Creative Strategies in Viral Advertising: An Application of Taylor’s Six-Segment Message Strategy Wheel

Authors

  • Guy J. Golan Ph.D.,

    1. Assistant Professor
      Department of Communication
      Seton Hall University
      400 South Orange Avenue · South Orange, NJ 07079
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    • Guy J. Golan (Ph.D Florida, 2003) is an assistant professor at Seton Hall University’s Department of Communication. His research focuses on media effects, international communication and strategic communication research. Golan is a partner in the Keta-Keta viral advertising agency, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

  • Lior Zaidner

    1. Graduate Student
      University Of Westminster
      42 Burnley Road, Willesden Green
      London, NW10 1EJ, UK
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    • Lior Zaidner is a graduate student of marketing at the University Of Westminster in London. He formerly served as the creative director for Keta-Keta, Viral Advertising firm and as a TV cooperation manager for Jetix, Disney owned kids’ Channel in Europe.


  • *

    The authors would like to thank the Keta-Keta Advertising Firm from Tel-Aviv Israel for their contribution to the current research project.

Abstract

Based on a computer mediated word of mouth approach, viral advertising represents the latest online advertising phenomenon. The current study provides one of the first empirical investigations of viral advertising. It uses Taylor’s six-segment message strategy wheel as a theoretical framework. A content analysis of 360 viral ads revealed that advertisers predominantly based their message strategies on an individual ego oriented appeals that were based on such themes as humor and sexuality.

Introduction

The diffusion of high speed Internet along with the wide scale penetration of bandwidth into American and Western European homes has changed the nature of online advertising. Where once limited to such online advertising formats as banners, interstitials, and pop-ups, advertisers are now able to disseminate high-resolution advertisements once exclusive to the medium of television via the World Wide Web.

This penetration of high-speed communications infrastructure in to the homes of consumers gave birth to a new format of word of mouth advertising via computer moderated channels. The latest and newest of the online word of mouth advertising techniques is known as viral advertising. Viral advertising does not relate to the dissemination of computer viruses to users nor does it relate to spam e-mail advertising. Rather, viral advertising refers to an advertising technique in which video advertisements are distributed from one user to another via e-mail forwarding. This strategy is unique from almost any other online advertising formats as consumers receive ads from friends rather than from the advertisers themselves. In addition, consumers view ads at their convenience as they choose the time and place to open and view the ads. This is contrary to the highly obtrusive and often annoying online advertising formats, such as pop-ups and interstitials, which researchers found to be perceived negatively by consumers (Burns and Lutz, 2004).

While viral advertising is still in its relative infancy, it is in no way limited to smaller advertisers. Rather, several leading Fortune 500 advertisers have taken to viral advertising as a method for reaching audiences. These include but are not limited to Burger King, Anheuser-Busch, Volvo, Microsoft, and Long John Silver’s (Howard, 2005).

The current study provides one of the first empirical investigations of viral advertising. The study attempts to identify and highlight the main advertising appeals in creative strategies in viral advertising. Such knowledge will be beneficial to better understand the very nature of this new and unique online advertising medium. The study applies Taylor’s (1999) six-segment message strategy wheel as a tool for analyzing viral ads. Taylor’s model is applicable to viral advertising based on the highly creative strategies on which all viral advertising strategies are based.

Literature Review

WOM Online

For decades, communication scholars have researched what perhaps may be the oldest and most established advertising technique- word of mouth advertising (WOM). Traditionally, WOM has been defined as the “Oral, person to person communication between receiver and a communicator whom the receiver perceives as noncommercial, concerning a brand, a product or a service” (Arndt, 1967, p. 3). However, the emergence of the Internet along with broadband capabilities have opened the door to the emergence of a new WOM advertising platform in which individuals communicate about a brand, product or service in a nonoral manner but rather through a computer-mediated communication (CMC) environment.

Nyilasy (2005) argued that the introduction of WOM into the CMC environment presents a major challenge to scholars who must redefine WOM as it enters into the realm of online communication. Examples of online WOM communication include chat rooms, instant messaging, listservs, webpages and consumer forums. The World Wide Web presents individuals as well as advertisers with a wide array of communication platforms for the promotion of their products or services.

As originally identified and coined as a phenomenon that extends way beyond simply network-enhanced word-of-mouth viral marketing has changed the very nature of online WOM (Jurvetson, 2000).

Indeed several scholars have pointed to the emergence of the eWOM or Word of Mouse phenomenon whereas new communication platforms enhanced and occasionally transform the very nature of world of mouth communication via the Internet and the World Wide Web (Helm, 2000; Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004).

The current study will focus on one of the newest and perhaps more controversial methods of WOM advertising on the Internet- Viral Advertising.

As an off shoot of viral marketing, viral advertising is a new and emerging advertising technique that is now widely applied by such major advertisers as Volvo Burger King, Anheuser-Busch, and Microsoft. While the concepts of viral marketing and viral advertising are in many ways similar, they are indeed different.

As noted by Porter and Golan (2006), there is much confusion about the definition of viral marketing as both professionals and scholars use the terms viral marketing, stealth marketing, buzz marketing and viral advertising interchangeably. Helm (2000) described viral marketing as “a communication and distribution concept that relies on customers to transmit digital products via electronic mail to other potential customers in their social sphere and to animate these contacts to also transmit the products” (p. 159). Welker (2002) described viral marketing as “strategies that allow an easier, accelerated, and cost-reduced transmission of messages by creating environments for an self-replicating, exponentially increasing diffusion, spiritualization, and impact of the message” (p. 4).

Kaikati and Kaikati (2004) described the practice of “viral stealth marketing,” as a marketer’s attempt to “fly below the consumers’ radar” by recruiting “brand pushers” to pose as consumers. They go on to explain that, “by generating word of mouth to create ‘authentic experiences,’ viral marketing attempts to harness the strongest of all consumer triggers—the personal recommendation.” (p. 9).

Essentially, it could be argued that viral marketing refers to a broad array of online WOM strategies designed to encourage both online and peer-to-peer communication about a brand, product or service. As online communication platforms will continue to evolve and develop the nature of peer-to-peer online communication, so will the very definition of viral marketing continue to evolve.

Viral Advertising

The introduction of online viral advertising resulted from the penetration of broadband high-speed Internet connections to homes all around the globe during the early years of the past decade. Recognizing the overwhelming success of such viral marketing campaigns as the Hotmail campaign, advertising executives identified the low-cost opportunities afforded by the e-mail based peer-to-peer communication platform. While it is not clear whether viral advertising was initiated by advertising professionals or initially resulted from enthusiastic viewers who wanted to share entertaining advertisements with their friends, viral advertising clearly transformed the very nature of online advertising by removing the media buying element out of the process.

As noted by Porter and Golan (2006), viral advertising is different than viral marketing. While the former refers to a comprehensive marketing strategy that may include several components in it, viral advertising refers to a specific online advertising technique.

Essentially, viral advertising refers to an online advertising distribution method that relies of word of mouth distribution via email or social network platforms as the means of reaching target audiences. This dependence on the users’ willingness to distribute content to peers may not only be influenced by the source of the message but also by its content (Chiu et al, 2007), Subsequently, it appears that the method of distribution may influence the nature of the viral content (Phelps et al. 2004).

Television Advertising vs. Viral Advertising

Two major factors differentiate between viral advertising and television advertising. First, viral advertising does not require any media buying. Whereas television advertising is based on media planning and buying, viral advertising is based on an initial seeding of an advertisement to a database of voluntary e-mail recipients (people who requested to be included in the e-mail list of viral ad agencies) and the consequent distribution of these ads by recipients who may or may not wish to share the ad with their friends.

A second difference between television ads and viral ads can be identified in the nature of the ad itself. Television ads often base their effectiveness on repetition. Thus many ads that are not entertaining and might even be annoying (for example used car ads) are often successful thanks to continuous exposure. Viral ads enjoy no such luxury since they are distributed via e-mail messages. Since no user is likely to forward a boring advertisement to a friend, the ad must include a “viral component” in it, a component that makes any ad “forwardable” from one user to another. This viral component is referred to in both professional and academic research of viral marketing as the Meme (Dawkins, 1976; Godin, 2001).

In one of the first empirical examinations of viral advertising, Porter and Golan (2006) analyzed more than 500 advertisements that included more than 250 viral ads in an attempt to identify the differences in the nature of ads content across media. The authors found that most viral advertisements included one or more of the following advertising appeals: sexuality, humor, violence, or nudity. These could be identified as the “meme” components of these viral ads. Porter and Golan (2006) identified differences in the use of advertising appeals not only across media (television versus viral) but also across industry. They found that certain advertisers were more likely to use certain advertising appeals in viral ads than others. One of the main contributions of the Porter and Golan (2006) study was their attempt to provide one of the first academic definitions of viral advertising. They defined viral advertising in the following manner:

“Viral advertising is unpaid peer-to-peer communication of provocative content originating from an identified sponsor using the Internet to persuade or influence an audience to pass along the content to others.”

The current study will attempt to advance knowledge of what viral advertising by incorporating this line of research into a broader advertising perspective that is based on Taylor’s model of advertising strategies (1999). At the heart of any viral marketing or advertising campaign stands that viral factor known as the “meme” variable that is essential for any viral campaign (Dawkins, 1967) and that ultimately leads users to share content with friends and online communities (see Chiu et al. 2007). The current study employs Taylor’s six-segment message strategy wheel (Taylor, 1999) as the framework for the deconstruction of viral ads in an attempt to better recognize their underlying advertising creative strategies.

Taylor’s Six-Segment Message Strategy Wheel

Research into advertising creative strategies has yielded a basic classification of advertisements as either informational or transformational. While the former refers to ads that appeal to ones’ cognition or logic, the latter refers to ads that appeal to consumers’ emotions or senses (Puto and Wells, 1984). Moving beyond this dichotomous taxonomy, Taylor (1999) introduced the six-segment message strategy wheel as a model for analyzing advertisements. Consistent with previous research, Taylor identifies two basic advertising approaches, the transmission view (similar to the informational approach) and the ritual view (similar to the transformational approach). Taylor’s model moves beyond the dichotomous approach to advertising as he identified three subcategories within each of the two dimensions thus offering a more sophisticated tool for analyzing advertising messages.

According to Taylor’s six-segment model, the transmission view is composed of three segments: ration, acute need, and routine, while the ritual view is composed of the ego, social, and sensory segments. It is important to note that under Taylor’s model, advertisers may select either a single advertising approach (for example, ego) or a combination of approaches (for example, ego and sensory).

The Transmission View

The ration segment of Taylor’s model is based on consumers’ need for information. According to Taylor (1999) the role of communication in this segment is to inform and persuade (based on logic). Examples of products that are typically advertised using the ration approach include computers and cars.

The acute need segment of Taylor’s model is largely based on consumers’ immediate needs. Here, consumers are limited on time and the advertiser attempt to build brand recognition and familiarity. Examples of products that are typically advertised using the acute need approach include replacement parts such as batteries or tires.

The final segment under the transmission half of Taylor’s model is routine. This segment refers to an advertising approach that stresses the role of a product in a consumer’s routine. Taylor (1999) identifies this segment as one that has a duel role of both providing consumers with cues on why the product will satisfy their needs and the role of reminding the consumers to continue purchase in order to establish and maintain the brand consumption habit. Examples of products that may be advertised using the ritual approach include coffee, cereal, and household products.

The Ritual View

The ego segment of Taylor’s model refers to the advertising strategy in which a brand or a company appeals to consumers egos. Here, the role of communication is to show how the product appeals to individual’s perceptions of whom they are (or whom they want to be). This strategy is largely based on individual needs for respect or recognition through consumption. Examples of products that may be advertised using the ego strategy are luxury watches, cars, or publications such as the Wall Street Journal or The Economist.

The social segment of Taylor models shifts away from the individual and towards the collective. Here, the role of advertising is to place the consumption of a product within a social situation. This advertising strategy introduces another person into the purchasing decision. Examples of products that may be advertised using the social strategy are jewelry, greeting cards, holiday gifts, etc.

The final segment under Taylor’s ritual view is the sensory segment. Within this segment, advertisers appeal to consumers’ senses of smell, touch, hearing, taste, or sight. Any advertising messages that directly appeals to consumers’ senses will fall under this segment. Examples of such products are any food or beverage products along with household products and cellular phones.

Since first introduced by Taylor in 1999, the six-segment message strategy wheel was tested by several scholars as a tool for analyzing advertising strategies. Hwang, McMillain, and Lee (2003) used Taylor’s model for the analysis of 160 corporate websites. The authors found that routine was the most widely used message strategy in corporate websites followed by ego, ration, and the social strategies. Furthermore, the researchers found that high-revenue companies used the transformational strategy more often than low-revenue companies.

Kim, McMillian, and Hwang (2005) applied Taylor’s model to the study of Super Bowl advertisements. Their study was based on a content analysis of a total of 55 ads aired during Super Bowl XXXVII (January, 2003). In addition, they also analyzed the websites for all 40 national advertisers that ran ads during the Super Bowl. Their research findings indicated that there were no significant differences in the application of the six different strategies across media with the exception of the use of the sensory strategy which was used more extensively in television ads than in websites.

Taylor (2005) offered another empirical test of his model. The author analyzed 81 reports of message strategy changes as reported in Advertising Age between 2001–2003. He applied the message strategy wheel as a tool for analyzing these changes in message strategies. His results indicated that ego, sensory, and ration accounted for the majority of the original strategies as well as the majority of the new strategies. In addition he found that that the majority of message strategy changes ranged across the wheel from the ritual to the transmission segments and vice versa.

Cunningham and Jenner (2003) integrated Taylor’s six segment message strategy wheel into political science research. The authors introduce an integrated communication model which they argue can be applied for understanding political communication processing and political decision making.

The current study will apply Taylor’s six-segment strategy wheel in the analysis of viral advertisements. This application is based on the highly creative nature of the viral ads in which the meme serves as the driving engine of the online word of mouth distribution of these web exclusive advertisements. The study will attempt to add to the scholarship on Taylor’s model by providing one of the first empirical analyses of the model in regards to online advertising. In addition, it will attempt to better identify the nature of viral ads and their meme factor that may provide media scholars with a better understanding of this new advertising medium. Based on the seminal study on viral advertising by Porter and Golan (2006) and based on previous studies on Taylor’s six-segment message strategy wheel, the current study will present the following research questions:

RQ#1: What advertising appeals were most frequently used in viral advertisements?

RQ#2: What were the advertising functions of the viral ads?

RQ#3: Do viral advertisements base their creative message strategies on the ritual strategy more than they do on the transmission message strategy?

RQ#4: Which of six segments on Taylor’s wheel were most commonly used in viral advertisements?

RQ#5: Did different product categories use different messages strategies in viral ads?

Methods

To better understand the nature of the advertising appeals and creative strategies in viral advisements, the current study conducted a content analysis of 360 viral ads. The ads represented a convenience sample that was gathered from two leading U.S. based, viral advertising-seeding Web sites (www.culture-buzz.com, www.metacafe.com, http://blog.unrulymedia.com) as well as ads from a database of a leading European viral advertising firm (www.ketaketa.com). These ads represent a sample of viral advertisements that were widely viewed and distributed through e-mail and social networks by Internet audiences between 2004 and 2006. The use of a convenience sample rather than a random sample was based on the lack of a comprehensive database or source that gathers vial ads. Unlike more established advertising media such as television, radio or out of home, viral advertising is relatively new and thus archives are still not widely available. Each of the 360 viral advertisements was coded for the following variables:

Name-The name of the ad

The industry related to the advertisers- was this a product or service related to the following industries: a not-for-profit organization, fashion, food and beverage, travel, communication and electronics, household products, pharmaceuticals, alcohol and tobacco, entertainment and media, banking, insurance or finance, automotive, or other.

Ad function- Was the ad’s primary purpose branding, call for action or to provide information about the product or service.

Advertising appeal- a series of advertising appeals were coded as dichotomous variables signifying that an ad used the appeal or did not use the appeal, these included humor, sexuality, violence, the use of animals and the use of children in the ad. This coding was based on the Porter and Golan (2006) study.

Creative strategy (macro)- was the ad based on a ritual view, transmission view, or a combination of the two.

Creative strategy (micro)- a serious of advertising strategies based on Taylor’s six-segment strategy wheel were coded in a dichotomous manner indicating that a strategy was used or not used in the ad, these included ration, acute need, routine, ego, sensory and social. These represent the six strategy segments of Taylor’s model (1999).

In order to ensure intercoder reliability a second coder recoded 10% of the ads. A combined alpha score of .83 was calculated using the Holsi method (1969) indicating a satisfactory level of intercoder reliability.

Results

The current study is of an exploratory nature. It represents one of the first empirical investigations of the viral advertising phenomenon. Through a content analysis of 360 viral advertisements, the study attempts to highlight the viral component in the ads by identifying the main advertising appeals employed by advertisers. Research Question number one asked what advertising appeals were most frequently used in viral advertisements?

Table 1 indicates that humor was by far the most commonly utilized advertising appeal in the viral ads as it was incorporated in 91% of the ads. Sexuality was the second most common advertising appeal as it was used in more than 28% of viral ads. These advertising appeals were followed by the use of animals in ads (17.8%), violence (14.4%) and the use of children (12.8%) of all viral ads in the current analysis.

Table 1.  Appeals used in viral Advertisements (n = 360)
Advertising AppealFrequencyPercentage
Humor32891%
Sexuality10128.1%
Violence5214.4%
Children4612.8%
Animals6417.8%

Research question number two asked what were the advertising functions in the viral ads? Thus, we examined if the primary functions of the viral ads was branding, call for action or to provide information? The results in Table 2 indicate that the primary ad function in the viral ads was branding (70%) followed by providing information (15.3%) and call for action (14.8%). As suggested by Table 2, ad branding was identified as the key ad function of viral ads by the Porter and Golan (2006) study.

Table 2.  Advertising function in viral advertisements
Advertising FunctionCurrent Study n = 360Porter & Golan (2006) n = 266
Branding252 (70%)224 (84%)
Call for action53 (14.8%)10 (4%)
Provide information55 (15.3%)32 (12%)

The current study is the first study to employ Taylor’s six-segment strategy wheel model (1999) as a tool for analyzing viral advertising. As discussed in the literature review, Taylor’s model suggests that all creative advertising are based on either the transmission view, the ritual view or a combination of the two. Research question number three asked if viral advertisements based their creative message strategies on the ritual view more than they did on the transmission message view?

The results in Table 3 indicate that the ritual view was by far dominant over the transmission view as the formal was used in 58.3% of the ads and the latter was used in 23% of the ads. A combination of the two views was employed in 18.6% of the viral ads.

Table 3.  Ritual vs. Transmission views
 Frequencypercentage
Transmission View8323%
Ritual View21058.3%
Combination6718.6%
Total360100%

As outlined by Taylor’s model (1999), the creative strategy wheel is defined by the transmission and ritual views that are further divided into six separate segments. The ritual view is composed of the ego, social and sensory segments while the transmission is composed of the ration, acute need, and routine segments. Research question number four asked which of six segments on Taylor’s wheel were most commonly employed in viral advertisements.

The results in Table 4 display the results of the analysis indicating that ego was the most common message strategy in viral ads accounting for 51% of total viral ads. Ration was the second most common strategy with 24.4% of the ads. The acute need strategy (16.4%) and the social strategy (16.1%) were also commonly used in viral ads.

Table 4.  Taylor’s six segment strategies in viral ads (n = 360)
 Frequencypercentage
Ration8824.4%
Acute need5916.4%
Routine51.4%
Ego18451%
Social5816.1%
Sensory61.6%

The results indicate that sensory (1.6%) and routine (1.4%) were rarely employed strategies in viral advertisements.

The final research question in the study (RQ #5) asked if different product categories use different messages strategies in viral advertisements? The results in Table 5 indicate that such indeed was the case. Viral advertisements for some of the product categories based their creative strategies on the ritual view more predominantly than on the transmission view. The ritual view was more widely used in the fashion (84.6%), alcohol and tobacco (82%), food and beverage (66.6%), entertainment and media (65.3%), and automotive (64.1%) product categories.

Table 5.  Ritual vs. Transmission views across product categories
IndustryRitualTransmissionCombinationTotal
NPO41.6% (5)16.6% (2)41.6% (5)100% (12)
Fashion84.6% (11)15.4% (2)0% (0)100% (13)
Food & Beverage66.6% (36)7.4% (4)25.9%(14)100% (54)
Travel33.3% (2)16.6%(1)50% (3)100% (6)
Electronic & Communications46.7% (31)36.3% (24)16.6% (11)100% (66)
Household products50% (7)35.7% (5)14.3% (2)100% (14)
Pharmaceuticals46.8% (15)25% (8)28.2% (9)100% (32)
Alcohol & Tobacco82% (41)4% (2)14% (7)100% (50)
Entertainment & Media65.3% (17)23.2% (6)11.5% (3)100% (26)
Banking30% (3)20% (2)50% (5)100% (10)
Automotive64.1% (25)30.7% (12)5.1% (2)100% (39)
Other44.7% (17)39.5% (15)15.8% (6)100% (38)
Total58.3% (210)23% (83)18.6% (66)100% (360)

A combination of the ritual and transmission views was common in the travel (50%), banking (50%) and non for profit (41.6%) product categories. The only product categories that were relatively evenly balanced between the ritual and transmission views were the electronic and communications (46.7%, 36.3%), other (44.7%, 39.5%) and household products (50%, 35.7%) product categories.

Discussion

The penetration of high-speed Internet infrastructure into consumers’ homes during the early part of the decade changed the very nature of online advertising. With the ability to watch 30-plus-second advertisements at high quality resolution, consumers are not only the end users of online advertising but can also play a role as essential players in the distribution of the ads. The birth of viral advertising has changed the very nature of online advertising as media planners and buyers are made obsolete by the will of consumers to forward ads via email to their friends, family and colleges.

As a relatively new advertising phenomenon, viral advertising has received limited attention from mass communication scholars. The current study attempted to fill in the tapestry on viral advertising research by providing one of the first empirical investigations of this new online advertising phenomenon.

The study content analyzed 360 viral advertisements in an attempt to understand the creative advertising appeals and strategies used in viral ads. The study employed Taylor’s (1999) six-segment message strategy wheel as a model for this investigation.

Study results point to several key finding. The first was that humor and sexuality were the main advertising appeals used in viral ads. This finding is consistent with Porter and Golan’s (2006) study that found that humor and sexuality were the predominant advertising appeals used in viral advertising. These finding point to both of these advertising appeals as the main meme factors that make viral ads “viral”. That is, consumers are entertained or moved enough by advertisements based on humor and sexuality that they chose to forward these ads via email to their friends and colleagues.

The study’s results also shed some light on the general nature of viral advertisements as vehicles for branding campaigns. The results indicate that the majority of viral ads were designed for branding rather than calling for action or the dissemination of product or brand information. Again, the results are consistent with Porter and Golan’s (2006) study that found branding to be the key function of viral ads. These results indicate that at present, advertising practitioners view viral advertising as primarily useful for branding. However, as the viral advertising phenomenon will further develop, practitioners may find ways to use viral ads as vehicles leading to user action. One may argue that the Moveon.org campaign was effective in encouraging voter registration and turnout during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign.

As noted, the current study applied and tested Taylor’s six-segment strategy wheel as a model for the analysis of viral ads. The results of the study indicate that viral ads were primarily designed around the ritual view as a whole and across product categories. The results also indicated that most viral ads employed the ego strategy accounting for more than 50% of total ads. Viral ads were not absent of the transmission view approach as nearly a quarter of the viral advertisements employed the ration strategy. When synthesized with the results of the advertising appeal results, one could argue that viral ads were often based on an individual appeal (ego rather than social) that was based largely on humor while attempting to provide some information to the user.

This strategy may be a function of the advertising format rather than the nature of the advertisers. Based on McLuhan’s (1964) assertion that the medium is the message, it could be argued that the creative/message strategy of any viral ad will be largely determined by its meme factor. Since the success of any viral advertising campaign is based on the willingness of users to forward messages (ads) to as many people as possible, advertisers must shy away from boring fact based strategies and towards more entertaining, exciting or interesting attention grabbing strategies.

The application of Taylor’s model as a model for the analysis of creative advertising strategies proved useful as the six segments provided an in-depth understanding of how advertisers framed their messages in an attempt to reach audiences. In the case of the current study, the model was useful in demonstrating that viral ads were not only based on the ritual view but that they mostly approached the consumer from an ego-based approach that is based on the individual rather than the social.

The results of the current study provide empirical evidence to this approach as they clearly highlight the predominance of the ritual view strategy over the transmission view. In layman terms, it could be argued that viral advertising strategies target users through the gut rather than the brain. The prominence of this approach will likely advance rather than wane. Viral advertising competes daily with thousands of video clips that are user generated rather than professionally produced. The millions of hits that such user generated videos as the “Dramatic Squirrel” and the “Chris Crocker - LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!” received on Youtube clearly demonstrates that on the online viral platform traditional advertising strategies have to be reformulated. As argued by Godin (2001) consumer to consumer communication clearly outweighs advertiser to consumer communication in the modern era and therefore requires as new perspective on advertising as a whole. Indeed Smith et al. (2007) found that peer to peer communication is not limited to highly involved elites but rather is predominant amongst all kinds of users.

Limitations and future research:

The current study suffers from several key limitations many of which resulted from the fact that the study is largely exploratory and deals with a relatively uninvestigated area of scholarship. One of the limitations has to do with the fact that the sample that is used in the study is a convenience sample rather than a random sample. Another key limitation of the study is its highly descriptive nature that does not allow for a high level analysis. Future studies should provide more sophisticated analyses of the viral advertising phenomenon. Multivariate procedures may be useful in better identifying the nature of viral advertising strategies across industries and in comparison to other online media advertising formats. In addition, future studies ought to further explore the use of Taylor’s six-segmented strategy wheel as a model for the analysis of creative strategies.

Author Biographies

  1. Guy J. Golan (Ph.D Florida, 2003) is an assistant professor at Seton Hall University’s Department of Communication. His research focuses on media effects, international communication and strategic communication research. Golan is a partner in the Keta-Keta viral advertising agency, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

  2. Lior Zaidner is a graduate student of marketing at the University Of Westminster in London. He formerly served as the creative director for Keta-Keta, Viral Advertising firm and as a TV cooperation manager for Jetix, Disney owned kids’ Channel in Europe.

Ancillary