Case Study on HLG Studios: How to Be Successful with Viral Video Marketing

There are many components to a successful viral marketing campaign and (as most of us know) they are rarely a success.  There is the occasional “win” and I believe I have found one.


HLG Studios, a Los Angeles based production house and creative agency, released a series of five “Rejected Super Bowl Ads” for various companies.  At the start of their planning their YouTube channel consisted of  a 26-video collection of their work and had between 200-300 views per video.


After the launch of “Rejected Super Bowl Ads” (their first independent non-branded campaign), the five commercials released saw views ranging from 30,000 to 220,000 views per video!

So how did they do it’?  They had all of the right ingredients…

1.  Great Content

Their video content had everything that great content needs.  They addressed real life issues, they were informative, they were funny and they solicited our emotions.


Each commercial:

  • Tied itself to a product or service that most of us were familiar with, such as Swiffle, Doritos, the NSA, and Monsanto 

  • Represented a controversial issue

  • Was informative and data-driven

  • Identified with an argument

  • Included humor

  • Solicited a response and our own opinions

2.  Timing, Research and Timing

HLG Studios did what must be done when creating viral content; they tied their video content to an overly publicized event.  They knew that the Super Bowl would be searched, talked about and written about as it has been every year prior.  They used common knowledge and research to wrap their content around a subject that they knew people would be looking for.

  • HLG Studios partnered with, because when we search for “Super Bowl Commercials” online (go ahead, try it) – ranks position one on page one of Google

  • They released their videos on YouTube the same day as the Super Bowl

  • In fact, they did such a good job with the timing of their launch that some media outlets listed their Swiffle commercial as a REAL Super Bowl commercial! 

  • They were also relevant enough to be talked about as a controversial Super Bowl subject in The Huffington Post 

3.  Strategy

HLG Studios knew that viral success can and usually will die quickly.  


Instead of launching it and letting it fade, they added the hashtag #SatireBowl to their campaign and the title “Rejected Super Bowl Commercials”.  They also made their content easy to share and easy to understand.


Why this worked:


  • Hashtags make our content searchable across all social media platforms and search engines

  • The title “Rejected Super Bowl Commercial” is a highly searched line of text during and after the Super Bowl

  • The title and the hashtag make it clear to their audiences that whatever it is that we are about to watch, it will be controversial

  • The subject matter was controversial, yet light hearted enough to make it an easy share

4.  Branding

Branding is the ultimate key to long-term success and often forgotten in the world of viral marketing campaigns.that many viral campaigns.  


We see the viral content, we share the content and we may even love the content. Most of the time, however, we have no idea who created the content or what they represent.  HLG Studios did not have this problem.

  • Their content type was relevant to their business

  • We knew that a production team of some sort was responsible for the commercials

  • We knew that they were selling us their ability to create and market great content

This is by far one of the best viral video marketing campaigns I have seen from a small budget production team.  They did their research and it shows.

So you want to create a viral video campaign?  Take some notes from HLG Studios.


Cynthia Johnson is the Director of Social Media Marketing for Ranklab Interactive.  She also runs a Twitter chat called #TheSMGirl every Monday at 1 p.m. PST. Tweet her at @CynthiaLive.



Cynthia Johnson is the Director of Social Media Marketing for RankLab, a digital marketing agency in Santa Monica, CA. She is the Editorial Director and a member on the Global Board of Directors for Social Media Club, She is a contributing columnist for Entrepreneur, Search Engine Journal, Startup Grind, SheKnows and SharpHeels. She also hosts a weekly Twitter chat, #TheSMGirl, Tuesdays at 1 p.m. PST, where she discusses social media marketing and PR. Cynthia is a professional with 6 years of diverse work experience in entertainment, marketing and digital advertising. She has work experience in both corporate companies as well as small tech startups. In 2010 Cynthia worked for the live stream video website for teens called Stickam. There she worked with a team to manage the social media engagement of their 7 million member community, and ran advertising operations for all major live events hosted on the site. She has been involved on social media and viral campaigns for Levi’s, Vans, Chevy, Susan G. Komen, Peta2 and Maker Studios. She has also consulted on campaigns for Here Media, West Management Group and several other startup ecommerce brands. She is knowledgeable in social media marketing for SEO, viral campaign strategy, branding, reputation management and community building.