Branded video is one of the most powerful -- and shareable -- forms of advertising in today's increasingly fragmented world of digital media. The videos that get the most traction often grab viewer attention with an engrossing narrative. Since even a single successful video campaign can mean big things for a brand, online video has become a crowded space, with lots of players competing for consumer attention. So we're bringing you the most-watched campaigns of 2015 to showcase the creativity and thoughtful storytelling that can help a video advertisement far surpass the competition.
Last year's top 10 list showed us the power of drawing heavily on emotion, with trends like female empowerment and World Cup-inspired messaging rising to the top. 2014's most-watched campaign was Wren's "First Kiss," which gave viewers a peak at an intimate moment between strangers. This year, the top campaigns are enticing viewers with all kinds of emotion-driven narratives, featuring everything from humor, tolerance, and inspiration, to action, innovation, and puppy love (literally). You'll see major players Adidas and Samsung show up on the list once again, as well as a few brands that may surprise you.
The statistics compiled in the following video round-up come from Visible Measures. Each year, Visible Measures looks at thousands of campaigns and ranks their performances by its MRC-accredited True Reach metric. True Reach takes into account both brand-driven and audience-driven viewership. This includes copies and derivative content such as responses, spoofs, mixes, and mash-ups across hundreds of the internet's most-visited video sites.
In addition to True Reach views, Visible Measures calculated each campaign's total social interactions. This number includes YouTube comments and ratings as well as Facebook likes, comments, and shares. The social interactions figure can help demonstrate which campaigns went viral organically as opposed to those that relied more on paid traffic. For example, though they didn't quite make the top 10 list based on True Reach, Budweiser's "Lost Dog" and Kleenex's "Unlikely Best Friends" both garnered more than 2 million social interactions, suggesting a high level of shareability.
Ultimately, brands are looking for eyes on their messaging, but those that drive consumers to engage and share often have the most to gain. With that in mind, let's take a look at what marketers and advertisers can learn from this year's results. Here are the 10 branded video campaigns people viewed most in 2015.
Editor's note: This list represents the top 10 campaigns released in 2015 as of November 19.
Facebook: "What's On Your Mind?"
- 2015 True Reach views: 278,403,557
- Social interactions: 2,558,941
- Release date: June 20, 2015
The No. 1 spot goes to Facebook this year, with its "What's on your mind" series of slow-motion video ads racking up nearly 280 million True Reach views. Debuting in June 2015, videos like the one above use humor, drama, and detail to celebrate and rethink the Facebook status. "It's the story behind the post, whether it's people thinking about what they're going to write or who they'll tag -- all those elements before what we ultimately see in our feed. We wanted to pay homage to that," Rebecca Van Dyck, VP of consumer and brand marketing, told Adweek. 2014's top campaign, "First Kiss," had a True Reach of 156,670,932 views, while this series of 13 short ads nearly doubled that, so it seems that branded video is only getting bigger with each year.
Here's another great one from Facebook's series to check out.
Ad Council: "Love Has No Labels"
- 2015 True Reach views: 158,987,348
- Social interactions: 4,585,322
- Release date: March 3, 2015
- Agency: R/GA
While it came in at second by True Reach views, this much-talked-about PSA from the Ad Council brought in the most social interactions (4.5 million) of any video on this list. With Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's gay rights anthem "Same Love" as the backdrop, this poignant video shows viewers what we all share, rather than what makes us different. People of all genders, sexualities, ages, races, and abilities look the same as skeletons who kiss, dance, and play to demonstrate universal love and acceptance. According to the Ad Council, its "Diversity & Inclusion" campaign asks everyone to "reconsider the biases that we don't even know we have."
Adidas: "Create Your Own Game"
- 2015 True Reach views: 148,072,114
- Social interactions: 1,618,055
- Release date: August 6, 2015
- Agency: 72andSunny
This August, 72andSunny debuted its first work for new client Adidas, and the campaign was a rousing success, bringing in nearly 150 million True Reach views. Featuring soccer sensations like Lionel Messi, the video campaign suggests soccer fans and other viewers should be individuals rather than mere followers. As the star athletes show off their best moves, the narrator says, "You may want to follow me. Don't. Create your own game." The ad above gives fans some impressive feats of athleticism to strive for, but the main takeaway from the video is that true success comes from carving your own path.
Wrigley's Extra: "The Story of Sarah & Juan"
- 2015 True Reach views: 116,192,238
- Social interactions: 3,454,573
- Release date: October 7, 2015
- Agency: Energy BBDO
Thanks to Wrigley's and BBDO, a sweet love story made it on this year's most-watched list. Viewers see the young romantics through ups and downs starting with their first meeting. Sharing sticks of gum becomes a common theme throughout their relationship, yet the video doesn't come off as contrived, in large part thanks to its actors. "[It] is not about a specific relationship," BBDO executive creative director Andrés Ordoñéz told Adweek, "but about all moments of connection. This time we chose to focus on a love story. The chemistry between our lead actors was so good, people were tearing up on set during the first scene on day one. We knew we had a beautiful story to share."
With its engrossing and genuine on-screen performances not typically found in short, branded segments, "Sarah & Juan" is the kind of ad that stays with you.
Adidas: "Take It"
- 2015 True Reach views: 116,068,779
- Social interactions: 1,410,794
- Release date: February 13, 2015
- Agency: 180LA
Though the second ad from Adidas on this list, "Take It" was actually launched first, back in February when Adidas was still with 180LA. Showcasing a variety of sports and athletes taking chances and making moves, the campaign drives home a similar call to follow your own path, with a narrator declaring, "Do something and be remembered, or do nothing and be forgotten. No one owns today. Take it." Both campaigns from Adidas draw on universal themes encouraging viewers to seize the day and value their individuality. With these strong hopes and feelings harnessed on screen, any athlete or viewer can find meaning in the message.
Purina and BuzzFeed: "Man and Puppy"
- 2015 True Reach views: 95,168,633
- Social interactions: 3,447,590
- Release date: May 29, 2015
Another winning video campaign this year came from a humorous collaboration between BuzzFeed and Purina. A new puppy owner goes through both the rewards and challenges of pet ownership in this adorable campaign. As man takes his new best friend around the house, struggling through the tough moments of puppy-care, the friendship is cemented by Purina Puppy Chow. Undeniably shareable -- as is most content involving puppies -- the campaign garnered nearly 3.5 million social interactions. Next, check out "Some Ground Rules," another charming video from the "Puppyhood" series.
Air France: "France Is In The Air"
- 2015 True Reach views: 88,367,446
- Social interactions: 79,452
- Release date: March 5, 2015
- Agency: BETC (Paris)
One of the more mysterious and ethereal videos of the year comes from Air France. This campaign feature airline passengers taking flight in a way you wouldn't expect -- on swings. The video has a unique dreamy quality that allows it to stand out. It's not an ad that tells you all the specific features and advantages of a flight with Air France. Instead, it clues you in to the feeling you can achieve next time you are "in the air" with this airline. And that feeling is all at once dreamy, romantic, creative, playful, and carefree.
Samsung: "Galaxy Note5 Official Introduction"
- 2015 True Reach views: 85,366,327
- Social interactions: 748,766
- Release date: August 13, 2015
Next comes a video less about the story and more the product itself. Samsung's Galaxy Note5 introduction highlights its sleek features and capabilities, giving tech junkies all the juicy details and specifications they're looking for. The Note's S Pen is given plenty of attention in the spots as well. This campaign just debuted in August, and it has already racked up more than 85 million True Reach views. There's not much of a narrative here, but the campaign is far from dry, engaging viewers with feelings of inspiration and innovation rather than anything close to sentimental.
Amazon: "Amazon App"
- 2015 True Reach views: 76,259,371
- Social interactions: 364
- Release date: February 2, 2015
Launched in February, Amazon's video campaign calling on shoppers to try its mobile app hooks audiences with the familiar predicament of needing to buy a gift for someone. These no-frills spots get to the point quickly, explaining the best reasons to download the Amazon app: scanning barcodes with your phone, adding items to your wish list with ease, and receiving quick mobile updates on the status of your package. This campaign sparked just 364 social shares, likely indicating a large portion of paid traffic. (Another contributing factor in this case is that comments are disabled on the campaign's original YouTube videos.) Since the content isn't as shareable as some other campaigns on our list, it's not too surprising that these spots didn't go viral organically.
- 2015 True Reach views: 74,353,189
- Social interactions: 377,249
- Release date: April 28, 2015
- Agency: 72andSunny
Lastly, in the No. 10 most-watched spot, we have another campaign from branded video giant Samsung. (Samsung had two additional campaigns in the top 15, not featured on this list.) In this one, released in late April, Samsung drew on its partnership with "Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron" to captivate viewers while showcasing Samsung devices and teasing the upcoming film. Leo Messi makes an appearance on the most-watched list yet again, this time as one of the recruits for a secret mission in Samsung's "Assemble." The biggest strength of this campaign was how it sparked viewer involvement.
Bryan Rowles, 72andSunny partner and executive creative director, explained to Ad Age, "We ended up with the idea that, whether you're an athlete or a normal person, wouldn't it be cool to be a superhero -- wouldn't it be cool to be an Avenger?" At the end of Part 2, the mission is extended to Avengers fans everywhere, who can engage in their own virtual reality with the help of an Android device or Gear VR headset.
Chloe Della Costa is a contributing writer for iMedia Connection.
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"Group of young adults browsing a tablet outside" image via iStock.