http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc47LcvIxyI&feature=player_embedded

The online world has been abuzz in the last couple of weeks with videos that bridge the gap between branded entertainment and viral sensations. The latest viral videos share a common quality: they’re seriously funny.

Smartwater teams up with the lovable Jennifer Aniston in a video that pokes fun at the very concept of viral videos. A clever combination of irony and humour – not to mention puppies, babies, and a little sex appeal – has propelled the video to more than 8 million views on YouTube, making it the number one viral video of last week.

Aniston isn’t the only celebrity making people laugh in branded style. Sony Ericksson enlists the comedic flair of Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords, The Daily Show) to promote its new mobile device, Xperia Play.

Whether Schaal watches herself on YouTube or delivers some devilish humour, the series of videos upholds its comedic value while demonstrating the product’s innovative features.

Switching gears from celebrity endorsers to, well, an orange puppet hero named Doug, Ford takes an informal approach in its latest video, attempting to create funny online content with a joke-spewing Don Juan of a puppet. Though the video was created by the writers and directors behind The Office, Borat, and The Simpsons, it misses the mark when it comes to actually promoting the 2012 Ford Focus.

Finally, Air New Zealand combines the best of the human and puppet worlds, presenting a collaboration between their mascot, Rico, and rapper Snoop Dogg in the airline’s latest online endeavour. The trending video doesn’t focus too much on Air New Zealand itself – though a few of the extras do sport an “I heart New Zealand” shirt. Still, the numbers speak for themselves: In less than a week, the video has attracted almost 250,000 hits.

Are these videos funny? Absolutely. Will their content effectively engage viewers? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, fans will continue to search for the best new online videos. And as long as we’re laughing with them, not at them (ahem, Rebecca Black), then embracing humour is often a winning strategy for brands. But then again, who isn’t glad it’s Friday?

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This week in social media

Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday with some high-profile friends:

Xbox promotes Kinect for Xbox 360 – the technology that brings games to life without a controller – with a spot-on parody featuring Kylie Minogue:

The new photo and video sharing social network, Color, excites early adopters across mobile platforms: