Who needs TV when commercials go viral online?

Jun 04, 2014

By now, you may be one of the millions of viewers who have watched Nike’s "Winner Stays" commercial on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere. The spot, which went live on April 25, had 78 million views in its first four days online. Total views have reportedly exceeded 100 million.

The success of the spot, which began airing on television on April 29, is part of the reason that Nike has shifted more of its advertising dollars away from TV to social media and other sites. The commercial is a key element of the brand’s World Cup marketing efforts.

"We’re almost at a point where it’s hard to calculate what is on television versus what’s on the Web," Trevor Edwards, Nike’s brand president, said at an event in Madrid in April, according to Bloomberg News.

[Image: Winner Stays]

Part of the success of the new Nike spot was not only that it starred Brazilian and Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, but that he tweeted the long-form commercial to his 26 million followers on Twitter.

The Nike spot has received favorable reviews from soccer fans and the media alike. Jeremy Stahl, senior editor of Slate, called "Winner Stays" a "frenetic, goofy, thrilling short movie" and his "favorite World Cup spot."

Generally speaking, are television commercials less important to brand success today than in the past as a result of online advertising? What are some good tactics for raising awareness of web video spots?

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8 Comments on "Who needs TV when commercials go viral online?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

Really?! How many commercials actually go viral? Of course, put them on YouTube and make them available from your website and Facebook page, because why not. But to rely on a great viral video is, at best, risky.

Mohamed Amer

Television has long lost it’s monopoly on creating brand awareness. Today’s TV commercials are just one of several ways of raising brand awareness.

Certainly, high draw TV programming will always be relevant and effective, but no longer in the pole position. It can create connections to other media and reinforce efforts in social media/online advertising.

One of the most effective tactics in raising awareness of web video spots is the celebrity factor. For a global brand like Nike, it makes perfect sense to have a global sports figure like Ronaldo that also promotes the spot.

Of course, the spot itself must be able to stand on its own merit, otherwise the entire effort is for naught. And if/when the celebrity runs afoul of the law or “accepted decorum,” that connection may backfire.

Gene Detroyer

No, television commercials are not less important to brand success than in the past as a result of online advertising. They are less important because with DVR, TIVO, On-demand and such, we don’t watch commercials.

I don’t know what the data says but whatever it says, I would be inclined not to believe it. I personally do not know ANYONE who watches TV shows (X sports and news) in real time. And if you are not watching it in real time, why would you watch the commercials?

What are the good tactics for raising awareness of web spots? 1. Make a good commercial. One much better than you would make for TV. 2. Hire Ronaldo to tweet to 26 million followers.

Shep Hyken

I recently heard a great speech by Gary Vaynerchuk about this very topic. Bottom line, most people no longer watch their regular TV shows at the time they are aired. With the exception of live sports and news, many people “record” their shows. Guess what they do when it comes to commercials? They fast forward through them! So, a smaller percentage of the viewing audience is actually watching the commercials – smaller than ever before!

It makes sense to focus online. You can target your audience with the appropriate message. And when the video goes “viral,” it is being seen by people who want to see it. The company may or may not spend as much on production for the commercials, but they are spending a lot less online than they are on TV.

Best way to learn what is working with viral videos is to watch them. There are commonalities, depending on the video, that engage the viewer with humor, emotion, etc.

Joan Treistman

As soon as I read “…tactics for raising awareness of web video spots” I see a misperception of viral opportunities. Just because a commercial goes viral doesn’t mean that brand revenues will increase. Therefore to direct advertising strategy towards viral achievement overlooks the need to communicate a relevant and persuasive message.

If the focus is on effectiveness (creative and media placement), then both TV and online will contribute to brand success. The proportion will depend as always on category, target audience and opportunity.

Doug Garnett

Let’s see…we’ve heard these same investor-pleasing stories from Pepsi (who had to dash back to TV to regain sales), Best Buy who lost significant ground during their experimental year, from P&G, …

But what’s the truth? Viral TV successes are impossible to predict and cost a lot of money to seed the market. And, at least half of the “views” are fraudulent.

So what’s the real story here? Keep focused on what works (wherever that media is) and avoid drawing any conclusions from these simpleton “pop media” stories.

Lee Kent

Yes, there are a few people left on the planet who actually watch commercials (except during live sports and news) and my guess is that this same group is less likely to be online. These folks need brand awareness strategies too. So yes, TV ads are still important.

After all, many of the folks I am describing are aging boomers and they still spend a good bit. The ads might be better served to cater to this demographic though and leave current, trending antics to the online crowd. And that’s my 2 cents….

Craig Sundstrom

So if you’re “only” 8’3″ instead of 8’5″ are you still tall? Yes, of course you are. Today’s common theme seems to be “if you aren’t AS [whatever] as you once were, are you still…

In the case of television commercials, maybe they “only” account for 23% instead of 25% – or whatever some real measure might be – but they’re still the cornerstone for many brands (and none for others…there have always been other media). The best tactic – for me at least – is to show the spot on TV and hope I want to see it again on my own, online.


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