As we look back on 2012, one of the biggest questions we saw around choice-based video advertising was related to scale. Can choice-based video reach television-sized audiences or the equivalent of impression-based video campaigns, measured in the tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of impressions?
While we still have a long way to go for the average choice-based campaign to consistently reach TV and in-stream levels, consider this: Three campaigns in 2012 topped 100 million video views. "Kony 2012" topped 210 million video views. Red Bull's "Stratos" campaign topped 150 million video views. And "Angry Birds Space" topped 100 million video views. And these aren't Super Bowl campaigns.
Also, when people choose to watch a video ad, the experience is entirely different than if they see it via pre-roll or on TV. They're more engaged and, as a result, have better recall of the ad, brand, and message. Yes, it's more challenging for brands to convince consumers to choose to watch their video ads, but when they do, it pays off.
The top video campaigns are also getting bigger. Last year's most-watched ad, Volkswagen's "The Force" (62 million views in 2011), would only take fifth place on the 2012 list. The average view count for campaigns in the top 10 in 2011 was 33 million. The average in 2012 is 80 million -- more than double.
So what are brands to make of this trend? Audiences are increasingly looking for news, information, and entertainment in video. If a brand produces good content, audiences will choose to watch them. And if they don't, they'll choose to watch a competitor's video content instead.
With content at the center of video performance, we wanted to show you the phenomenal content that audiences chose to watch more than any other video ads this year. To compile this top 10 list of 2012 video ad campaigns, we looked at thousands of video campaigns and ranked their performance by our MRC-accredited True Reach metric in 2012. True Reach combines the video viewership of the original clips uploaded by the brand and their agencies along with clips uploaded by audiences, including copies of the original ads and derivative content such as video responses, spoofs, mixes, mashups, and more. All views are user-initiated, meaning a real person needs to click the play button for a view to count.
Editor's note: This list represents the top 10 campaigns as of Nov. 29. At that time, a new campaign by Metro was at 31.6 million views and still climbing. It's likely that, before 2012 is over, this campaign will surpass one or more of those on this list.
Campaign: "Kony 2012"
The biggest campaign of the year was by far Invisible Children's "Kony 2012." Released in March, the campaign's goal was to make Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord, famous. And they did: The campaign broke online video records, crashing past 100 million views in just six days, scoring more than 41 million views in a single day, and becoming the second most-watched video ad campaign in history with a total 211 million video views. Audiences got involved at unprecedented levels in spreading the Invisible Children's message by publishing more than 3,300 clips for the campaign.
2012 True Reach views: 211,286,369
Red Bull grabbed second place with its own record-breaking campaign. Sponsored by Red Bull, daredevil Felix Baumgartner broke records when he jumped from the edge of space, falling 127,000 feet from the stratosphere to the earth, breaking the sound barrier on the way. The jumped topped 50 million views in three days and has gone on to generate a total 156 million video views. The campaign has inspired more than 2,400 clips scattered across the web, with the vast majority of them coming from copies of the ascent and jump itself.
2012 True Reach views: 156,691,794
Campaign: "Angry Birds Space"
With three wildly successful games under the "Angry Birds" franchise, Rovio decided to up its game for the fourth installment, "Angry Birds Space," and launch a video campaign. The campaign includes a NASA astronaut explaining the laws of physics in "Angry Birds" from the International Space Station. The campaign also includes trailers of gameplay and a background story on how the birds went intergalactic, reminiscent of a super-hero flick or comic book. In all, the campaign has produced more than 104 million views. Is Rovio happy with the results? It would appear so, as the franchise already has another video campaign for its next release, "Angry Birds Star Wars."
2012 True Reach views: 104,909,951
Campaign: "Galaxy S III"
The Korean electronics giant has been ubiquitous in video this year. Its biggest campaign has been "Galaxy S III," which includes multiple creatives. In perhaps its biggest coup of the year, Samsung released the creative "The Next Big Thing Is Already Here" just days after the iPhone 5 launch. Featuring Apple fans waiting in line for the iPhone 5 while pining over features the Galaxy S III already has, Samsung's clever campaign dominated Apple's launch efforts. In all, "Galaxy S III" has driven more than 70 million video views.
Creative agency: 72andSunny Los Angeles
2012 True Reach views: 70,299,930
Campaign: "The Beauty Inside"
With a premise worthy of the silver screen, Intel and Toshiba launched "The Beauty Inside," starring Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and fans across the world. The campaign tells the story of a man named Alex who wakes up as a different person everyday, which is a challenge when trying to land the woman of your dreams -- but a smart way of incorporating audiences into the storyline. Lasting several weeks, just like a miniseries, Intel and Toshiba released six full episodes between five and 10 minutes long. "The Beauty Inside" bridges the gap between Hollywood filmmaking, branded content, and audience participation, which, ultimately, helped Intel and Toshiba inspire more than 54 million views.
Creative agency: Pereira & O'Dell San Francisco
2012 True Reach views: 54,401,372
Campaign: "Just My Shell"
The candy brand scored this year's most-watched Super Bowl campaign with "Just My Shell." The spot shows a "naked" brown M&M at a party, featuring the voice talent of Vanessa Williams. In all, the ad has more than 340 copies, spoofs, and mashups associated with it, which are responsible for more than 85 percent of the campaign's total 48 million video views.
Creative agency: BBDO New York
2012 True Reach views: 48,093,340
Campaign: "Proud Sponsor of Moms"
P&G decided to own the 2012 Olympics with its "Proud Sponsor of Moms" campaign. The campaign has multiple creatives. These include the main spot, featuring moms helping and encouraging their children to be their best every day and realize their goals, as well as interviews with mothers of Olympic athletes and "thank you" videos from athletes to their moms. With so much content, P&G created a campaign where there was something for everyone interested in the Olympics. Spanning months of new creative launches and media pushes, the campaign has won more than 46 million video views.
Creative agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
2012 True Reach views: 46,303,157
Campaign: "The Dog Strikes Back"
Hoping to capitalize on its breakout success in 2011 with "The Force," the German automaker released another Star Wars-themed campaign in 2012 with "The Dog Strikes Back." The campaign launched a teaser a couple of weeks before game day, building anticipation for the Super Bowl spot and driving up viewership. In all, the campaign has run up more than 41 million views this year. Notably, VW is the only brand on this list that had a campaign on the top 10 list in 2011.
Creative agency: Deutsch Los Angeles
2012 True Reach views: 41,001,384
Campaign: "Gymkhana Five"
DC Shoes has found a formula that works in video advertising, and it's sticking to it: Get your spokesperson to do insane stunts with his rally car. For its fifth installment in the Gymkhana series, DC Shoes unleashed Ken Block and his awesome tricks on the streets of San Francisco, which were good enough for more than 20 million views in a week. The campaign went on to produce more than 35 million views in 2012.
2012 True Reach views: 35,720,400
Campaign: "Summer of Football"
Nike is all about saluting champions where they work. The apparel brand did it in 2010 with "Write the Future" before the World Cup, and it did it again this year with "Summer of Football" for the Eurocup. "Summer of Football" enables audiences get into the game by stopping the campaign's main video at certain points and exploring mini stories behind the game. There are more than 500 clips related to the campaign on the web, from the original three-minute-plus main creative to interviews with famous footballers.
Creative agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
2012 True Reach views: 35,119,995
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