess kind of as an advertising person, I was like, it seems too obvious what they were doing, but I agree that like the way that they presented it with kind of like the unlikely action hero, you can kind of see yourself as, oh, that that could be me. 

Like, it doesn't have to be Keanu Reeves in the driver's seat. I could do that too. It could 

 (20m 32s): Be me with the knuckle tats. 

 (20m 34s): Yeah. 

 (20m 35s): I took the casting as purposefully. Ridiculous. Like I thought the casting was like, you're supposed to get to the end where they're, where they're cheering, like ridiculously cheering and the, the award ceremony, it's all tongue in cheek. The casting is tongue and cheek. Every aspect of the delivery of this ad is a joke. No 

 (20m 53s): One liners. 

 (20m 54s): Yes. The ridiculous CGI of the coffee cup. Mid-air I think it's all like, almost like purposefully, not it's like it's trying to be kind of bad and in the way that it tries to be bad to me, it makes it good. But I don't know. 

 (21m 8s): I think most people would agree with you because this ended up with 35 million views. 

 (21m 16s): Goodness. Everybody's here for thrilled driver. 

 (21m 19s): I'm going to give it to Catherine O'Hara and it definitely Brie Larson as well. I mean, I I'm I'm so out of the loop, on guardians of the Alex, I can't remember. Who's the, who's the other guy that was in this 

 (21m 30s): Dave Bautista. 

 (21m 30s): Yes. Thank you. Lots of big, lots of big stars in this one. That was fun. 

 (21m 34s): I think that's the core of what made it so successful is just how fun it was without taking itself too seriously. And also just who is in it. But yeah, so I have one more if we have time. So this is one last spot from Uber eats 

 (21m 54s): This local access message is brought to you by Uber eats. 

 (22m 7s): 30 on Wayne, me on Garth as a local access show. We want everyone to support local restaurants, but we'd never manipulate you the way all these other commercials do. That's really sad. Totally. We're better than that. Yeah. We'd never shamelessly rely on a celebrity cameo, right? Cardi B Or jump on the latest trend. 

 (22m 54s): So that was a little bit of a combo of a throwback with Wayne and Garth from Wayne's world and current pop culture with Cardi B plus a little addition of meta humor to top it all off. 

 (23m 8s): So I like the Uber eats commercials in general. I like their star pairings, like a JV and Simone Biles. So I, I like this ad. I like throw back to Wayne's world and I like the subliminal messaging them not doing that. Not in quotes. Of course 


 (23m 31s): I, Yeah. I don't know how to feel about this one. I wa I like all of the people involved a lot, but this one made me feel weird. Like watching it. I was like, 

 (23m 41s): Really? 


 (23m 42s): Yeah. Like I just, I think that maybe, I don't know why it fell flat for me that it just came off as like trying everything at once and over the top a little bit. And I don't know, it's like it had all these elements and then I didn't feel like it came together for me personally. And I don't know, maybe I'm just not the right target for this. 

 (24m 2s): This is so funny. 

 (24m 3s): It didn't really you back in with the self-awareness of what it was doing. 

 (24m 8s): I loved that, but you know, I also liked the Velveeta commercial, so what can I say? 

 (24m 13s): I really like this one. I don't know if it's definitely part of it is that I love Wayne's world. So that might be like where they hooked me was immediately just having that, the tone and the feelings of that comedy and something that, you know, like a humor that I grew up with, plus the ridiculousness of having them on the same couches, Cardi B, I don't know it, it got me. 

 (24m 41s): I don't know why I didn't. I mean, I think it's like, I don't, maybe it's something about the eat local. I think it might be a messaging thing for me. It's, it's kind of like the first Amazon Alexa thing, whatever I think about that privacy issue with Amazon, them drawing attention to that. I'm like, eh, for me, there's some stuff with Uber and local that I like, I have like mixed feelings about, and then them pointing it out and making a point of in the ad. I was thinking about that more than I was thinking about how much I love Wayne's world and Cardi B and the exploitation of babies in advertising that last one was to do. 

Okay. So yeah. I don't know. Maybe, maybe that's just me getting too in taking it too literal. 

 (25m 22s): How'd it go over with the masses? 

 (25m 24s): It has 17 million views. So there was plenty of watching going on and I think it it's difficult to go wrong with the combo that they, that they chose, right? Like generally popular and people already have pretty positive feelings about them or they, they attach themselves to that satire that they're kind of using. So I think that's really where, where people were reacting. 

 (25m 54s): So I'm in the minority probably if people who reacted to this, most people probably thought this was great. So listeners just ignore me on that, you know? 

 (26m 4s): Okay. Well, those, those were the five videos that I had for us to look at, but I think it was a really interesting exercise to go through, trying to think of why different companies do what they do to try and get us to watch and rewatch and share ad 

 (26m 21s): You know, what viral ad I would love to hear y'all's opinions on the old Schlotzky's ad. Do you remember that one? I 


 (26m 31s): Don't know if I know that one 

 (26m 32s): Quiznos, it was Quiznos, not Schlotzky's Quizno's ad. Oh, oh. With the hamster. I remembered it was a sandwich place. 

 (26m 41s): Should I play it? 

 (26m 41s): Go for it. 

 (26m 43s): Bonus 

(27m 3s): Quiznos, new Santa Fe trio selves with smoking Chipola sauce, fried chicken roast beef for smoked Turkey 

(27m 10s): Quiznos. 

 (27m 13s): So do y'all not remember this? 

 (27m 15s): I do remember it. I totally forgot about it, but I definitely remember it. And I remember when I saw it, I kind of freaked out a little bit because I was really obsessed with rather good. And they're just watching the ridiculous stuff in the early two thousands internet and that style of humor. And I remember seeing it and thinking, oh my God, the internet is leaking. 

 (27m 44s): And 

 (27m 45s): It's so funny that you mentioned that because now that I'm seeing it again, I'm realizing that I think that was kind of the first time that I was aware of. I dunno, like the concept of the internet leaking into corporate culture. And I remember being like, oh, that's so weird. Like I didn't expect to see this. And now we're kind of at a point where we're used to seeing it and we almost expect it when something gets super popular online. 

Naturally we expect it to at some point become an ad. 

 (28m 22s): So I guess just in case listeners, aren't, we'll link to that video. 

 (28m 28s): We should've started with Quiznos, but yeah, 

 (28m 30s): But just in case listeners, aren't watching the video and don't remember it, it's a picture of a Quiznos with a rat in front of it or are they hamsters? 

 (28m 41s): I think they're rats 

 (28m 42s): And they have human eyes and big human mouths and they're playing guitars and wearing top hats. And it is very bizarre and kind of uncomfortable, but was unhinged 

 (28m 56s): Unhinged as the word I was looking for. Yeah. 

 (28m 58s): What was really popular when, when it came out, 

 (29m 2s): It's actually, it's like a, a corporate cover of the viral content, which was the same rat creatures singing. We like the moon and they literally just replace it with, we like this up. So I remember, so that's why, like when I had first seen it, I was like, what the heck? Like, this is, this is kind of strange, right? Because it was already kind of a weird thing on its own, but then attaching it to a brand was that was the first time that I had reacted to it. 


 (29m 36s): It was a very interesting call 

 (29m 37s): Business truly ahead of their time in so many ways, because like you said, like this is something that you almost, this is like people's jobs now. Like to find ways to do that. I 

 (29m 49s): Don't, when did that, when did that commercial come out? 

 (29m 51s): It's gotta be like mid two thousands, right? 

 (29m 54s): 2006. 

 (29m 55s): So it was 2003. 

 (29m 57s): Okay. I was going to say, I thought I was still in school at the time because I feel like I remember this coming on around adult swim on cartoon network when just that very kind of bizarre animation style was, was really, really starting to emerge. 

 (30m 14s): New grounds was huge. 

 (30m 16s): It was a simpler time, 

 (30m 17s): But that's interesting. I don't think I realized that it was something else that was tied to Quiznos. I thought that was entirely like I was like on Quiznos. His marketing team came up with this rat 

 (30m 29s): Going off. 

 (30m 30s): So Quiznos reached out to rather good. And they were like, can we use your rats to sell sandwiches? 

 (30m 35s): I've shared the people behind rather good. We're so excited. 

 (30m 41s): I guess before we completely wrap up, I'm curious, like if, as you were looking at different ads, did you find some sort of common thread to like why some ads seemed to go viral in the first place? If, if you didn't that's okay. If you have any general thoughts, but I'm just really curious. Cause I know you were going through a lot to end up with the ones that we looked at today. 

 (31m 1s): I think going through a lot of commercials and reading a lot of commercial reactions, the, the thing that really hit home was that there is no perfect combination of references or perfect style of humor or perfect tone that makes something go viral. And it's something that you just can't plan for besides just trying to hit at something that's naturally, we're already thinking about versus trying to stuff, things that'll grab your attention. 

And I think that's, that's a tough thing to balance in advertising, right? Because of course we want to be relevant, but we also don't want to seem like we're trying too hard because that's the first thing that will kill any campaign. 


 (31m 56s): I thought it was interesting because we had very different reactions on some of them. And to your point, there's not a perfect viral ad. Even the ones that go really viral don't hit literally everyone. 

 (32m 5s): Yeah. You could go viral in different circles 

 (32m 8s): Or for the wrong reasons 

 (32m 10s): Or for the wrong reasons. Yeah. 

 (32m 12s): Like did people actually go to Quiznos very much after seeing that? Or were they just really weirded out by strange rats singing about nonsense? 

 (32m 21s): Yeah. You know, the Velveeta circle might not fully Venn diagram like overlap with the Wayne's world circle and those two add examples, at least on this podcast. It didn't. Yeah. That's interesting. There's no, so there's no formula. All right. I was hoping we'd have a formula for virality at the end of this, but 

 (32m 42s): We'd all be richer. 

 (32m 45s): Well, Ari, thanks for bringing all of these great ads together. Hopefully we all order somebody reads with our iPhones while drinking some Velveeta out of tea cups later. But yeah. Thanks. Thanks for joining us today. 

 (32m 60s): Thanks for having me. It's great timing because I think my food is already here. 

(33m 7s): If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions or ideas for future segments. If you would like more information on Ad Results Media and what we do, please visit us online at adresultsmedia.com. This podcast is an Ad Results Media production.