Why Microsoft's Gates/Seinfeld Went Viral and 'I'm a PC' Ads Didn't

Hint: It's in the Comments

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According to Visible Measures, which charts online video viewing trends and has measured the videos associated with Microsoft's $300 million ad campaign, the Seinfeld/Gates ads are squashing the "I'm a PC" ads by a margin of 4.3 million viral video views. Both ads had about equal video placements (about 75 each).

Visible Measures points out that while the Seinfeld/Gates clips came out two weeks earlier than the "I'm a PC" ads, Seinfeld/Gates drew twice as many viewers their first week in market than the PC ads did.

After two weeks in market, Visible Measures says, "Seinfeld/Gates was still collecting more than 700,000 views per day, while the 'I'm a PC' clips had tapered off to less than 50,000 views per day."

Why might this be?

Microsoft sparked a dialogue in the Seinfeld ad that isn't there in PC ads.

"So much viral video is basically word of mouth. And when you build a question into the creative, it gives people something to talk about," said Matt Cutler, VP-marketing and analytics at Visible Measures Corp.

That, in turn, drives things like comment counts and the views-to-comments ratio and, said Mr. Cutler, there's a positive correlation between commenting and viral growth. He also suggested the types of comments were quite different between the two types of ads: The Seinfeld/Gates ads had more adjectives in them, while comments in PC ads had more nouns, suggesting a more emotional response to Seinfeld/Gates ads.

BrandIndex, which measures online buzz, said the Gates/Seinfeld campaign was successful in generating buzz and that Microsoft has carried that momentum into its new campaign. And while buzz scores have flattened out over the past five to six days, when the Gates/Seinfeld ads were replaced by the "I'm a PC" ads, Microsoft's buzz levels are still significantly higher than where they were just before the campaign launched.

OK, so online chatter is important in driving viral views and buzz. But what about real-life conversations? Perhaps spelling trouble for Microsoft in that area, two Ad Age staffers, passing by the "I'm a PC" ads playing in Times Square last week, heard the same comment: "What's a PC?"
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