What Drives Virality (Sharing, Spread) of YouTube Video Ads: Emotion vs Brand Prominence and Information

Marketing Science Working Paper Series

USC Marshall School of Business Research Paper

55 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020 Last revised: 7 Aug 2020

See all articles by Gerard J. Tellis

Gerard J. Tellis

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business, Department of Marketing

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department

Seshadri Tirunillai

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Yanwei Zhang

Uber Technologies Inc.

Date Written: April 23, 2020

Abstract

The authors test six theoretically-derived hypotheses about ad characteristics that influence digital sharing. Two completely independent field studies test these hypotheses using over 11 measures of emotions and over 60 ad characteristics. The results are consistent with our theory and robust across studies. Information-focused content has a significantly negative effect on sharing. However, information-focused content positively affects sharing in risky contexts. Positive emotions of amusement, excitement, inspiration, and warmth positively affect sharing. These positive emotions are created by the use of drama (plot and characters) and characteristics, such as babies, animals, celebrities, and surprise. Sharing is greatest when ad length is moderate (1.2 and 1.7 minutes). Early (versus late) placement of the brand name hurts sharing. Ironically, factors that significantly enhance sharing are rarely used by marketers, whereas those that hurt sharing are used extensively. A third study shows that the drivers of viral videos predict sharing fairly well in an entirely independent sample. A fourth study shows the importance of viral videos by their abnormal returns on stock prices.

Keywords: Virality, shares, information spread, brand prominence, ad content, ad cues, optimum video length, video ads, YouTube videos, emotion, argument

Suggested Citation

Tellis, Gerard J. and MacInnis, Deborah J. and Tirunillai, Seshadri and Zhang, Yanwei, What Drives Virality (Sharing, Spread) of YouTube Video Ads: Emotion vs Brand Prominence and Information (April 23, 2020). Marketing Science Working Paper Series, USC Marshall School of Business Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3583613 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3583613

Gerard J. Tellis (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business, Department of Marketing ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0443
United States
213-740-5031 (Phone)
213-740-7828 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://gtellis.net

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1427
United States

Seshadri Tirunillai

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Yanwei Zhang

Uber Technologies Inc. ( email )

1455 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94103-1331
United States

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