The Reach and Persuasiveness of Viral Video Ads

46 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2011 Last revised: 9 Jul 2014

See all articles by Catherine E. Tucker

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)

Date Written: July 8, 2014


Many video ads are designed to go 'viral,' so that the total number of views they receive depends on customers sharing the ads with their friends. This paper explores the relationship between number of views and how persuasive the ad is at convincing consumers to purchase or to adopt a favorable attitude towards the product. The analysis combines data on the total views of 400 video ads, and crowd-sourced measurement of advertising persuasiveness among 24,000 survey responses. Persuasiveness is measured by randomly exposing half of these consumers to a video ad and half to a similar placebo video ad, and then surveying their attitudes towards the focal product. Relative ad persuasiveness is on average 10% lower for every one million views that the video ad achieves. The exceptions to this pattern were ads that generated both views and large numbers of comments, and video ads that attracted comments that mentioned the product by name. There is suggestive evidence that such ads remained effective because they attracted views due to humor rather than because they were outrageous.

JEL Classification: L86, M37

Suggested Citation

Tucker, Catherine E., The Reach and Persuasiveness of Viral Video Ads (July 8, 2014). NET Institute Working Paper No. 11-06, Available at SSRN: or

Catherine E. Tucker (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS) ( email )

100 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States


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