We live in an increasingly digital world in which experiences, ideas, and opinions can be shared in an instant. It's never been easier to record and share photos and videos online, thanks to advances in mobile technology. In fact, 72 hours of video are uploaded to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube every minute. As a result, companies have turned to viral advertising. Let's look at the brands behind this month's top viral video ads, as ranked by AdAge.com, and why they work.

Great ads breed winning brands
Topping the chart this week is a video called "Real Beauty Sketches," for Unilever's (NYSE:UL) Dove brand. With the help of a forensic artist, the video sets out to prove that women are more beautiful than they think. Equal parts inspiration and enlightenment, the video is part of a "Real Beauty" campaign that Unilever launched in 2004. The video, which launched earlier this month, went viral with tens of millions of online views, more than 8,000 comments on YouTube, and more than 660,000 Facebook shares, according to Visible Measures.

Earlier this month, Google generated buzz around its YouTube brand when it released a video in which YouTube's CEO Salar Kamangar announces that the video site has found its "winning video" and will be shutting down for good. While the clip ended up being a prank for April Fool's Day, Google was able to capture the attention of curious viewers around the world. The video attracted more than 10 million hits on YouTube this month and more than 80,000 viewer comments.

Google's YouTube prank may have created buzz, but another one of its videos-gone-viral this month is actually attracting users to install its new Chrome browser. With the help of Stewie's character from Family Guy, Google's new Chrome ad is both relatable and to the point.

PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) is another company that's succeeding with viral video advertising. This time, Pepsi's "Gordon Test Drive" commercial stole the spotlight. In the video, NASCAR icon Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman on a wild wide. The video was part of a campaign to promote the soda and snack giant's Pepsi Max brand, and by Visible Measures calculations, the ad was quite effective. In fact, during the first week in April Pepsi's video was watched more than 2 million times online, according to Visible Measures.

Why it matters
In addition to being entertaining, these share-worthy videos build brand awareness for the companies that sponsor them. Effective advertising, particularly when viral, helps connect products and brands to consumers. Ultimately, this allows companies like Unilever, Google, and Pepsi to create and profit from loyal customers.

In addition to being fun to watch, viral videos can give you leads on investing ideas. Unilever, Google, and Pepsi, for example, each boast multinational brands and solid balance sheets.


Fool contributor Tamara Rutter has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google, PepsiCo, and Unilever and owns shares of Google and PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.