Video is some of the most influential content on the web. It is the number-one activity we participate in online. We thought it would be fun to showcase some of the most viral videos of 2013. The order they are in isn’t necessarily because of how many views they got, and this list is by no means the authority on the topic. Instead, we have an eclectic and fun mix of videos that made us laugh, that were clever marketing pieces, that were inspirational and that reflect our culture and the time in which we live.
“What Does the Fox Say?”
Remember when you had to watch MTV or VH1 for your music videos? Today, you can play them over and over and over again on YouTube, and that is exactly what everyone does. They did it in 2012 with Psy’s Gangnam Style and this time it’s What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis.
I’ll admit I contributed one of those over three-hundred-million views. Despite the ridiculous topic of the song, the clever nature by which the artist is able to craft an entire tune out of a simple question that a child might ask (and make it catchy, as well) is pure genius. The video takes the cake as one of the most watched videos of 2013.
In the 1970s, it was the funky chicken. In the 80s, Michael Jackson made the Moonwalk a fad. Today, it’s “twerking,” and the viral video below adds some extra humor to the popular dance move. The star’s unexpected guest probably feels bad enough that she knocks over her friend, but what happens next makes everything worse.
This is one of those videos that proves high-end productions and clever scenarios are sometimes no match for classic slapstick humor caught on tape by accident.
Miley Cyrus — “Wrecking Ball”
One of the most successful artists of 2013 is arguably Miley Cyrus. The former child star came out of nowhere with her risqué music videos and live performances. While many questioned her tactics, some called her a marketing genius as she held huge media outlets captive with her behavior and sold out shows from coast to coast. Her video on YouTube was another one of the most viewed for 2013.
You know a video is viral when it gets viewed and shared a ton of times, but what about when people copy it over and over again. That’s what happened with the Harlem Shake. The original below was one of the most copied videos of 2013. Everyone from members of the military to professional sports teams parodied the video.
“I Quit” Video
Resigning from a job isn’t an uncommon thing, but when you do it on YouTube with a creative and well-made music video, it tends to draw some attention. That’s what Marina Shifrin did when she wanted to leave the news organization she worked for over “creative differences.”
Part of the reason this video became so popular (other than the fact that it was entertaining) was that it made a bold statement. Here is someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means losing their income.
Chuck Norris Van Damme Video
In this video, martial arts professional and actor Chuck Norris stars in a parody of Jean Claude Van Damme’s impressive stunt between two Volvo semi trucks. The video was a Christmas message put out by Delov Digital, and features Norris doing the splits between two cargo planes with a half dozen pilots doing a pyramid while balancing on his head.
How Houdini Died
Educational videos (if done well) often get shared a lot. Destin from Smarter Every Day has a lot of educational videos that get a ton of views. His video on how Houdini died is especially interesting. Harry Houdini was one of the most celebrated and interesting escape artists of his time. Crowds marveled at his ability to get out of seemingly impossible situations. He was also famous for being able to take severe trauma to the stomach and still stand on two feet. Ironically (and according to the video), it was a punch to the stomach that killed him.
Fox 5 News Jet Pack Fail
For some reason, we all like to see people make mistakes. Videos of people screwing up (especially in “epic” ways) go viral pretty quickly. That special viral sauce was created when Fox 5 news San Diego was shooting on location at the San Diego Yacht and Boat Show.
They thought it would be so cool to have a guy wearing a water-powered jet pack launch off the doc after saying the station’s slogan, but instead some kind of misfire happened, and he plunged into the bay.
“People of Walmart” Version 3
You can tell the diehard YouTube creationists when you see them. They often have tons of videos and make it their full-time job to entertain their subscribers. Jessica French does this by making light of the questionable characters that frequent Walmart stores.
She actually has two other videos that have garnered millions of views, but they weren’t uploaded in 2013.
Carrie Coffee Shop
YouTube started as a place for regular users to share videos they had made themselves. Now that it has exploded in popularity to become the most recognized video sharing platform on the planet, organizations are having professional videos produced to promote products and services.
Promotional events meant to promote movies have great potential to go viral when they use the hidden camera approach and fool regular people. That’s what happened in a promotional video for Carrie, the Stephen King classic brought to film. Actors, stuntmen, and a behind-the-scenes crew helped rig up a coffee shop in Manhatten to make it look like a woman had telekinetic powers.
Needless to say, patrons who weren’t in on the prank were shocked, flabbergasted and downright scared.
I Forgot My Phone
I like this video because it acknowledges an elephant in the room. More and more people are spending more and more time on their smart phones. The presence of smart phones is pervasive and invading our everyday lives.
The video highlights the experience of someone preoccupied with what they are doing on their phone instead of what’s happening right in front of them. I know I’ve been guilty of that, and I’ve seen others do it, as well. For example, we often see people on their phones while ordering food at a restaurant or answering a text while in the middle of a conversation.
Jeff Gordon Test Drive
Here is another hidden-camera promotional video, this time made by the folks at Pepsi Co. Professional race car driver Jeff Gordon goes undercover to fool an unsuspecting car salesman and takes him on the test drive of his life.
This is an example of a really well-made video that doesn’t talk about the company’s product or service, gets tons of shares and views because it’s hilarious, and does a great job of getting some notoriety for the brand. If you are looking for a recipe on how to make a viral video for your brand, this is the model to follow.
“Space Oddity” by Astronaut
Astronaut Chris Hadfield records his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity high up in the International Space Station. He has made subsequent videos explaining the process, but his original musical version is actually pretty good for someone who has spent their life devoted to science and not music.
If you are a fan of Breaking Bad and haven’t seen this viral video yet, you have to catch it. Jimmy Fallon does a parody of the popular cable TV show on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. You’ll have had to watch almost all of the Breaking Bad series in order to understand the jokes.
The video even features appearances from actors Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul, who portray Breaking Bad’s two main characters. Jay Leno even plays a small part in the 12-minute piece.
As mentioned earlier, one of the top music videos for 2012 was Psy’s Gangnam Style. Since it was uploaded in July of 2012, it has accumulated almost two billion views. The artist’s next song Gentleman hasn’t done nearly as well but it’s still pretty popular. Psy’s videos have a quirky and refreshing style that makes them fun to watch.
Ghost Elevator Prank
Technically, this one was uploaded at the end of 2012, but it still got a ton of attention on news media in 2013. It’s another hidden-camera bit where unsuspecting elevator users experience a brief power outage only to come face to face with the dreaded “little girl ghost.” It’s funny that a little girl placed in the right context could be so darn scary.
YouTube Shutting Down Video
This video didn’t get a lot of views in 2013. In fact, it was less than all other videos in this list; however, it did work to fool people into thinking YouTube was shutting down (at least for a couple minutes). Videos like this showcase the power that social media and the web have over us in terms of the information we consume.
Unlike network television or radio, virtually anyone can publish information to the Internet, and if done right, even incorrect information can look pretty convincing.
Honest Cable Company
This video is absolutely hilarious, and if you have ever purchased high-speed Internet and/or cable services from a local provider, it will resonate well with you. Extremely Decent does a great job of explaining the nature of the highly competitive and revenue-driven focus of large media companies.
Dog Found in Oklahoma Tornado Debris
Heartwarming videos contain another kind of secret sauce for going viral. As humans, we either gravitate toward pain and suffering or triumph and perseverance. The formula works even better when it is unexpected.
When an Oklahoma woman is being interviewed in the aftermath of a tornado, she talks about her dog being lost. Just as she does, she hears a noise and discovers her dog crawling out of the wreckage of her home.