YouTube European Ads Leaderboard 2016

January 2017

Attention has always been a valuable commodity. The time consumers spend with a brand’s advertising is a rare chance to connect, and marketers have long responded to this by seeking to tell stories that inform, entertain and create emotional engagement.

Over recent years, while this underlying intent has remained the same, the number of devices and distractions available to consumers has increased by an unprecedented amount, making the task of connecting even trickier. As 2016’s European YouTube Ads Leaderboard, advertisers are rising to the challenge with some incredibly inventive campaigns, resulting in a total watch time for the list equivalent to 500 years spent with these brands.1

Making Ads Mobile

More than 60% of all YouTube views now come from mobile devices 2, 2016 saw many advertisers starting to embrace the reality of multiple-devices by tailoring their ads for consumption on mobile. Coupled with the introduction of new formats like six-second Bumper ads, we’re expecting the composition of the 2017 Leaderboard to reflect this transition even more, with the possibility of device-tailored ads starting to break into the top ten.

Festive Fun, Festive Feels

The appearance of Christmas ads has become almost as big a fixture in the calendar as the day itself, with fully half of the ads in our list having a festive theme. Trendsetter John Lewis opted for humour this year after pursuing a more emotional tone in previous campaigns, and their investment in 'Buster the Boxer' paid dividends with a significant number of organic views. In a similar vein, Sainsbury’s and M&S elected to engage their audience by playing with expectations. For ‘The Greatest Gift’, Sainsbury’s held back all branding until the final frames, trusting that their beautiful animated musical would hold the viewer’s attention, creating even more impact for the reveal. In ‘Christmas with love from Mrs Claus’, M&S recast a peripheral festive figure as a modern, cinematic action hero, working in a few sly laughs alongside the ad’s spectacular production values.

At the other end of the Christmas spectrum, Allegro and EDEKA both created powerful, intimate adverts around the more traditional themes of family and belonging. For an even deeper dive on this topic, you can check out YouTube and the Rise of Christmas Ads on Think With Google.

Ads as Entertainment

Humour was also on show outside of these seasonal offerings, as advertisers sought to entertain and lighten the tone against the backdrop of a difficult year. On our list, Cillit Bang’s ‘Flashdance’ homage, ‘The Mechanic’, and Netto’s ‘Katzen’ cat supermarket both earned substantial organic views in return for providing viewers with laughs. Beyond comedy, advertisers also explored the idea that ads can be entertainment by engaging with other popular genres. Music videos are among the most watched content on YouTube, so for their ‘Taste The Feeling’ campaign, Coca-Cola worked with musicians Avicii and Conrad Sewell to create a music video that doubled as an ad. This music-video-as-ad approach was also used by Cornetto for their ‘Love Story’ campaign, showing the huge potential for creatives to play with medium and genre as they seek to capitalise on content trends and make a lasting impression on consumers. Sports content is, of course, perennially popular on YouTube, which Nike capitalised on with their list-topping campaign, ‘The Switch’, which featured Cristiano Ronaldo and a host of world football stars.

The Long and Short of It

Interestingly, despite attention being at a premium, advertisers were unafraid this year of stretching the length of their creations, with 70% of our list clocking in at two minutes or more. In fact, the year’s most viewed ad, Nike Football’s ‘The Switch’ was also the year’s longest, at just under six minutes. In 2016 we saw brands creating everything from short-form mobile-first Bumpers to multi-part content series (like EE’s ‘The Wembley Cup’ in the UK), tailoring their advertising to the viewer, not the constraints of traditional formats.

Every year we see marketers exploring the limits of video advertising, whether their ads are long or short, solemn or silly. Online video is still growing at an astounding rate, and viewers are now watching on TV screens, mobiles, tablets, desktops and laptops – the creative canvas is getting broader, and we can’t wait to see what brands do with it in 2017.

YouTube Ads Leaderboard - Europe 2016