Every website remotely related to online marketing has published a year-end list of the best videos of 2010–I even wrote one.  Most folks who wrote list articles like that just lumped all viral videos into the same pool, whether they were created by a brand or by an amateur, which is the way I did it as well.  But in a new post on their blog, YouTube is sharing their favorite branded video ads from the past year in the hopes of inspiring more brands to get creative in 2011. Several of YouTube’s favorite ads from 2010 have been featured in our weekly round ups, and one of them even made my personal list of the best videos of the year.  However, they also managed to squeeze in a couple that I had not previously written about.  And they’re both great.  Since we haven’t shared them here before, why not take a moment to enjoy them? Nike’s “Write the Future” spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSggaxXUS8k Hell Pizza’s “Deliver Me To Hell” spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p1yBlV7Ges Other brand video ads highlighted by YouTube include Toyota’s Swagger Wagon (a personal favorite), Toy Story 3’s Lotsa-Huggin’ Bear ad, Old Spice Guy, & Tipp-Ex’s interactive “hunter shoots a bear” ad. What are the common themes? What can we learn from the video ads YouTube has singled out for praise?  What do the best ads from 2010 teach us about what 2011 will bring?

Interactive Video Ads Will Be Huge

The big theme is interactivity.  I think you’re going to see more creative thinking with regards to letting audiences interact with ads in 2011.  Part of the reason is that the brand can get much more free publicity leverage out of it–interactive YouTube ads are still new enough to generate some media attention, which helps with gaining views as well.  But interactivity is also a rising trend because audiences are more engaged to a piece of content when they are able to impact it… dictate it… or control it. Two of YouTube’s six highlighted branded video ads featured interactivity with the viewer or with the video environment, but there were plenty of other great videos that did the same thing in 2010 but didn’t make this list–Google’s Chrome Fastball ad or Stallone’s fake interview for The Expendables, or even Google’s recent Nexus S commercial. And don’t forget that, while Old Spice Guy’s original commercials were widely enjoyed, they didn’t become legendary until the day the Old Spice Guy himself took to the Internet to create personalized videos, many of which were responses to comments, Tweets, and articles people were writing online.  It really was the ultimate interactive ad campaign if you think about it.

Humor Still The King Of Advertising

One of the most common goals of advertisers is to make the audience laugh.  They want to associate the time we spend seeing and hearing about their brand with a good feeling like laughter.  And there’s no sign of that trend stopping anytime soon.  All but one of the six videos YouTube listed shoots for humor as a main goal, and the sixth–the Nike spot–even includes humorous elements. Laughter is universal, and transcends many of the differences between people.  So aiming for laughs is a great strategy for advertisers because they can appeal to a wide section of the viewership.

Expect Unprecedented Innovation

In the article, YouTube says this about the future of online advertising:

“2010 was a breakout year for video advertising, which is an unmitigated good thing for advertisers and viewers alike… To find audiences and break through all the noise, brands must create content that people seek out, love, and share with others.”

It’s a continuous game of oneupmanship.  Old Spice carved out a new path to advertising dominance in 2010, which will no doubt inspire several brands to imitate them.  And once there are enough imitators, the Old Spice tactics and methods will be common… meaning it’ll be time for another brand to blow our minds with a video that makes Old Spice Man look mundane.  Successful online advertising is about exceeding expectations by surprising audiences, and you simply can’t do that by serving up a reheated ad concept that someone else already used. Brands are going to have to get way the heck outside the box if they want the attention of viral viewers.

There Will Be Mistakes

With brands having to break convention to get attention, expect to see multiple companies crash and burn with their creative viral ads.  Viral audiences are fickle creatures, and capturing their hearts is like hitting a moving target while blindfolded.  The further away brands get from the typical kind of safe, boring advertising we’re used to… the more likely they are to fail spectacularly.  When you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out at a higher rate than you do by playing things safe.  But even when these brands do fail, you will find me on the sidelines waving my giant foam finger… applauding the attempt at creativity even if the execution is lacking.


Brands drive the video industry.  They have the money, time, and creative resources to experiment and fail.  They blaze the trail for the rest of us, and can help push online video to ridiculously entertaining new heights.  What the best brands do with online video in 2011 is likely what we-the-people will be doing in 2012. What brand ads did you like best in 2010?  What do you think the biggest new trend will be in 2011 for branded video advertising and marketing?  What predictions are you ready to make about where this next year in viral ads will take us?