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Viral Ads Grow Ever More Subtle -- But Are They Effective?

Remember the video of the mysterious hacker taking over the video monitors in Times Square? The one we were all sure was fake, probably? Well, the cynical among you can strike a smug pose because not only is the video fake, it's a viral ad for the upcoming Bradley Cooper vehicle 'Limitless.' Miss it? Scroll to 1:26, when the hacker tackles the big screen. Oh, whaddya know, that screen is playing a trailer for 'Limitless.'

The video was made by viral marketing company Thinkmondo, and has received well over a million views on YouTube. (No surprise there, since its topic is pitch-perfect for spawning online conversation.) But what of it? The ad component was so subtle that, had the media not latched onto the story of its viral-ness, it seems unlikely that 'Limitless' would ever come up. And while the directors surely counted on the media doing so, the next video or five mirroring this strategy would certainly fail. The story's already been done.

That, of course, leaves the only other option: the utterly self-conscious viral video. Smart Water's video is silly and doesn't feel particularly cutting edge, but the company's name is uttered over and over, and the video has about six times the views. Ditto the Old Spice Guy campaign, which will doubtlessly go down in history as one of the most successful ad series ever. Subtle they ain't, but they seem to work. It remains to be seen whether the no-name, buzz version will do as well.

Either way, this is really good news for creative directors who just adore having a client come in and say, "Ooh, what if we make a viral video?"

Tags: advertisement, advertising, bitcrash44, Limitless, media, movies, newsmain, smart water, thinkmondo, times square, TimesSquare, video, viral video, ViralVideo