We’re spending more and more time online. And that means that TV, the long-standing mainstay of entertainment, now has to compete with a nearly infinite amount of online content. Viral videos. Memes. GIFs. Whether they’re hilarious, shocking or just plain weird, these Internet phenomena are shared millions of times, on a variety of platforms, all across the Web and all over the world. That’s what TV advertising is up against these days. In a bid to stay relevant, brands are turning away from the traditional tack of competitor-bashing and dry lists of accomplishments and features. That’s right. TV commercials have gone viral. One industry that’s leading the way? Mobile devices. It’s not entirely surprising. Smartphones and tablets are at the forefront of technology, so it makes sense that they’re leading the pack in terms of viral advertising. Here are a few brands that are doing it right, and a few that are falling behind.
Google and a Boy’s Best Friend
The product: Nexus 7, Google’s new 7” tablet. The commercial: “Best Friend,” a 30-second spot that features the always-winning combination of a boy and his dog. Uploaded on October 14, the video already has over a million Youtube views. What makes it great? It’s heartwarming and relatable, and it tells a story. The spot opens as a college student receives a message from his mother. His childhood dog isn’t doing too well. Cut to the student hastily making plans to return home. His Nexus tablet informs him that his flight’s been canceled but, just as quickly, it finds him an alternate route home. The commercial ends with a shot of an adorable, aging dog lying on the floor next to the Nexus 7. The focus of the spot isn’t on the tablet. Instead, it’s on the narrative. But even though the product isn’t front and center, the commercial’s purpose is clear. The best part? The viewer is entertained, and maybe even a little teary-eyed.
T-Mobile Catching Jeremy
The product: T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan, with global data coverage. The commercial: “Catch Jeremy,” a series of commercials that feature parents disgruntled with their son’s data overages. What makes it great? The T-Mobile spots tell a story, and a funny one. The first in the series shows two parents recording a video for their son, who has racked up thousands of dollars in data overages while traveling around Europe. The hapless father encourages his son to switch to T-Mobile to save on data, while the shrill mother exclaims, “For crying out loud, Jeremy, close an app!” This original ad is followed by spots in which Jeremy’s increasingly frustrated parents lament his oversharing (“An egg is just an egg, Jeremy!”) and eventually sell his car. The ads are relatable. Who among us hasn’t dealt with overbearing parents and sky-high phone bills? Adding to the viral commercials’ success is the site CatchJeremy.com, which shows Jeremy’s ever-increasing phone bill ($28,068.86, at the time of writing) as well as his tweets and photos from Europe.
Motorola vs Lazy Phones
The product: Moto X, the newest smartphone from Google-owned company Motorola. The commercial: “Lazy Phone,” a campaign contrasting Motorola’s new and improved smartphone with lazy phones on the market. What makes it great? Actor and comedian TJ Miller plays a lazy phone that causes all kinds of trouble for its owner. In one of the best spots, Miller lies on a conference table and constantly disrupts a meeting as its owner tries to check his phone. Each ad in the series focuses on one of the features of Moto X, including touchless control, active display and quick capture, while lightheartedly mocking the inferior capabilities of other smartphones. The commercials are hilarious. You can’t help but laugh as Miller dryly reminds his user (out loud, in front of all of his coworkers) to pick up ointment for his hot, contagious rash. And, moreover, they succeed in placing the Moto X firmly ahead of the competition, without being overly aggressive.
Who hasn’t gotten the viral message? These brands hit the mark with their funny, relatable and entertaining commercials. But not everyone in the mobile device market has caught on yet. With the exception of its Star Wars-inspired Halloween ad, Verizon Wireless has been largely absent from the viral commercial trend. But that may change, now that the wireless company has been bought out by Verizon. And tech giants Microsoft and Apple have notably neglected humor in favor of more traditional advertising tactics. Will other brands in other industries get into the viral commercial game? We’ll have to wait and see.