In the not too distant future, social historians and cultural anthropologists will look back at the top trending videos and ads on YouTube for 2013 and wonder, "What were they thinking?"
This year, some of YouTube’s most watched content – from Carrie’s Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise to Pepsi’s Test Drive, which scared the life out of a car salesman – came courtesy of brands. And, if you add a couple of other social video campaigns – including LG’s Meteor Strike, which tried to convince people in a job interview that the world was going to end, and the Department for Transport’s Pub Loo Shocker in the U.K., future authors and videographers might theorize that the advertising world was overrun in 2013 by an elite cabal of sadists and school bullies.
That’s because one the most prominent trends over the past year has been the emergence of "prankvertising" – a term coined to describe a rash of online campaigns in which brands play jokes on supposedly unsuspecting members of the public.
This trend even led Toronto agency john st. to launch an exFEARiential marketing division last month. As they said in their promotional video, "Give your customers an experience they'll never, ever forget. Muggings. Riots. Babynappings. We’ll do anything to get your brand noticed. "
Although most Millennial marketers realize that john st.’s promotion video is a spoof, will academics a couple of generations from now be able to figure this out? Or, will they jump to the incorrect conclusion that exFEARiential was just the next logical step after the Catvertising craze in 2011 and BUYRAL – Professional Clicking fad of 2012?
Top Trending Videos on YouTube for 2013
And what would those future graduates of YouTube University and the Google Institute of Technology think after analyzing the top trending videos on YouTube for 2013?
This was the first year that there were three videos from brands on the overall YouTube Rewind top trending videos of the year list - Evian Babies, Volvo Trucks, and Carrie the movie - demonstrating that more brands than ever were understanding what works on YouTube. Brands were also breaking away from the 30-second commercial and creating videos that felt more like content on YouTube and less like ads.
Increasingly, anyone wearing Google Glass and/or with 20/20 hindsight has seen brands tap into the rhythm of the community on YouTube, riffing on popular memes and starting ones of their own.
Volvo Trucks’ Epic Split video inspired parodies from Channing Tatum and YouTube creators around the world. Since the Volvo video went live, more than 1,200 videos with "epic split" in the title have been posted to YouTube adding up to 4.2 million views.
Channing Tatum in Jenko's Epic Split
Evian’s Baby&Me film generated 20 million views in two days and 100 million after 10 weeks. Since it debuted, a remarkable 334 viewer-created versions have appeared and more than 6.9 million viewers have shared the video on social networks.
What else might they have seen in their peripheral vision?
YouTube Rewind - Top Trending Videos of 2013
Viral videos on YouTube are going bigger than ever before and are becoming pop culture phenomena.
Top Trending Ads on YouTube for 2013
Finally, if the creator of "blip-verts" took a look at the top trending ads on YouTube for 2013, then what might an adolescent genius from 20 minutes into the future see? (The ads list below is based on brand videos that were run as ads on YouTube, not a list of the top branded content.)
YouTube Ads Leaderboard - Top Trending Ads on YouTube for 2013
Now, if marketers stare at the list above for more than 15 seconds, or if they loop back for longer than 6 seconds a couple of times to focus on the list, patterns will start to emerge. For example, even though 2013 saw the rise of short-form video content on Vine and Instagram, that didn’t stop viewers from watching ads on YouTube that range up to 3 minutes and 46 seconds long.
So, perhaps this was the year when future marketers first glimpsed that the viewer’s average attention span might be longer than the average attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds). Hey, it’s just a theory. You’re welcome to add your own comments below.
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Greg Jarboe is president of SEO-PR, which provides search engine optimization, public relations, video marketing, and social media marketing services. He's the author of "YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day," a faculty member at Rutgers University and Market Motive, as well as a frequent speaker at SES conferences.
March 19, 2014