3 Lessons From YouTube's Top Video Ads of 2014

Did you know that 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute? This has created a huge opportunity for branded content and now consumers are watching more videos from brands than ever before. So what prompted this increase?

For starters, companies are now creating videos that people seek out and watch. Content has become so good that consumers are actually looking for it proactively rather than waiting for it to appear in their feeds. But a few other factors have led to this rise in video views as well.

We took a closer look at YouTube’s top video ads of 2014 and collected a few key takeaways that you can apply to your upcoming video campaigns in the new year.

1. Videos Are Created Exclusively for Digital

Online video ads used to be just repurposed segments of TV ads or teasers for soon-to-be-aired spots. That’s not the case on the current leaderboard. Many of this year’s popular YouTube ads will never been seen on TV, and that’s because they were created exclusively for the second screen.

Advertisers are starting to realize that what works online doesn’t always translate to TV, and vice versa. That’s not to say that branded content previously aired on TV won’t perform well online, but the differentiation seems to be paying off. There’s a time and place for recycled content, but it should only be done if it’s beneficial to your objectives.

Rather that re-use an existing video, create a new one that builds on a successful story line. Take Budweiser for example. The brand was a fan favorite with its “Puppy Love” Super Bowl commercial, which featured a heartwarming tale of a puppy and one of the iconic Clydesdale horses. The video has received more than 54 million views — more than any other Super Bowl spot.

Building on that success, Budweiser brought back a puppy for its recent PSA against drunk driving. The digital-only ad was released this past September and has racked up more than 19 million views. It was also trending on social with the hashtag #friendsarewaiting. Both videos are featured in YouTube’s top 10 ads of 2014.

2. Viewers’ Attention Spans Are Increasing

Depending on platform and purpose this might not always be true, but it appears that people are making more time for videos on YouTube. According to the company, people watched more than 1 billion minutes of the top 10 ads this year.

And while the top ads were nearly 50 percent longer in 2014 compared with 2013 — averaging around three minutes each — viewers tuned in longer, spending about 50 percent more time watching them. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone should immediately adopt long-form video content.

There’s no proof here that a three-minute video performs better than a 30-second one. That said, should your video warrant an extra minute to provide value and/or entertainment, this data leads us to believe that the longer time won’t directly hurt its performance.

Let’s look at Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, which aimed to educate and empower viewers. Although it’s more than three times as long as Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” campaign, the video brought in just as many views (53.5 million) and didn’t need a major event to kick it off. This goes to show that video length isn’t a barrier to success.

3. Videos Extend Beyond YouTube

Consumers’ attitudes toward branded content have changed. Even if they’re not coming to you looking for content, now more than ever, people are ready to discover it. Of course, it helps to get friends involved. A report from media software firm Levels Beyond found that 61 percent of people said they watch branded videos when they’re shared by friends.

Marketing agency Thinkmodo’s Devil Baby Attack video is the second most shared video ad of 2014 with more than 2.1 million social shares. The video features a concept called “prankvertising” in which an animatronic demon baby sits up and screams when unsuspecting onlookers get close to the stroller. This was done as part of a promotion for the movie Devil’s Due.

No one is searching for a movie they’ve never heard of, and we’re pretty certain that “devil baby attack” isn’t a very popular search term — at least it wasn’t prior to this video’s release. The only way the video amassed 49 million views is through social shares on other platforms and through email.

We’ve only highlighted a small portion of the videos identified in YouTube’s 2014 list, but the key takeaways apply across the leaderboard. Regroup with your social and creative teams in the new year and talk about how you can apply these insights to future campaigns.