What You Can Learn from 3 Viral Ads This Christmas

A viral Christmas ad is the jackpot of social media marketing.  If you can get an ad widely shared at a time when people are doing so much extra shopping, you will reap the benefit in your bottom line.  But how do you do it?  What combination of elements inspires masses of people to hit the share button?  Three ads are racking up ooohs and aaaaahs globally right now.  You’ve probably seen them on your Facebook feed.  The ads are for very different companies, but they share some key elements that people love.  Not only are these ads being widely shared by individuals on social media, they are being written about by newspapers and blogs.

Marks & Spencer have the most Christmasy of these ads.  We see Mrs. Claus waving Santa off for his annual trip around the world, and then she reads a letter from a boy explaining that he sometimes annoys his sister and his parents. We see him spraying his father with a hose and the family dog chewing up one of his sister’s shoes.  Mrs. Claus hops in her helicopter and deliver a present to his house.  It shifts to the next morning when his sister unwraps her gift – a new pair of shoes – and in the voiceover letter the boy explains that he does love his sister.

Polish online auction company Allegro’s ad features an older man who lives alone with a small dog.  He gets a parcel containing an “English for Beginners” book and CD.  We see several short scenes of him practicing phrases including “I am…” and “I love you.  You are perfect.”  Then he sets off.  He arrives in England and is welcomed into the home of a young couple… where he introduces himself to their toddler by saying “Hi, I am your grandpa.”

Amazon’s ad is not specifically for Christmas, but the timing and feel-good factor are can only boost their holiday sales.  A Muslim Imam visits a Christian priest.  The two older men enjoy a cup of tea and commiserate about their aching knees.  After they part, they each separately pull out their mobile devices to make a purchase.  (See, this is why we keep on about designing your site to be visited via a device!)  They send each other the same thoughtful gift – knee pads – and we see them each using their gift at their places of worship.

How Do They Do It?

What do these ads have in common?  Most obviously, they tug at the heartstrings.  They are all abuzz with warm fuzzies.  They are also stories with some suspense and a twist.  We know Santa delivers gifts in a sleigh, but Mrs. Claus in a helicopter is a new twist.  The suspense mounts in the Allegro ad as we try to guess why this man is learning English.  Who is this perfect person he loves?  Someone from Tinder?  The grandchild he finally meets is the twist.  Amazon plays on the idea that some people assume that Christians and Muslims are not usually friends, but shows us that these two friends have a lot in common.  There’s the twist – while many see them as different, they both have a similar job-related problem, and they help each other.

Most importantly, none of these ads hit you over the head with a hard sell.  They are really stories, and so well-crafted it was tempting to put a spoiler alert at the top of this post!  All three show tremendous empathy for their consumers.  They put more work into engaging and entertaining the viewer than into selling.  That’s the power of digital marketing.  You aren’t shouting at people that you have a special offer going.  You’re building a relationship by demonstrating your shared perspective and values.

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