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Is 2013 The Year Of The Horse For Advertisers?

Could this be the Year of the Horse? OK, recent headlines in the UK media would certainly suggest otherwise, while the Chinese, who are currently celebrating the Year of the Snake, would also beg to differ.

However, in the world of advertising at least, it seems that pony power rules supreme in 2013. Sure, our four-legged friends may be Britain's least desirable dinner mate right now, but in Adland, they are running free.

You only need to look at the thoroughbreds keeping their rivals at bay at the summit of the Unruly Viral Video Chart to see what I'm talking about.

Currently cantering up the chart is a new ad from mobile network Three, which features a moonwalking Shetland pony.

The commercial features one of the Scottish island’s most famous resident, ‘Socks’, performing Michael Jackson’s signature dance move to Fleetwood Mac's classic hit, Everywhere.

The campaign - which positions Three as the mobile network of choice for web users - is a celebration of “the UK’s love of sharing the funny, quirky and downright daft content we find and share on the internet”. Or as the ad tagline suggests, ‘Silly stuff, it matters’.

Judging by the success of the ad so far, they are not wrong. In its first week, the ad has attracted almost 700,000 shares and 2.77 million views, meaning a quarter of the people who have seen the ad have gone on to share it with their social networks.

It has also generated a few parodies (always a sign of social video success; after all, imitation is the highest form of flattery), including this one (below), which reflects the current bad press surrounding horses.

To inspire the act of sharing even further, a web-based app,, has been created which encourages people to join the fun and create their own customised dancing Socks. The video to promote the new app is below.

But Socks is not the only horse to dominate the Unruly Viral Video Chart in 2013. Leading out in front by a lot more than a nose is Budweiser's Super Bowl smash, Brotherhood (below).

The moving tale of a bond that develops between a horse and its trainer, the beer brand commercial has smashed all kinds of records since its release at the end of January.

With over 2.66 million shares already, Brotherhood dominated this year's Super Bowl - an advertising event usually dominated by a very different kind of horse power - making it the biggest ad of 2013 (so far). It is also the second biggest Super Bowl ad of all time, trailing only The Force - the most shared ad of all time.

Of course, it is not the first time Budweiser has used horses in its marketing strategies. 

The Budweiser Clydesdales are a group of Clydesdale horses used by the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. for promotions and commercials, the most notable being the 9/11 tribute, which featured during the 2002 Super Bowl (below).


Other chart-topping commercials to feature horses in 2013 include Ram Trucks' Farmer, the second most shared Super Bowl 2013 ad, Citroen's slightly unnerving Baby ad, and Sony's Xperia ad.

So will pony power continue to dominate in 2013? Should brands be planning their next ad around horses as consumers are so sick of cats and dogs?

Well, firstly, consumers will never get sick of seeing cats and dogs in their commercials, while the horse headlines in the UK will probably die down in the next few weeks.

It's also worth pointing out (not that I really need to) that horses already have a very long history in advertising.

In fact, some of the biggest social video hits over the last few years have featured horses. Both Budweiser's 9/11 tribute (11th) and Nissan's Brazilian hit Damn Ponies (34th) both feature in the top 40 most shared ads of all time, while Old Spice Guy also rode a horse to social video success in 2010 as part of the game-changing The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign (23rd), pictured below.


 It's not surprising. Horses, just like cats and dogs, share a long history with humans, and will always generate affection and warmth from the vast majority of consumers.

Although, it's probably too soon for them to appear in any ads for microwaveable meals. Just saying.

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