The 20 Most-Viral Ads of 2012 (So Far)

You'll laugh, you'll cry. But most of all, you're likely to share

It's only the middle of May, but already we've had some runaway viral hits in advertising this year. Unruly Media, which runs the global Viral Video Chart, has just released a list of the most-shared ads of 2012 (so far). We've posted the top 20 below. It's a varied group of spots—with dancing and singing, cursing and fainting, running and good old-fashioned pitching. President Obama even makes an appearance. Check out the full list after the jump. And don't resist the urge to share.

  1. Finnair
    Snobby ad people largely despise flash mobs and/or spontaneous dancing as a way of driving video views. But the public continues to eat it up. This insufferable Finnair spot captures footage of some extremely energetic people congratulating India on Republic Day in January—by dancing like maniacs.
  2. DollarShaveClub.com
    DollarShaveClub CEO Michael Dubin starred alongside warehouse sidekick Alejandra and a guy in a bear suit in this infectious spot from March that quickly became a sensation. The ad, like the razors, was pretty f***ing great.
  3. Nike Running
    There was something mildly nauseating about this Nike Running spot from April featuring the woman who runs across America, singing all the way, for the love of her poor, weak man (who ends up in hospital long before meeting her in the middle). But online, the spot sure had legs.
  4. Tic Tac
    Oh look, a flash mob. In this French spot from April, scores of actors pretended to pass out when confronted with people who had "the worst breath in the world." Tic Tacs eventually came to the rescue.
  5. Mercedes-Benz
    Using an elaborate LED costume, the automaker built an "invisible" car in March to promote its zero-emission technology. One of the year's better tech stunts.
  6. Tipp-Ex
    The Tipp-Ex hunter and bear, stars of a viral smash in 2010, returned with a bang in April. To help the pair escape a flying meteor, viewers were urged to change the year in the interactive YouTube interface to more than 40 hilarious scenarios. A sequel for the ages—quite literally.
  7. Cartier
    In March, the French jeweler stormed three major networks in prime time with an audacious media buy—presenting this fantastical three-and-a-half minute spot that reimagined the brand's 165-year history as a diamond jungle cat's adventures through space and time. An absurd and lavish treasure, beautifully crafted—even if, you know, it made no sense.
  8. Honda
    The first of three Super Bowl spots on this list (to go along with one Super Bowl teaser), this Honda spot famously featured Matthew Broderick reprising his classic Ferris Bueller character in a pitch for the CR-V. What did viewers think? They bought it.
  9. Volkswagen
    Another 2012 Super Bowl spot, this was Volkswagen's highly anticipated follow-up to "The Force," its universe-conquering ad from 2011. "The Dog Strikes Back" was cute, even if it didn't quite match the subtle storytelling and clever payoff that made "The Force" (the most-shared commercial of all time) such a delight.
  10. Coca-Cola
    With post-revolution Tunisia competing in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, Coca-Cola crafted this anthem in January with the help of musical group Sli Lemhaf. The song—about forgetting the fear of oppression—became the Tunisian team's official anthem.

  1. Type Books
    Sean Ohlenkamp, an associate creative director at Lowe Roche, and his wife created this lovely little ode to paper books—specifically, to the Type Books bookstore in Toronto. The clip, posted in January, got amazing traction for an amateur effort.
  2. Barack Obama
    Oh yes, it's an election year. As Republicans battered each other through the winter and spring, it was President Obama who in March delivered the most-shared political ad of the season—this look back at the past three and a half years.
  3. Nike
    Casey Neistat was given a budget to shoot a Nike ad, but instead used the money to travel around the world with his buddy Max. The resulting video, from April, embodied the tagline, "Make it count," more than a typical fabricated ad would have.
  4. Google Maps
    One of two Google clips in the top 10, this was also the only April Fools' joke video to make the list. It ludicrously introduced Google Maps in an 8-bit version for Nintendo Entertainment Systems.
  5. M&Ms
    Sorry, Doritos, Chevrolet and Bud Light. In terms of broad comedy, nothing could touch this M&M's spot on Super Bowl Sunday.
  6. Volkswagen
    One of the big Super Bowl ad stories this year was the sheer volume of teaser and preview clips leading up to the game. Volkswagen's "The Bark Side," with dogs barking the "Imperial March," ruled them all—and indeed, turned out to be more viral than anything that aired on the game itself.
  7. Google
    In this concept video from April, Google showed off a pair of augmented reality glasses that would work like a smartphone—but instead of interacting with the device in your hand, you wear it on your face. Impressive and somewhat scary.
  8. Procter & Gamble
    Originally launched for the 2010 Winter Olympics, P&G's "Thank you, Mom" campaign was dramatically reborn in April—for London 2012—with this emotional, cinematic anthem from Babel director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
  9. Dancesport Studio
    This video, promoting a dance studio in Germany, featured insane footage of a 2-year-old dancing the jive. It wasn't so much that people wanted to watch—they just couldn't look away.
  10. TNT
    To promote its launch in Belgium, TNT placed a big red button "on an average Flemish square of an average Flemish town," and goaded people to push it. When they did, the square erupted in chaos, as actors appeared out of nowhere and flung themselves into scenes ripped from medical and legal dramas (and melodramas). At the end, a giant banner was unfurled on a building side that read: "Your daily dose of drama. TNT." The clip has been a stunning success, and has become the second-most-shared ad of all time, behind Volkswagen's "The Force."