What Drives Virality (Sharing, Spread) of YouTube Video Ads: Emotion vs Brand Prominence and Information
Marketing Science Working Paper Series
55 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020 Last revised: 7 Aug 2020
Date Written: April 23, 2020
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
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