The Year In Viral Video Ads

Unruly works with Ad Age 100 brands to get their videos watched, tracked and shared across the Open Web. Here’s a rundown of the content, measurement and platform trends we’ve seen that defined online video advertising in 2014.

Sarah Wood is Co-Founder and COO/CMO of Unruly

Facebook Shook Up The Digital Video Ecosystem
This was the year when the world’s largest social network challenged the world’s largest video platform — YouTube — for consumer share of views and share of advertiser dollars. Facebook rolled out sponsored video ads for brands within the newsfeed with a $1 million-a-day price tag, and it made its view counts publicly available on Facebook — an alternative to the YouTube counter that has long held sway with advertisers and press pundits alike.

“Trackvertising” Boomed
Is that an ad or a music video? It’s a question that was asked a lot this year, thanks largely to the success of Activia’s successful World Cup collaboration with Colombian pop star Shakira. The brand’s video “La La La” overtook Volkswagen’s “The Force” to become the most shared ad of all time, with 5.82 million shares and over a quarter of a billion views.

We’re not surprised that more brands are taking music video seriously. Music videos are the most shared type of video content on the social web, with an average share rate of 7.1% compared with brand videos, which average 2.1%. Music triggers deep-seated emotional responses — a critical factor for brands as emotional intensity is the most significant variable in driving social activity.

Brands Tugged At Our Heart Strings
From epic love stories to exhilarating World Cup warm-ups, the ads this year had one common thread — strong emotional storytelling. Brands thought hard about their emotional DNA and created ads that made a strong emotional connection with their target audience. How we feel about a video is the most critical factor in prompting us to share it with our social networks. The stronger we feel about an ad, the more likely we are to want to become advocates for the brand behind the commercial.

“Femvertising” Took Center Stage
Dove may have started the ball rolling back in 2006 with its “Real Beauty” campaign, but in 2014 there’s been a noticeable shift in the way brands market to women. Leading the way was the Always #LikeAGirl ad, showing what young girls really think it means to act “like a girl.” Whether it was connecting with future mothers (Dear Future Mom), sassy little girls explaining equality (FCKH8 [caution: NSFW]), or breaking down gender stereotypes (#ShineStrong — Pantene), femvertising was headline news in 2014.

Social Video Was Used For Social Good
Brands used social video to promote good causes in record numbers this year, with a third of 2014’s top 20 videos promoting social causes.

The most talked-about campaign in this category was undoubtedly the Ice Bucket Challenge, which drenched millions with ice cold water across the globe to raise awareness for the neurodegenerative disease ALS. The campaign gave massive exposure to the disease and the millions of video uploads generated a billion views on YouTube and 10 billion views on Facebook. Better still, it has helped to raise more than $115 million in donations since July 29, dispelling the myth that “slacktivism” doesn’t deliver real-world results.

Viewability Became The New Standard
Some 54% of display ads are never seen by humans according to a comScore February 2014 report. So the adtech industry has scrambled to formulate an agreed standard on viewability. In June the Media Rating Council and the IAB released a minimum standard for video viewability, which states that at least 50% of a video ad needs to be in the viewable space of the browser page for at least two continuous seconds.

Since then, other agencies and brands have announced their own — different — ‘standards’ of viewability, so we’ll be looking to 2015 to provide a standardization of standards that the whole industry can get behind.

The Speed Of Sharing Doubled
The first few days of a campaign have never been more important. Brought on by the growth of always-on video consumption across mobile devices, viral velocity has increased dramatically in 2014. In 2013, 25% of shares occurred in the first three days following campaign launch. Jump to 2014, and that number increased to 42%. With two-thirds of all brand video shares now occurring within the first week of launch it’s more vital than ever to launch hard and launch fast in this critical launch phase or risk losing out on online buzz.

The World Cup Became The Most Shared Event Of All Time And Produced The Most Shared Ad Ever.
2014 was a sporting hat-trick, from the Winter Olympics to the Super Bowl and through to the World Cup. Advertisers bring out their best work for these events and the clear winner in sports marketing this year was the 2014 World Cup, with four out of the top 20 global ads this year related to the event.
The multi-month offering of ads from sponsors and non-sponsors also delivered the most shared ad of all time. “La La La” from Shakira and Activia now holds the top spot with more than 5.82 million shares to date.




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