How much is a viral ad worth? 

That's the question today for many a marketer. After all, if you can't break it down into dollars and cents, it's not even worth thinking about, right? Unfortunately, many companies hang onto this outdated way of thinking.

Nowadays, the number of views a video receives on YouTube can be as good as cash in terms of increasing brand visibility and turning consumers into loyal customers. Plus, it may very well lead to greater returns.

Source: Old Spice/YouTube

Just about everything put out by Old Spice since 2010 is viral advertising done right.

The company's most recent, Momsong, is a tad creepy but as funny as ever, and definitely keeps with the brand's men who wear Old Spice are the manliest men who ever manlied vibe.

And the general public seems to agree. The latest ad got more than one million views in just three days.

Ever since that good-looking guy proclaimed, "I'm on a horse!" while he was, in fact, sitting on a horse, back in 2010, people have kept up with the Procter & Gamble (PG 0.54%) brand's humorous ads. In the wake of the initial success of the "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," ad campaign, Old Spice fanned the flames by having the actor featured in the spots, Isaiah Mustafa, answer Twitter questions in short YouTube videos for several hours one day. The company effectively turned what could have been a limited-to-TV thing into a fully interactive experience. 

And that makes sense when you consider the marketing firm behind the ads, Wieden+Kennedy, dubs itself a, "full service integrated advertising agency."  But Wieden+Kennedy has an impressive client list outside of Old Spice, including  Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Chrysler. So, why is Old Spice its only client that is consistently getting insane viral traffic to their online ads? Sure, the other brands have strong followings but their ads haven't gone viral to this same degree.

It comes down to brand expectation. Old Spice had an initial hit and it was backed up with a series of funny ads. Now, people will click to an Old Spice ad to see what it's going to do next. Ever since that very masculine dude proclaimed, "I'm on a horse!" people have kept up with the brand's latest offerings. The initial successes have created a sense of anticipation. It's old-school marketing hype for the digital age. 

And that brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this article: how much is a viral ad worth? It can still be difficult to determine the return on investment of social media engagement, but a case study Wieden+Kennedy conducted back in 2010 after the rollout of the first ridiculously successful Old Spice campaign showed the worth extended beyond view count. Yes, the company reported 1.4 billion campaign impressions and 40 million video views in one week. But it also noted sales of Old Spice Bodywash were up 27% since the campaign launched.

The truth here is viral advertising works and though we all tend to get caught up in video impressions, the dollars and cents folks will be pleased to know sales figures increase right alongside those view counts. Not every brand can be an Old Spice, but those who can stand to profit. Big time.