In many ways, the world of choice-based video advertising is a reflection of society at any given time. Whether it's for the Super Bowl or the Royal Wedding, the ads that we choose to watch most are heavily influenced by cultural events. We choose to watch ads that are topical, relevant, engaging, and recommended by friends and family. These ads become top of mind for many of us, generating further buzz and word of mouth. We the people drive the ultimate success of these ads.
But because this form of advertising is fueled by consumer choice -- not interruption, like most advertising -- it's been challenging for brands to master. It's difficult to project what will resonate with people at any given time. It helps to look at past successes to determine what might work in the future.
With this in mind, we took a look at the top five most-watched campaigns of the year thus far. We measured each campaign on a True Reach basis, which combines the performance of brand-driven and audience-driven video clips across the web. These are user-initiated views -- not interrupted impressions -- so a real person had to click "play" to watch these ads. These are the ads we, collectively, chose to watch most.
Before we get to the results, let's look at the big themes of the top five campaigns.
They look and feel like content. As you look through the top five campaigns, you'll notice that these ads aren't standard brand pitches. These campaigns focus on storytelling and engaging the audience. They're relatively light on branding and the standard facts, figures, and features.
They're connected with big events. Out of the top five campaigns, only one wasn't connected to a major event this year. Three of the top campaigns came out of the Super Bowl, while one capitalized on the Royal Wedding. This speaks to the overall rising-tide effect advertisers receive when advertising against or alongside a big event.
They're viewable. There's simply too much noise out there for campaigns to be chosen organically on their own. You could have great creative, but if no one knows it exists, no one will choose to watch it. Consumer choice is driven by media plans and strategies focused on generating choice-based views. Great creative will send consumer choice into overdrive.
The top five campaigns this year have each received choice-based promotion. This, combined with phenomenal creative, is why they've made the list.
The top 5 campaigns of 2011 (as of June 1, 2011)
1. Volkswagen: The Force (55+ million views)
VW's The Force has been this year's breakout hit in choice-based video advertising. Scheduled to debut during Super Bowl 2011, the campaign "leaked" a few days before the big game. The campaign was an instant viral hit, generating more than 14 million views before kickoff. Since then, the campaign has gone on to produce more than 55 million views from nearly 600 clips across the web. Today, The Force has stabilized around 650,000 weekly views.
2. Doritos: Crash the Super Bowl 2011 (32.5+ million views)
This is the third year that Doritos has run its Crash the Super Bowl campaign. Crash the Super Bowl crowdsources online video ad submissions in return for potential TV airtime and cash prizes. This year, Doritos' Crash the Super Bowl is spread across three core creatives -- Pug Attack, The Best Part, and House Sitting. Pug Attack leads the group with 8.2 million views. However, the most significant portion of views for the campaign comes from the community-driven ads that didn't make the Super Bowl. In all, the 200-plus rejected ads have produced more than 13.3 million views.
3. T-Mobile: Royal Wedding (25.3+ million views)
As the world prepared for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, T-Mobile stole the show. With an homage to the viral hit JK Wedding Dance, the telecommunications brand launched a spoof of a royal wedding dance procession about two weeks before the real wedding. The campaign caught fire quickly, gaining 3 million views in just two days. And when the real wedding actually happened, the campaign generated an additional 2.1 million-plus views in just one day. In terms of overall cultural impact, if you search for "royal wedding" in Google, the T-Mobile campaign is the fifth result. It's the first result in YouTube, above real Royal Wedding clips.
4. Evian: Live Young (23.3+ million views)
Evian's Live Young could be the most sustainable choice-based campaign ever. Launched in 2009, Live Young produces about 1 million views every week. The campaign has multiple creatives, with Roller Babies taking the lead with 115 million-plus cumulative views. When the campaign launched in 2009, Evian promoted the different creatives with choice-based media online. After seeing that Roller Babies was significantly outperforming, Evian launched the creative on TV. The campaign also benefits from multiple behind-the-scenes clips, with interviews with the babies, making-of clips, and more.
5. Chrysler: Imported from Detroit (16.8+ million views)
Imported from Detroit generated the bulk of its views shortly after Super Bowl 2011. As of early March, the campaign stabilized around an average 230,000 views a week. Imported from Detroit was honored as one of the winning ads for TED's Ads Worth Spreading contest.
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