Viral Videos: The True Reach of Online Video Advertisements



Firms increasingly promote their products using advertisements posted on online video-sharing sites such as YouTube. On these sites, advertisers run into a phenomenon they hardly experience in traditional media: videos uploaded by advertisers are commonly redistributed by others, either in their original form (as simple copies) or as altered "derivative" works (e.g., spoofs, remixes, and “mash-ups”). Such user-generated “viral" placements can significantly enhance the true reach of advertising campaigns – in fact, across our data for movie and video game advertisements, the number of views generated by viral placements is several times greater than the number of views amassed by the original “advertiser-seeded” placements. In this study, we investigate the dynamics of viral video campaigns, modeling the diffusion of advertiser-seeded and user-generated views as two interrelated diffusion processes. By incorporating several factors under the control of advertisers, including the intensity, timing, and location of original video placements as well as the amount of offline advertising support, we also examine the manner in which advertisers might be able to influence those dynamics.

Anita Elberse is an Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing unit at Harvard Business School.

Professor Elberse develops and teaches a course on Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries, covering the businesses of entertainment, media and sports, for second-year MBA students. Her course is featured in Variety's 2008 Entertainment Education report. She also teaches in Strategic Marketing ManagementTaking Marketing Digital, and other short programs for executives, and previously taught Marketing to first-year MBA students. 

In her research, professor Elberse primarily aims to understand what drives the success of products in the media, entertainment, sports, and other creative industries, and how firms can develop effective marketing strategies for such products. She is acclaimed for her work on digital-media strategies. Her wider areas of study include the diffusion of innovations, the impact of digital technology on marketing practice, and the application of econometric modeling techniques to marketing problems. 

Her work has been published in a number of journals, including the Harvard Business ReviewMarketing Science, the Journal of Marketing, and the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. Her research has also appeared or been covered in leading print and broadcast media. Professor Elberse consults with a range of media and entertainment companies, and has conducted case studies on many firms in that area, including Comcast, Hulu, Grand Central Publishing, Marvel Enterprises,MGMOctone Records, Radiohead, Sony, and The CW. Other case studies focus on the marketing of New York City, theVancouver 2010 Winter OlympicsMarquee, the Metropolitan Opera, soccer clubs Real Madrid and Boca Juniors, and superstar athletes LeBron James and Maria Sharapova.

Prior to joining Harvard Business School, professor Elberse was a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD from London Business School, an MA in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, and an MA in Communication Science from the University of Amsterdam (cum laude). A native of The Netherlands, she has been awarded a Netherland-America Foundation / Fulbright Fellowship and a Lloyd's of London Business Scholarship.

Contact information:
Dr. S. Puntoni