The glut of comedy channels atop YouTube’s subscriber leaderboard and the viral success of some very, very funny ads suggests that you need to be funny to achieve online video virality. Instead, a recent study from Unruly makes the case that humor is not all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, the study says, it is videos the access other emotions that drive the most social shares.

The agency, which works brands to improve social results, examined the ads from the most recent Super Bowl as part of its ‘Science of Sharing‘ report. It found that the two most shareable spots (as measured by its ShareRank algorithm) were not funny at all: Budweiser’s ‘Brotherhood‘ and Ram Trucks ‘Farmer‘. The study hypothesizes that consumers get “worn down” by tons of ads that try to be funny and aren’t; therefore, using humor to reach viewers requires an ad to be extra funny.

Unruly, using its scientific manner of analysis, also noted that branded content has a better chance to go viral if it gives viewers an impulse to share beyond mere emotional response. For example, the ‘Farmer’ ad is unique, and this makes consumers want to see their friends’ reactions and discuss it with others. This type of reaction-seeking behavior is important in terms of driving shares.

Finally, the ad revealed that Wednesday is the best day to launch a branded video campaign, since most shares occur in the first three days after posting and during the second half of the week. “For brands looking to optimize their chances of viral success, the video really needs to reach a critical mass of viewers within the first 24 hours of its launch,” said Sarah Wood, co-founder and COO of Unruly.

The news that funny ads are suboptimal for sharing is bad news for those of us who like laughing. Oh well. We’ll always have Old Spice.

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