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Brief Published: 19 Dec 2013

2013 Viral Highlights


Viral was one of 2013’s biggest buzzwords, with brands trying to create viral content to spread their messages across the web. Here’s a breakdown of the most viral content of 2013.

BuzzFeed’s Twitter Storm

In a bid to highlight the different stages that online content goes through on its journey to viral status, BuzzFeed in the UK set up a series of fake Twitter accounts and an online product page from a fake retailer selling a controversial item. 

The listicle (a list-based article) goes on to show how quickly the media picked up on the issue, and how different Twitter users addressed it.

The piece itself was a viral sensation and became one of the most read and shared articles on the site. See our Five Lessons from BuzzFeed report for more.

Top Tumblrs

Multiple new Tumblr accounts also reached viral status. Take Reasons My Son Is Crying, which started as a list of the humorous reasons why Greg Pembrooke’s son kept crying. It soon began accepting submissions and is now a book by the same name.

The summer saw an onslaught of holiday selfies inspiring the Hot-Dog Legs Tumblr, which posts images of skinny legs and hot-dog sausages – asking viewers to spot the difference. Another named Brides Throwing Cats is just that: photos of brides throwing cats instead of bouquets.

Selfie was 2013’s Word of the Year, and Selfies at Funerals – a shaming Tumblr of self-portraits taken at funerals – became a viral hit in the latter part of the 2013. US president Barack Obama recently found himself on the site, after taking a selfie at former South African president Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Pulling Pranks

Pranks as a form of advertising really took off this year, with brands looking to leverage humour for likes and shares online. Pepsi did this really well with its Jeff Gordon test drive ad in the US. It featured the Nascar racing driver as an undercover customer who terrified a Chevrolet salesman with his extreme driving.

For the release of its film Carrie, US movie studio MGM staged a fake telekinesis skit in a coffee shop with rigged furniture and stuntmen. The set-up fools unsuspecting victims that an angry customer is able to move things with her mind. 

Pepsi and MGM’s video ads were ranked 7 and 8 on Unruly Media’s list of the top 20 viral adverts of 2013. For more, see YouTube Storytelling

Tapping into consumers’ emotions and making them laugh were the biggest lessons from advertising in 2013. See Rules for Going Viral, Super Bowl 2013 Ads and 2013 Marketing Trends for more.