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3 reasons Turkish Airlines' "Selfie Shootout" was so darn popular

3 reasons Turkish Airlines' "Selfie Shootout" was so darn popular Mallory Russell

December was a huge month for branded video. In fact, the month pulled in more views than any month prior in 2013. More than 491.9 million branded video views were tallied, with 28 percent of those views attributed to one brand, Turkish Airlines.

On December's iMedia Brands in Video chart, Turkish Airlines takes the top spot for the month after generating a True Reach of more than 138.3 million views. That's nearly 55 million more views than the next brand on the list, YouTube. And more than seven times the views accumulated by the last brand on the list, Verizon.

Holiday and end-of-the-year messaging usually dominate the last month of the year, and this December was no exception. YouTube, Google, WestJet, and Delov Digital all scored big hits with these types of seasonal campaigns. So how did Turkish Airlines manage to crush all the competition?


Let's start with the fact that Turkish Airlines' December campaign, "The Selfie Shootout," stars not one, but two of the most popular athletes in the world. Reprising their roles from "Legends on Board" as competitors of one-upage, Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant face off in this campaign in an epic battle of selfies.

Messi is a four-time world footballer of the year, and Bryant has started in the NBA All-Star game 15 consecutive times, not to mention the five NBA championship rings he has at home. Both athletes draw major attention for viewers -- Bryant in the U.S. and Messi abroad -- as is evident by the fact that both this campaign and the previous campaign achieved viewership in excess of 100 million views.

"The Selfie Shootout" garnered a True Reach of more than 135.5 million views in December, which is the highest viewership in one month from any new campaign in 2013. The new campaign reached 100 million in only eight days, which is 12 days sooner than it took "Legends on Board" to reach that milestone. Its quick accumulation of views also makes it the second fastest campaign to reach 100 million views, after Invisible Children's "Kony 2012."


But a celebrity appearance alone won't engage viewers or produce earned media. For a campaign to be successful, it must have a compelling story.

Turkish Airlines started its story last year with "Legends on Board." It was then that it established a friendly rivalry between Messi and Bryant. They were fellow passengers on a plane then, and they were competing for the attention of a young passenger with a series of tricks that escalated in complexity.

The ad was cute and light-hearted, and for American audiences, it was a departure from the airline ads that fill our screens. It didn't talk about service or legroom or delays. Turkish Airlines provided a refreshing message of air travel as an experience.

Those same themes were continued in "The Selfie Shootout," which is part of the brand's larger "Widen Your World" campaign. Again we see Messi and Bryant engaged in a game of "anything you can do I can do better," but this time, instead of impressing a young passenger, they are trying to take the most impressive selfie. And again the tone is light-hearted. Messi poses in front of Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral and with a monkey in Thailand, only to have Bryant answer with a photo of him in Africa getting licked by a lion. The noticeable difference between this campaign and its predecessor is that the action has moved from inside the cabin to the places in the world that Turkish Airlines flies.


Of course, there is one other very important factor in the success of this video: timeliness. Every year has some kind of trend that dominates it. In 2012, you might argue that this trend was planking. But in 2013, there is no doubt that the hottest trend out there was "the selfie."

A photo type that was once only seen on MySpace profile pages or used as a last resort (because there was no one around to take your picture), the selfie is now a favorite for all ages. During the year, we saw selfies from celebrities (think Kim in that bathing suit), royalty (Prince William and Prince Charles), heads of state (President Obama, to name one), and even the Pope. In fact, "selfie" was named as the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year.

Because of production timelines, often brands will come out with a campaign that capitalizes on a trend just a tad too late. But Turkish Airlines showed up right on time to this party. In fact, you might say that the brand has even escalated selfie-taking to the next level.

It might be coincidence, but it seems as though other organizations are taking inspiration from Turkish Airlines. Now a host of selfie competitions are popping up, less than a month after "The Selfie Shootout" was released. The most popular was the #SelfieOlympics, which has thousands of participants across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It has seen young people, in particular, post a series of outrageous -- and sometimes dangerous -- selfies. It's interesting, however, that Turkish Airlines hasn't started its own selfie competition over social media as an extension of the campaign.

Mallory Russell is content editor at Visible Measures.

iMedia's Top 10 Brands in Video chart, powered by Visible Measures, focuses on aggregated brand view counts across related social video ad campaigns. Each brand and campaign is measured on a True Reach basis, which includes viewership of both brand-syndicated and audience-driven video clips. The data are compiled using the patented Visible Measures platform, a constantly growing repository of analytic data on close to 400 million videos tracked across more than 300 online video destinations.

Note: This analysis does not include Visible Measures' paid-placement (e.g., overlays; pre-, mid-, and post-roll) performance data or video views on private sites. This chart does not include movie trailers, video game campaigns, TV show, or media network promotions. View counts are incremental by month.

Learn more here.

Mallory Russell is the Director of Content for Visible Measures. Prior to joining Visible Measures, Mallory wrote for Advertising Age and Business Insider. She also spent a few years in the San Francisco ad business at DraftFCB and Goodby,...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Adnan Uludag

2014, June 23

Hi Mallory, nice article. Let me correct last sentence. there was also a not only a contest but also mobile companion, as extension of campagn. Mobile App is called Selfshot and the selfies produced through that mobile app, were able to join a contest where the most liked selfies was awarded. The contest website was www.widenyourselfie.com