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The world of digital media is a cacophony of content, all vying for people's attention. Messages from marketers trying to sell them something are likely to be far down the priority list.
That's why Google Inc.'s annual list of the most-watched ads on its YouTube video-sharing site is instructive: advertisers can see what broke through. Google compiles the list by measuring factors including how long people watched videos, their "organic" views (people who searched out videos and watched them willingly) and paid views such as pre-roll video – but only when viewers had the option to skip and did not take it.
Humour is a big factor – as is evident in ads from mobile gaming company Supercell, Hyundai, Coke, Zag Bank and WestJet. Beyond entertainment, Google's research has also noted viewers are more likely to stick around when they are inspired or informed; so culturally relevant topics – as seen in Momondo's spot – and useful tips like Tropicana's, are both good strategies. And all this has to be done with speed.
"In a world where you can skip an ad at any time, capturing people's attention in the first few seconds of a spot is critical," said Bob Cornwall, head of brand integration at Google Canada. "Having too slow of a build or not helping viewers understand what content is to come, is a big mistake advertisers make."
1. Clash of Clans: Hog Rider 360°
Advertiser: Supercell (mobile games)
Ad agency: Barton F. Graf
A spotlight on the game's ridiculous warriors who ride on the back of hogs, the video included a 360-degree view that allowed people to watch from the point of view of a rider, and to look around the scene. The video received more than 30 million views in its first week online.
2. Momondo - The DNA Journey
Advertiser: Momondo (travel website)
Agency: &Co. Denmark
A group of people with strong views about their own identities discover through DNA testing that they have origins in different nationalities than they thought. At a time of racial tension, particularly in Europe, this campaign clearly struck a chord. It also brought people into contact with the travel business: 169,631 people entered a contest to win their own DNA test kit, and a chance to win a trip to a country that is part of their origins.
3. Ryanville - Hyundai Super Bowl Commercial
Advertiser: Hyundai USA
Agency: Innocean Worldwide
Two women drive an Elantra through a town where all the residents look like actor Ryan Reynolds. The spot advertises the car's automatic braking technology when the women become too distracted to focus on the road ahead.
4. Starter Pokémon for Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon Revealed!
Advertiser: Pokémon Co.
Pokémon madness means that even a fairly straightforward video introducing characters in a game lands plenty of views.
5. Coke Mini (Hulk vs. Ant-Man)
Advertiser: Coca-Cola Co.
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
The Super Bowl ad features two Marvel characters promoting the company's mini cans.
6. Clash Royale: Landscaper
Agency: Barton F. Graf
More content from Supercell, which has been a regular on the leaderboard in recent years.
7. iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in 107 seconds
Advertiser: Apple Inc.
Agency: Media Arts Lab
Plenty of theatre goes into Apple's launch events – but following live is a time suck, so the company distilled its phone launch into a fast-paced montage.
8. Zag Bank - Learning Spanish
Advertiser: Zag Bank, owned by Desjardins Group
To make a point about how easy its investing is, the commercial shows a man becoming instantaneously fluent in Spanish.
9. April Fool's - Meet #RALFH, Westjet's newest innovation in inflight comfort
Advertiser: WestJet Airlines Ltd.
An annual tradition for the airline, its April Fool's videos use humour to build goodwill with customers and to reinforce its friendly image. In this one, a HAL-like robot delivers food to air passengers – and contemplates its own existence.
10. Orange Poppy Seed Loaf
Advertiser: PepsiCo Beverages Canada – Tropicana
How-tos are popular content online, so food and beverage brands can get attention with recipes like this one – including their products on the ingredients list, of course.