You can’t beat viral advertising.

On March 6, 2012, Dollar Shave Club uploaded a YouTube video entitled “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” featuring CEO Michael Dubin, delivering his speech in a nonchalant and sarcastic manner.
The video prompted 12,000 orders in a two-day span after it was released, and has received over 24 million views as of February 2017.

In the video, the CEO of Dollar Shave Club walks around a warehouse doing funny stuff like tearing up paper, driving a forklift, and hanging out with someone in a bear costume. It’s great comedy, and cost nothing to produce.

The ad earned Dollar Shave Club venture investment from Kleiner Perkins and a16z. I personally started ordering Dollar Shave Club over all the other razor subscription services because I had seen this ad.

Without this ad, Dollar Shave Club’s brand might not have propelled it to a billion dollar exit in the face of strong competitors in a commodity market.

If viral advertising is so effective, why doesn’t everyone do it?

Many ad agencies believe that trying to make viral ads is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Like the “Mail Kimp” ad on Serial — didn’t MailChimp just get lucky that a 14 year old mispronounced MailChimp in an adorable way?

The reason you don’t see more viral advertisements is that ad agencies have largely given up on viral advertising. They believe it to be a game of chance.

And so the best viral ads usually come from in-house marketing teams, like Tom from Blendtec.

Viral ads can be created in a deterministic fashion, but most agencies are not well-equipped to deliver them. So the public narrative is that viral ads are simply something that happens randomly to a lucky few.

Brands hire ad agencies to create and distribute their ad content. The ad agency is accountable for delivering results.

If you are an account manager at an ad agency, would you rather

  1. spend your entire budget trying to make a viral video ad OR
  2. spend half of your budget on a bland video ad and spend the other half promoting it?

Today, most agencies choose option 2. If the ad doesn’t receive enough views, the agency can pay for bot traffic to shore up the numbers. The brand will receive a report documenting the number of ad views from the agency at the end of the transaction and they are none the wiser.

If you are trying to build a brand online, you are much better off crafting a viral advertisement than paying for programmatic advertising.

Originally published at