What Can Brands Learn From The Top YouTube Video Ads Of 2014?

Will more brands tar­get engaged audi­ences and cre­ate shared moments in 2015?

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

It’s too late for brands to cre­ate video con­tent that will top the best of 2014 lists, but not too late to learn key lessons for 2015 from this year’s win­ners. In par­tic­u­lar: Videos are get­ting longer and more sen­si­tive. They also tar­get engaged audi­ences and cre­ate shared moments.


Accord­ing to YouTube, the top video ads of 2014 came from brands like Nike, Bud­weis­er, Always, Dura­cell, Sam­sung, P&GHeineken and the movie Devil’s Due based on audi­ence engage­ment and reten­tion met­rics, as well as views.

So what is it about these ads that made them so suc­cess­ful? And what can brands learn from them?

Brands Are Making Longer Videos

Where­as the long time rule of thumb with video con­tent was short­er is bet­ter, mul­ti­ple ads on the list this year are 1:00 in length with the longest clock­ing in at 5:28.

And the aver­age sits at just over three min­utes. And YouTube says not only are the top ads near­ly 50 per­cent longer com­pared to last year, view­ers also tuned longer, spend­ing around 50 per­cent more time watch­ing them.

Accord­ing to Jonathan Ste­fan­sky, CEO of inter­ac­tive video firm Viewbix.com, this means the indus­try is mov­ing away from stan­dard 30-sec­ond video spots. And while even though com­ple­tion rates may be short­er with longer videos, he said longer videos have bet­ter engage­ment rates. And this is a trend he expects to see con­tin­ue in 2015.

Brands Are Making Videos That Are Warm And Fuzzy

The pop­u­lar videos also pull at view­ers’ heart­strings like Bud­weis­er and P&G have done, Ste­fanksy said.

In a sim­i­lar vein, Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Strate­gist Aaron Zakows­ki said the trend he notices is a mes­sage of empow­er­ment. That includes the videos from Always and Dura­cell.

Enter­tain­ment is nice, but the brands that leave their view­ers real­ly feel­ing good about them­selves are the ones that are going to cre­ate the most long-last­ing brand affin­i­ty from view­ers,” Zakows­ki said. “I think that Always’ ‘#LikeA­Girl’ video and Duracell’s ‘Trust Your Pow­er’ video both did an awe­some job of leav­ing view­ers empow­ered to real­ly be all that they can be and nev­er to let oth­ers lim­it their poten­tial.”

Greg Jar­boe, pres­i­dent of con­tent mar­ket­ing agency SEO-PR, also points to the Ice Buck­et Chal­lenge. Call­ing it “the most talked-about social video cam­paign for social good this year,” he said, “The cam­paign gave mas­sive expo­sure to the dis­ease and across the mil­lions of video uploads from celebri­ties and mem­bers of the pub­lic alike, gen­er­at­ed a bil­lion views on YouTube and 10 bil­lion views on Face­book.”

It also allowed brands like Coke, McDonald’s, Tar­get, KFC and Best Buy to jump on the prover­bial band­wag­on.

Brands Are Creating Videos To Target Deeply Engaged Audiences

Ste­fan­sky said some of the year’s top video ads were also tar­get­ed to real­ly engaged audi­ences like foot­ball fans.

Jar­boe agrees, not­ing it was also a big year for live sports with the Olympics and the World Cup, so brands were increas­ing­ly able to use YouTube to reach fans before and after games.

And for good rea­son — the top 10 Super Bowl and World Cup ads this year earned a remark­able 14 mil­lion hours of watch time, with 75 per­cent of those hours con­sumed before or after the events them­selves,” Jar­boe adds.

The videos come from big brands.

The top video ads are also most­ly from large brands, Ste­fan­sky notes. The ques­tion now, he said, is whether small­er brands will be able to lever­age what big brands are doing and emu­late the style that is work­ing for them.

So how exact­ly do they do that?

Brands Should Play Around With Timing

Ste­fan­sky said brands should remem­ber they’re not con­strained to 30-sec­ond spots and exper­i­ment with longer form videos, doing A/B test­ing with dif­fer­ent video lengths to get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what their audi­ences want.

Brands Should Borrow Lessons From TV Advertising

The ads on the 2014 list incor­po­rate many of the same ele­ments that work well in great TV adver­tis­ing, notes Kyle Bunch, group direc­tor of mobile and social plat­forms at dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing firm R/GA. That means start­ing “with a real­ly strong insight about the audi­ence a brand is try­ing to reach and [speak­ing] to an inher­ent human choice and [look­ing at whether it] does it in a way that makes an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with the audi­ence,” he said.

That also means the videos tell strong sto­ries that play on share­able dynam­ics, include ele­ments that are time­ly and rel­e­vant and elic­it strong emo­tion­al respons­es.

And these things, he said, are “blend­ed with a lot of things that work well on the Inter­net, like cats, dogs and things that make peo­ple laugh.”

Brands Should Create Shared Moments

In addi­tion, Bunch rec­om­mends cre­at­ing a shared moment a la CardStore.com and its #World­sTough­estJob video.

I think that’s a real­ly nice stand­out exam­ple of some­thing that has that right degree of the unex­pect­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly a kind of cul­tur­al moment of watch­ing it and expe­ri­enc­ing it and the big reveal moment,” he said. “An expe­ri­ence like that stands out as there’s a shared moment in watch­ing it and [view­ers] want to take it to social and share it.”

Who And What Is Missing?

Anoth­er inter­est­ing con­sid­er­a­tion is what is not on the list: Bunch said that despite the so-called “rise of the YouTube star,” YouTube stars are con­spic­u­ous­ly absent from the list.

He nev­er­the­less still expects to see more videos with influ­encers next year.

Jar­boe said that by look­ing at the Mash­able Glob­al Ads Chart for the last year, it is inter­est­ing to con­sid­er which brands are miss­ing if you look at the top brands by indus­try.

For exam­ple, the top air­line in the 2014 Christ­mas ads is from West­Jet, so Jar­boe asks, “Where are Unit­ed Air­lines, Delta Air Lines or Amer­i­can Air­lines?”

In addi­tion, UPS is on the list, but not FedEx. And Sam­sung Mobile is on the list, but not Apple’s iPhone. The same is also true of the auto indus­try, he notes.

In oth­er words, there are a lot of big brands that still haven’t fig­ured out social video,” Jar­boe said. “Going for­ward, will they just keep doing what they’re doing, or will they stop being big brands?”

Other Predictions

Accord­ing to Ste­fan­sky, there is a trend toward dri­ving view­er engage­ment with­in videos as opposed to views being the only met­ric of suc­cess. He expects brands will be smarter in 2015 about under­stand­ing video ROI and fac­tor­ing in their objec­tives, like down­load­ing con­tent or becom­ing a social fol­low­er.

In addi­tion, per Jar­boe, “track­ver­tis­ing,” or a music video co-released by a brand and an artist, where the col­lab­o­ra­tion is clear­ly announced either in the video title, video descrip­tion or with­in the video itself, is “off the charts.”

In addi­tion, he said music videos are the most shared type of video con­tent on the social web, with an aver­age share rate of 7.1 per­cent com­pared to brand videos at 2.1 per­cent, and “music trig­gers deep-seat­ed emo­tion­al respons­es, which are crit­i­cal to brands as emo­tion­al inten­si­ty is the most sig­nif­i­cant vari­able in dri­ving social activ­i­ty. So, I expect more brands will col­lab­o­rate with artists to cre­ate ‘track­verts’ in 2015,” he said.


What do you think brands can learn from the year’s top video ads on YouTube?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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