Advertisements are everywhere, but serve as little more than a reminder to shave or wash dishes or whatever. Good advertisements are far more rare. A good ad hooks its viewers, convincing them not only to buy the pitched product, but also to tell their friends about it. After all, the more eyes that see an ad, the higher chance that product will make the folks in charge very rich indeed.

Here are four examples of awesome viral ads that have seen far more eyes than its creators could have ever imagined, and which we’re jealous we didn’t think of ourselves.

1. Geico: Hump Day


On its own, insurance is not a terribly interesting topic, so it’s no wonder most insurance companies use fun commercials and memorable mascots to help keep their product in the public eye. Geico’s recent “Hump Day” campaign might be the best example yet. It’s based on an incredibly simple joke – that camels must love Wednesdays because that’s Hump Day and they have humps – yet the way they pull it off is masterful.

An obnoxious talking camel, walking around an office trying to get depressed co-workers to “guess” that today is Hump Day, lets out an even more obnoxious “woo-WOOOO!” when somebody does. The ad, with its message that people who use Geico are as happy as this camel, garnered Geico over 16 million hits on YouTube, way more than any other insurance ad has earned. This proves exactly how far a silly joke can take you, if you tell it correctly.

2. Volkswagen: Child Darth Vader

Here’s a case where a combination of humor, nerdiness, and adorableness shot Volkswagen straight to the top of the viral ad chart. First aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, this ad shows a child dressed as Darth Vader and attempting to use The Force on various household objects, to no avail.

Finally, he tries it on his father’s Volkswagen, and it actually works! Obviously it was due to his father remotely turning the car on with his keys, but the clear shock on the kid’s face (even though you can’t see it) makes the ad truly memorable.

Debuting during the Super Bowl certainly gave this ad a ton of initial attention, but its pure awesomeness is what has kept it popular. With over 58 million hits to its name, it’s more than earned its spot in the advertising pantheon.

3. PBS Digital Studios: Mr. Rogers Remix

An ad doesn’t have to double as a 30-second television spot in order to go viral — a fact PBS knows all too well. Recently, their Digital Studios released a series of remixes, where clips of Julia Child, Reading Rainbow, and Bob Ross (the “Happy Little Trees” guy) were auto-tuned and set to a series of laid-back, trip-hop beats.

While they were all successful, the studio’s Mr. Rogers remix outshone them all. PBS’ decision to take various clips of Mr. Rogers speaking, and turn them into a laid-back number called “Garden Of Your Mind,” was a huge boon for PBS. It garnered them tons of attention (over 9 million hits, more than every other Digital Remix combined,) and very likely a ton of donations as well.

Shockingly, a gentle song, sung by a gentle man, affixed to a gentle beat, spoke louder than any intense, in-your-face, attitude-laden ad ever could.

4. Red Bull: Felix Baumgartner Skydives From Space

It’s one thing to associate your logo with just another sporting event. When do so with one of the most amazing human feats of all time, however, then you know you’ve got a viral sensation, not to mention tons of sales revenue.

On October 14, 2012, daredevil Felix Baumgartner performed an amazing feat, free-falling over 24 miles (which was basically the edge of outer space,) and shattering world records in the process. Red Bull sponsored his jump, and their brand name was affixed to both his spacesuit and the capsule he rode up in. The original live stream of his jump was seen by over 8 million people, and an additional 35 million people have since viewed the highlights on Red Bull’s official YouTube account. That’s a lot of attention for an energy drink.

This advertisement was incredibly risky – after all, Baumgartner was literally jumping from SPACE. If he had failed, and his horrible death was broadcast live to millions, Red Bull’s name would have almost certainly been dragged through the mud, and the company might still be in tatters today. Luckily for them (and for Baumgartner, obviously), he was wildly successful, and Red Bull never looked better.

As you can see, viral advertisements can take many different forms, from traditional quickie commercials, to mind-blowing feats of humanity. The one thing they all have in common though is that they managed to connect with their audience in ways their competitors only wish they could. And they did so with awesome ideas we wish we could say were ours.

Jason Iannone writes for every website on the Internet (give or take few billion sites or so). He writes about video games, music, space, and anything else that comes to mind.