Article | Harvard Business Review | March 2012

The New Science of Viral Ads

by Thales Teixeira


It's the holy grail of digital marketing: the viral ad, a pitch that large numbers of viewers decide to share with family and friends. Several techniques derived from new technology can help advertisers attain this. In our research, two colleagues and I use infrared eye-tracking scanners to determine exactly what people are looking at when they watch video ads. We also use a system that analyzes facial expressions to reveal what viewers are feeling. These technologies make it possible to isolate elements that cause people to stop watching and to find ones that keep them engaged. In addition, they make it possible to determine what kinds of ads are most likely to be shared and what types of people are most likely to share them. Here are five big problems online advertisers face, along with solutions that have emerged from our research.

Keywords: Online Advertising; Technology; Research; System; Marketing; Emotions; Television Entertainment;


Teixeira, Thales. "The New Science of Viral Ads." Harvard Business Review 90, no. 3 (March 2012): 25–27.