Four Trends From The Best YouTube Ads Of 2017

January 2018

How do brands create videos people actually want to watch? Our look at the ads our viewers watched, liked and shared most across Europe in 2017 reveals some surprising trends...

In 2017, the media landscape showed no signs of settling into a steady pattern, with  advertisers continuing to pursue attention across multiple screens.

We saw daily YouTube watchtime in people’s living rooms growing by over 70% - a sure sign of change in consumption habits. Mobile also continues to predominate: we  know our users now also spend over an hour a day watching videos on mobile.

We’ve also seen direct response advertisers embrace the power of video in 2017 with seven of this year’s top 10 brands in that category, showing the potential of the medium not just to build brand equity but deliver on lower-funnel performance metrics.

Our annual Ads Leaderboard, which ranks those YouTube ads most watched, shared and liked by real people, has revealed the year’s biggest hitters - and a number of trends. We took a deep dive so you don’t have to...

Size matters - or does it?

Despite audience attention coming at a premium, length was no barrier to storytelling for brands like Heineken this year, nor Samsung whose Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ introduction video stretched to almost four minutes.

For this rundown of features on the hotly-awaited new handset the brand chose to go in-depth and reward fans’ patience rather than rush - a strategy that paid off, scoring over 34 million views.

Clash of Clans’ teaser for an upcoming update clocked in at under one minute but gained 92 million views with a simple, comedic narrative.

Sometimes, less really is more: we’ve seen around one in three large advertisers buying six second bumper ads this year.

Family brings a message home

Emotive storytelling is key to building brand love and preference; that’s an insight this year’s top performers quite literally brought home, with family and belonging emerging as key ad themes.

German supermarket Netto’s moving Easter ad combined lush animation with a simple story about never forgetting your family roots (and a possible origin for the Easter Bunny) which gained over 11 million views.

In the UK, Marks & Spencer’s use of  beloved children’s character Paddington Bear helped create one of the year’s most successful Christmas campaigns, with a burglar seeing the error of his ways after looking in on a happy family on Christmas eve.

Riffing on music works

Music has found a place at the heart of YouTube with 2017 bringing us Despacito, the most-watched music video of all time - so it’s no surprise to see many of our winners riffing on musical themes this year.

Already famous for using covers of classic songs in their ads, retailer John Lewis collaborated with veteran British band Elbow to record a version of The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers for their highly anticipated Christmas ad, gaining a total of almost 10 million views.

German property site Immo Welt, meanwhile, went their own way with a lavish spoof music video for their own uber-catchy dance track. The ad, featuring beautiful homes and OTT bling visuals that would put Lil’ Wayne to shame, was part of a mobile-first campaign to promote their track across multiple platforms, resulting in 24 million views.

Continuing the theme was Romanian personal ad giant OLX, whose biggest ad of 2017 saw a CG toddler perform in his own rap video, complete with dancing Mommies.

Ads with a conscience

Amid a year of political and social turmoil, many brands chose to take a stance on social topics, leading to some of the year’s most thought-provoking work.

Even narrative ads gained a sheen of social responsibility: German supermarket Edeka’s wonderful Eatkarus showed the power of healthy eating to help a boy make his dreams come true while delivering a powerful message about individualism.

Heineken took the simple idea of sitting down to discuss things over a beer to a fascinating conclusion with Worlds Apart, a social experiment where naturally opposed people are encouraged to collaborate on tasks before finding out how much they really have in common.

Clocking in at over four minutes, the video addressed topics as broad as sexism, climate change and gender, sparking wider debate across the web.

YouTube’s own Creators for Change campaign partnered with the International Rescue Committee to create #MoreThanARefugee, a mini documentary that saw seven YouTube Creators profile the real people behind headlines about migrants.

These may at first seem like a disparate clutch of ads, each rocketing off in different creative directions - but they have one common feature: each decides on a clear message that provokes an emotional response, then shapes their approach around it.

In 2017, as in every other year, clarity of purpose, generosity of spirit and finesse in execution mark out top performers. Now let’s see where this year takes us...

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