There are some brands, like Samsung, that are viral video powerhouses. No matter what time of year it is or what product it's promoting, Samsung's videos always take off. So it's no surprise that three of the most viewed videos of the summer, come from the consumer tech brand.
There are also some categories that always perform well. Branded videos about electronics and technology always score big views. This summer we've seen big hits about smartphones (from Samsung and Blackberry), a game console (Sony PlayStation), and any number of Google products. But, again, those products perform well all year long.
There are some creative tactics, like using a celebrity, that all-but guarantee success. The holidays and the Super Bowl see a massive influx in celebrity-driven branded videos, but some of the most popular videos this summer have featured famous faces. Samsung had two 50 million-plus view campaigns using Usher and Jay-Z and DIRECTV recently released a video featuring the Manning Brothers that is raking up views.
But there are trends that change from season to season.
The beginning of the year is dominated by Super Bowl campaigns, which tend to consist of CPG and car brands. The spring was all about interesting creative approaches like Evian's "Baby & Me" and Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches," which turned into mega-viral hits. But of the thousands of campaigns that we've measured, there are three noticeable trends that drove big conversation and big views this summer.
Small brands make a name with big ideas
During the summer TV shows are in re-runs and people spend less time in front of a screen, so many big brands scale back on their marketing. That leaves the market wide-open for smaller brands to make an impression. This year we saw a few of them make a real impact with edgy branded videos.
The small brand to grab the most headlines was Hello Flo, a feminine care subscription service that released a branded video called "The Camp Gyno" at the end of July. It stars a young entrepreneurial girl at a summer camp who exploits other girls with their periods.
The campaign caught consumers' attention -- and caused a bit of controversy -- because it talked about the uncomfortable topic in a blunt, but hilarious way. And it incited debate about how we talk about women and their periods, making a name for the start-up. Hello Flo garnered a True Reach of more than 5.8 million views in a few weeks.
Do-good messages break through
The decrease of big name advertisers over the summer also left more room for non-profits and others brands to get their do-good, change-focused messages out to the world. This summer we saw 5-Hour Energy take the time to highlight people who are helping the world, Comic Relief promote its Red Nose Day, and a Melbourne Metro Trains continue to tally up views with its train safety video "Dumb Ways to Die."
We also saw #PubLooShocker, a PSA about drunk driving that launched in June. In the UK Department for Transport spot, pub goers are shocked they are brought face-to-face with the bloody head of a person smashing through the mirror, like he or she might smash through a windshield. Most of the viewers commented that it was one of the scariest and effective ads that they had ever seen. It has a True Reach of more than 10.9 million views.
And then there was an impactful video from British human rights advocacy group, Reprieve. In it, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) is force fed under standard Guantanamo Bay procedure when inmates are on hunger strikes. It's disturbing, there's no question. But the video with 6.9 million views also started a conversation in the news about the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
Stunts and pranks pull in views
Stunts and pranks have always been popular with viewers. But since March, when Pepsi MAX generated more than 46 million views with "Test Drive" -- featuring an undercover Jeff Gordon -- it seems like more brands have been trying their hand at the creative execution.
Pepsi continued to rely on stunts and pranks to drive conversation around the brand. It had two campaigns make the Ad Age Viral Chart this summer that relied on the tactic. Diet Pepsi's "Check Out" featured undercover celebrity Josh Duhamel posing as a cashier at an LA grocery store. And Pepsi MAX's "Bus Levitation" showed UK magician, Dynamo, levitate next to a London bus, shocking onlookers around the city. The campaigns have a True Reach of 3.3 and 6.5 million views, respectively.
But Pepsi doesn't have a monopoly on these kinds of stunts and pranks. Adobe scored a hit this summer with "Photoshop Live." In the video, a Photoshop artist shocks Stockholm commuters by transforming their likeness on a bus shelter ad. The video generated 18.6 million views in promotion of Adobe's Creative Days.
Brian Shin is founder and CEO at Visible Measures.
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