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Brief Published: 25 Jun 2013

Cannes Lions: How to Go Viral


Social media was at the heart of many marketing campaigns showcased at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The key to success is how shareable your content becomes – but can such viral activity be engineered? 

Thales Teixeira, assistant professor of marketing at Harvard Business School in Massachusetts, set out to analyse exactly what makes viral video content take off. Using eye-tracking tools, he monitored almost 3,000 consumers over a three-year period as they watched more than 200 video ads, to gauge exactly what makes some content more appealing than others.

  • Brand Pulsing: Teixeira discovered that most consumers click away from an ad when brand logos appear prominently on screen. He suggests marketers embrace “brand pulsing” instead, showing the logo little and often throughout the duration of an ad. He pointed to US drinks company Coca-Cola’s Happiness Factory spot as an example of this: the Coke brand is ‘pulsed’ 23 times during the ad, but never intrusively.
  • Pure Humour Beats Shocking Humour: Texieira told us that humour is at the heart of 90% of ads that go viral. However, while ads with shocking humour attract more views, consumers are three times less likely to share this sort of content with their friends.
  • Self-Interested Extroverts: Teixeira discussed how to trigger broad sharing, and offered data that suggested self-interested extroverts share the most. Ads that enable these consumers to gain social capital by sharing your content will be the most successful. Teixeira pointed to global personal care company Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign: fans use the ad to spread the brand message of “you are more beautiful than you think” to their friends. The ad enables the consumer’s social goal. 

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity ran from June 16-22 2013. Look out for more Stylus coverage in the coming weeks.