Secrets of 2016’s Top 5 Viral Ads

Marissa Cohen

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The best ads get under our skin. While the ultimate goal of an ad is product or brand awareness, ads that go viral touch us and make us think about what it truly means to be human.

In these five viral ads from 2016, themes of inspiration, determination, creativity, and quirky humor have everything to do with their overwhelming success.



1. Shell’s Best Day of My Life

The Stats: 261,868,012 views

The Strategy: Music stars + inventions that can change the world = MAJOR inspiration feels.

The Success: Shell powers a future fueled by the creativity of young inventors. Singers Jennifer Hudson, Steve Aoki, Pixie Lott, Luan Santana, Yemi Alade and Tan WeiWei join forces to a fun remix of American Author’s “Best Day of My Life” and celebrate the power of creativity in the form of seven inventions from Shell’s #makethefuture energy entrepreneurs. If you’re not dancing in your seat while watching this fresh, zippy vid, then you might want to check your hearing.



2. Samsung’s Why?

The Stats: 224,850,869 views

The Strategy: Famous and non-famous consumers ask hilarious questions about their phone’s capabilities.

The Success: If you have a hilarious, borderline ridiculous phone request, Samsung can make all your device dreams come true. Samsung’s star-studded Why? neatly skewers American purchasing culture one second while in the next second, promising to meet the cell phone needs of both celebrities and regular consumers. This commercial goes right for the quirky, over-the-top humor as celebs like Lil’ Wayne, Wesley Snipes, Doc Rivers, and William H. Macy ask why their phones can’t do what they want it to. “Why can’t my phone hold all 145 of my movies?” asks Wesley Snipes on a ski machine outside of his ocean view mansion. Why did Samsung wind up on this list? Because this ad was just funny enough to go viral.



3. Nike Football’s The Switch

The Stats: 126,468,061 views

The Strategy: The body switch gets a quirky-as-hell sports-themed update.

The Success: Nike’s no stranger to solid, clever ads and this is their latest look at determination and their “Just Do It!” philosophy. The Switch goes all out exploring what might happen when soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo accidentally collides with Charlie, a teenage fan in England. Before you can say 13 Going on 30, Cristiano Ronaldo and Charlie have switched places and what follows is almost six minutes of hilarity and inspiration. Among the best moments? Charlie – in the body of Cristiano – finds himself in his hero’s shiny supercar and we hear breaks squealing because our young hero is fifteen and can’t drive yet. As Charlie in the body of Cristiano struggles to drive and learn to train with the best soccer players in the world, Cristiano himself makes a name for Charlie on the soccer field. “Who do you think you are?” laugh the other kids, “Cristiano Ronaldo?” Both the superstar and the teen fan meet the challenges of their new lives until – as in all body switch films – a final collision puts them back in their own lives. The message in The Switch is one that’s echoed in almost all of the videos on this list: determination will get you everywhere.



4. Samsung’s The Chant

The Stats: 103,194,413 views

The Strategy: Determination and inspiration lead to defying barriers.

The Success: One person can inspire a nation…and use Samsung products. South Sudan was recently recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Against that backdrop, young South Sudanese Olympic athlete Margret Rumat Rumat Hassan prepares backstage. She grabs her (Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge) phone and puts in her (cordless Gear IconX) headphones. As she listens, the barriers between Margret and her fans are completely erased as South Sudanese people of all ages and genders cheer her name. The images in this video are simple but incredibly powerful: little girls laugh in a classroom, men dance in a bar, hoards of people run down a busy street, all chanting “Magret Rumat Rumat Hassan.” Here again we see the themes of grit and inspiration that defined 2016’s viral videos.



5. Purple’s Raw Egg Test

The Stats: 163,522,103 views

The Strategy: Sarcastic fairy tale character demonstrates superior mattress quality by smashing eggs.

The Success: The ultimate in quirky, tongue-in-cheek viral ads. Purple spokeswoman and mattress expert Goldilocks gleefully destroys raw eggs and accidentally fractures her own shoulder in her quest to show you why the Purple mattress is the best in the world. She also makes Star Wars references while throwing in sarcastic one-liners about your parents’ sex life…all while behaving like the fairy tale character you’re most likely to grab a beer with.

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