We believe now is the time for creative insights that fit a fast-moving digital world.

As a marketer, you may have noticed – current approaches to advertising testing aren’t keeping pace with evolving consumer habits.

These days, big brands need second-by-second analyses of their video ads at speeds that let them pivot in days not months. In-context advertising insights are crucial to success.

Here, we’ll take a look at some recent viral ads and discuss the themes that connect them. Throughout our exploration, we’ll highlight key strategies to incorporate into your plans for testing in 2019 and beyond.

Exposure to Ads in Times Gone By


Before the digital revolution, the medium determined an ad’s format – for instance: TV ads were video, radio ads were audio, and magazine ads were print. What’s more, these ads were something found primarily outside of the home and workplace, so fewer ads were seen on a day-to-day basis.

Video ads especially were traditionally an expensive medium in the past and took longer to finish.

Mediums no longer dictate ad types – videos can play on billboards, banner ads sit static online, and QR codes can link to other related content.

On a daily basis, people are exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads.  This increase in ad publication, especially online, has led to an influx of ‘pay per click’ approaches, which require very little investment. Better yet, these ads can be changed or updated at any time.

Too Much of a Good Thing or More the Merrier?

This trend has not gone unnoticed. In fact, 91% of people say ads today are more intrusive than two years ago.

Ads have extended themselves into broad campaigns that stretch print, TV, radio, and outdoor, to online environments such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and Snapchat.

This evolution poses new challenges: these apps combine messages from brands and corporations with updates from friends and family. How can brands compete with that?

Some Examples of Engaging an Online Audience

Nike: Dream Crazy


This ad took 21 athletes, including the narrator Colin Kaepernick, who have all have broken boundaries and barriers to achieve incredible success. Every person in the ad has beaten the odds by “believ[ing] in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Colin Kaepernick, the narrator and face of Nike’s 30th Anniversary Just Do It Campaign, grew to fame for being the first NFL player to begin kneeling during the US national anthem in protest against racial injustices. The controversy surrounding the protest grew to greater heights when President Donald Trump chimed in, suggesting NFL owners should fire any players who take such action in the future. This action made Kaepernick persona non grata for many people and created a new division between Democrats and Republicans.

While perhaps some consumers burned their Nike clothing, the overall response to the ad was positive with people saying the ad was inspirational. Since it’s launch in September 2018 “Dream Crazy” has garnered 27 million views on Youtube proving that their choice to speak out and take a stance is what actually made the ad stand out and become viral.

Bud Light: Dilly Dilly

Dilly Dilly, am I right? This advertising campaign received a web-wide, multi-platform push by its distributors at Bud Light, becoming a socially viral and cultural phenomenon.

The Budweiser brand isn’t alien to this level of success, however. Cast your mind back to a time before social media, and you might recall that Budweiser gained notoriety with an ad that made viewers greet one another with a simple… Wazzup.

Billie: Project Body Hair

Billie is a razor brand that puts women first by making “a daily routine a little more delightful and a lot more affordable.” In their new ad, they embraced the truth about women’s bodies: that they have hair. Sharing the idea that should you choose to shave, Billie is here to take care of you. The message is real, refreshing, and bold as hell, “a celebration of hair… wherever it is or isn’t.”

Billie tapped into a shared sentiment, especially among women, as the ad has stacked up 1.1 million views on Youtube. By speaking the truth and showing what it looks like to shave real legs, with real hair, this viral sensation may represent the beginnings of a beauty revolution.

What’s Driving Their Success?

Other than a touch of undeniable creative flare, which elements connect these video ads in their success? More than you might think.

All three brands clearly understand their audience and deliver entertainment value to viewers as well as knowledge of products and services. Billie, Budweiser, and Nike all found a key sentiment which speaks to their unique value proposition and addressed it in a way that their consumers would identify with, and share.

Additionally, the brand all have an awareness of the context in which their ads will be consumed. Each ad’s length appears to have been optimized for maximum engagement across platforms. While in this article we show the compilation of the Dilly Dilly ads, they were broken into multiple shorter ads as well which would allow for better engagement for in-market ads on social media.

Why is Context Crucial?

Whatever platforms you choose for your ads, different aspects – ranging from aesthetics and audio content to shape and size – will need to remain flexible. Think about the following:

  • Sounds: Unfortunately, it’s hard to know whether users will encounter ads with the sound on their device turned on or off. With this in mind, making sure your ad still makes sense on mute can help a great deal (including subtitles, etc.) Billie’s ad was uniquely effective amongst this group.
  • Retention: Users do not have limitless levels of attentiveness when browsing social media sites – and this can vary dramatically between those on a desktop and those using mobile devices (video retention on mobile is notoriously low).
  • Platforms: You may want to tailor your content to suit the following platforms better.

What’s the difference between social networks? We advise against uploading the same creative to different platforms. Here’s a rough idea as to why:

  • YouTube is popular with millennials – they can enjoy top trending product reviews, live gaming videos, and low-commitment content. Consumers come here to learn and unwind.
  • Facebook is ever-growing; people spend all day, every day on this platform and it vacuums up a huge share of time on mobile devices. Though, ads are competing directly with users’ friends and family.
  • Instagram is a big deal for younger users, 59% of US Instagram users are under 30, and it’s very effective in terms of driving purchase. Users report that they will often buy products they see advertised on the app – hence the proliferation of ‘influencers.

It is an inconvenient truth that ads perform differently on different devices, as well as platforms (i.e., is a user on their desktop or a mobile device?).

  • On Mobile, users spend an average of 2.8 hours a day with digital media and shorter ads tend to perform better
  • On Desktop, longer videos can load quicker, sound is a requirement, and users spend an average of 2.4 hours a day with digital media

As you look at the ads you plan to release in 2019 make sure you identify a key sentiment that your consumers share, i.e., following your dreams no matter what (Nike), acknowledging that women are human and have hair (Billie). As well as ensuring to address consumers in-context and creating ads which meet them where they are.

Zappi’s improved Creative Suite is now available for use, including the latest addition to the product set: Zappi Creative Digital. Get results your coworkers trust on time, with decision driving results: drive business growth, build your brand, and increase engagement.

Zappi Creative includes tools to measure all your advertising including video, audio, static and now digital ads. Test faster at half the cost with more in-depth diagnostics than other leading automated tools.


Cait Taffe

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Cait Taffe

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