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Mashable | December 10, 2012

The 10 Most Innovative Viral Video Ads of 2012

By Josh Warner

Josh Warner is president and founder of Feed Company, which promotes and distributes brand videos for Fortune 500 companies and ad agencies. In six years, Feed Company has seeded more than 400 videos across the social web.

This year in viral video, advertisers either broke new ground or just got better at old concepts. Red Bull went to the edge of space with Felix Baumgartner‘s freefall 23 miles to Earth, which certainly qualifies as breaking new ground. On the other hand, Cartier’s bejeweled panther was so sumptuous as to feel brand new.

Elsewhere, an independent filmmaker from New York took a refreshing route within the well-tread travel video genre, with a personal and inspiring execution for Nike. Innovation even made its way to Davenport, Iowa and Sweden, where Will Ferrell’s rogue ads for Old Milwaukee Beer befuddled everyone.

But what is clear from this year’s top 10 is how passion — for a company, brand or creative concept — continues to drive innovation in viral video advertising. From scrappy startups like Dollar Shave Club to independent producers for PBS, viral video marketers seem to love what they’re doing.

Here are the top 10 most innovative viral video ads of 2012. Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

1. Red Bull Stratos

Advertiser: Red Bull

Ad Agency: N/A

Why It Works: Red Bull went to the edge of space to get our attention. Felix Baumgartner’s breaking of the sound barrier in a 23-mile freefall to Earth was riveting wherever you saw it. Red Bull has rewritten event marketing forever, leaving us with transcendent images of a man who could have exploded in space.

Felix’s final words before his jump: “Sometimes you have to get up really high to understand how small you are.” Indeed.

2. L’Odyssée de Cartier

Advertiser: Cartier

Ad Agency: Marcel

Why It Works: There are all sorts of rules for creating successful viral videos, and then there’s an epic piece of film art like L’Odyssée de Cartier’s to remind us never to follow rules in the first place. This ad amazed viewers everywhere, starting with its premier in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to millions of views on YouTube.

3. OK Go – Needing/Getting

Advertiser: Chevrolet

Ad Agency: Goodby Silverstein &amp Partners

Why It Works: The audacious OK Go music video for Chevy Sonic takes Rube Goldberg to the extreme, with a careening, four-minute musical joyride down a two-mile racetrack, outfitted with 1,000 musical instruments. The video took four months of preparation, and it shows in every frame and note. With 23 million views on YouTube, the video proves product placement can be innovative, when the right creative people are involved.

4. Best Job

Advertiser: P&ampG

Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland

Why It Works: With a multitude of marketers vying for attention at the London Olympics, P&G’s “Best Job” commercial stood out. The ad focused on mothers of athletes, rather than the athletes themselves. Helmed by Babel director Alejandro González Iñárritu, each scene lovingly focuses on the sacrifices mothers make to help bring future Olympians from the crib to the medal stand. Millions of YouTube views and social shares later, sons and daughters everywhere confirm once again: Moms rule.

5. Make It Count

Advertiser: Nike

Ad Agency: N/A

Why It Works: Independent filmmaker Casey Neistat breathes new life into the well-tread travel genre. His rogue execution for Nike+ FuelBand follows filmmaker and collaborator Max to as many countries as possible before the money runs out. Interspersed with inspirational messages, the video shows how people can make every day count in their own individual ways.

6. DollarShaveClub.com – Our Blades Are F***ing Great

Advertiser: Dollar Shave Club

Ad Agency: N/A

Why It Works: Every startup dreams of making a splash with an innovative marketing concept that doesn’t require a big budget, but very few succeed. Dollar Shave Club’s execution is loaded with laughs but doesn’t forget to communicate why you should buy its product. Scrappy on-and-off camera CEO Michael Dubin used the video’s viral success to help secure VC funding, putting the perfect bow on the company’s David vs. Goliath storyline.

7. Dumb Ways To Die

Advertiser: Melbourne Metro Trains

Ad Agency: McCann, Melbourne

Why It Works: This charming animation, which promotes rail safety in Melbourne, Australia’s Metro Trains, has earned more than 30 million views on YouTube and has already spawned 85 cover versions.

Despite its morbidity, the video is insidiously catchy. How can you not sing along with cute critters as they recite — and experience — all the dumb ways to die? “Eat medicine that’s out of date, use your private parts as piranha bait.” Classic.

8. Will Ferrell’s Old Milwaukee Dubstep Spot in HD

Advertiser: Pabst Brewing Company

Ad Agency: N/A

Why It Works: Over the past year, Old Milwaukee Beer commercials featuring Will Ferrell have been sprouting up for one-time runs in small cities like Davenport, Iowa. Now new spots have made their way to Sweden and are even more peculiar. It’s hard to figure out what Will Ferrell is up to, or whether Old Milwaukee Beer is even involved. That’s probably the point anyway, which is why it’s one of our favorites.

9. Mister Rogers Remixed — Garden of Your Mind

Advertiser: PBS

Ad Agency: PBS Digital Studios

Why It Works: PBS wanted to broaden its appeal, so it teamed up with Symphony of Science’s John Boswell, aka melodysheep, to create this awesome auto-tune of Mister Rogers, a staple of American children’s television. The touching auto-tune earned over 7 million views on YouTube and introduced Mister Rogers to a new generation of fans.

10. Parachuting Cats

Advertiser: Folksam

Ad Agency: Akestam Holst

Why It Works: A Swedish insurance company asked its customers to suggest a web video ad. Eva, who insures her cat with the company, suggested skydiving cats alongside an R. Kelley soundtrack. Preposterous? Yes, but we can’t stop watching the mid-air paw-five and all that windblown fur. Cat lovers got riled up, but Folksam promises no kitties were harmed during filming.

Originally Posted on Mashable.com