YouTube likes to allow guest “curators” for their home page spotlight section, and today is my favorite choice for the honor by far:  Ad Age.

Ad Age is probably the most respected advertising publication and, as such, is in a unique position to judge the best and the worst of the ad videos on YouTube.  You can see their curator page here, or watch the video that Digital Lead Michael Learmonth and Creativity Managing Editor Ann Diaz made about the opportunity:

It’s a pretty powerful object lesson in just how many of the best viral videos begin life as straight-up advertisements.  There’s something about the medium of “online video” that breaks down stereotypes viewers have traditionally held about ads… a video like the Roller Babies from Evian can amass over 70 million views and it’s just… an advertisement.  We don’t have the same aversion to ads when they are on YouTube that we might have were they being shown on CBS.

Of course, advertisers are behaving differently now than they used to as well.  The Evian ad didn’t even run on television—it was developed specifically for the online audience.  Super Bowl advertisers develop ads with specific attention paid to the long-term viral potential that ad might have online after the big game.

Ad agencies and brands are also getting more and more creative–sometimes darn-near bizarre (Old Spice, I’m looking in your direction)—with their video content.  They are adapting to this new medium and really… the new audience—that coveted teen demographic consists mostly of people for whom “browsing the latest YouTube hits” is an ingrained daily occurrence.

The YouTube blog states the lesson very well:  ads used to be foisted upon the people… an inconvenience that viewers could not avoid if they wanted to.  Now… the people are seeking out the advertisements (at least the entertaining ones).  That’s a pretty remarkable shift, and one that I think online video deserves most of the credit for.

Not all the ads being featured by Ad Age were done by huge brands—the latest OK Go music video is included, for instance, as is the Epic & Honest Mobile Home Commercial.  Sure, major brands get most of the viral-advertising love from the media.  But isn’t that kind of okay?  I mean, most trends in business are trickle-down anyway, from big brands down to the small business owner.  Just because a majority of the best viral ads were for Fortune 500 companies doesn’t mean the little guy isn’t going to learn from their success or isn’t going to jump on board the bandwagon.  It’s great to see the Ad Age folks saving a few slots for the smaller fish while also not bashing the major brands for simply having a built-in advantage.

Advertising simply isn’t what it used to be even as recently as three years ago—in large part because of the rise of YouTube.  There are advertising viral hits, and then there are non-commercial viral hits—what’s fun for me is watching those two categories bleed together into one.