Thought Leadership

For a long time now, there has been talk about TV dollars moving to digital, especially digital video. YouTube’s growth in its first 10 years has been monumental, and with the more recent addition of online giants such as Facebook and Twitter to the digital video landscape, we are seeing a kind of momentum that the industry has never faced at this scale before. Add in the rise of the “digital influencer,” where names like PewDiePie and Smosh have greater reach to millennials than anyone starring in a recent blockbuster, and the shift to digital seems well underway.

Most importantly, social platforms now allow for hyper-personalized video campaigns at scale, and that’s a game changer. To understand why, it requires a deep understanding of mindsets and contextual targeting.

The magic of placing the right ad in the perfect contextual setting has always been the sweet spot for advertisers. It’s how the commercial was born. That sweet spot was elusive in digital, but now with the breadth of content available online, advertisers finally have the opportunity to place the right ads in front of the right piece of content. Plus, knowing what kind of content someone is watching reveals what is perhaps the most important targeting value to consider—that person’s mindset.

Think about it. One of the reasons that brands buy TV is for scale, safety, and association. “As seen on TV’ delivers credibility. TV audience measurement has never been perfect, but Budweiser has a pretty good idea of who is watching NFL games and that’s why they spend massively against it. Moreover, they also have an idea of what mindset that audience is in when they are watching football on a Sunday from the couch at home versus those same people watching at their desk in an office on a Tuesday.

Thus, the driver for all of this is “mindset.” Let’s use my own mindset as an example. I’m not only an executive at ZEFR, I’m also a husband, a proud new father, a surfer and an avid traveler. Knowing my name, my zip code and my friends doesn’t necessarily tell you where my head is at. However, if I’m watching a video of Kelly Slater tear up Teahupo’o, or a video about life as a new dad, you get a lot closer to what mindset I’m in and that can help brands reach me in the right place at the right time. I’d much rather see an ad for Hurley when I’m watching that Kelly Slater video than an ad for Pampers.

And, taking it a step further, if I’m watching one of the thousands of user-uploaded video reviews on the new BMW 5 series, seeing an ad for BMW, or perhaps for the competing Audi, might actually be welcomed by me. That also means I’m much more likely to engage, recall, and even act on that ad and its message—three major goals of every brand marketer I’ve ever met.

Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and more increasingly Snapchat, have a big opportunity here. They know a lot about their users and the content they are consuming. They also have scale. And at least one of them, YouTube, has done a good initial job of creating a safe and premium environment with their Google Preferred offering which is poised to sell out for a second year in a row. Facebook’s “Anthology” will likely have similar results. But then what? The key is to make all of your inventory contextual, as mindset-based viewing doesn’t just happen on the most popular content, it happens on all of it. As we like to say at ZEFR, even a dog-on-a-skateboard video is premium, if you’re a dog lover or a marketer at PetSmart. The key is to shift your perspective and align with the right mindset at the right time, all by rethinking how we analyze and leverage this new era of digital content.


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Among the many celebratory events planned for (and by) YouTube on the occasion of its 10th birthday, the platform just announced the favorite YouTube ads of the past decade according to “the ad makers and fans.” The voters have spoken and the winner is Turkish Airlines (and their teams at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, and Starcom) with their 2013 spot, Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout.

While most of the nominees were driven to the top of the leaderboard by views on official content, ZEFR dug deeper into the data to unveil our own Top Five. Instead of focusing solely on views of the official ads, we have included fan-uploaded content related to (or inspired by) these beloved clips, revealing surprising insights related to engagement and other metrics.

For example, Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout has the highest number of views, but it has the lowest engagement out of the top five picks. We saw an average ratio of 206:1 views to engagements across all the ads, while the Turkish Airlines commercial had 555:1. In other words, view metrics do not tell the entire story. Here, ZEFR provides an alternative Top Five to the official YouTube Ad Awards.

youtube ad awards


Overall Winner

Nike: “Winner Stays”

This clip features no less than Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gerard Piqué, Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Götze, Eden Hazard, Thiago Silva, Andrea Pirlo, David Luiz, Andrés Iniesta, Thibaut Courtois, and Tim Howard—some of the world’s biggest soccer stars, all in one place. So, it’s no wonder “Winner Stays” boasts the highest video uploads, views, and engagements overall. With 648 fan and official videos, 128 million views, and 690,000 engagements, this Nike spot comes out on top in all categories.

Highest Average Views Per Video

Dove: “Beauty Sketches”

This ad places first in views-per-video, with an average of 442,000 views of both fan and official uploads. The month of the commercial’s official release (back in April of 2013) saw an average of 1.2 million views per video across the board.

Best Parody

Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

Parodies of this spot from Old Spice became nearly as viral as the original, accounting for more views than any other other brand in this category with 3.2 million total views of user-generated spoofs. Fan-uploaded videos drew 50 percent of total engagement for this commercial.

Most Engaging

Volvo: “The Epic Split”

This viral Volvo ad, featuring martial arts superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme, inspired the highest level of engagement among the nominees, garnering a (dis)like or comment for every 148 views; 33% above the set average.

Highest Engagement on Fan-Uploaded Video

Budweiser: “Puppy Love”

This Budweiser spot that aired during Super Bowl XLVIII saw the highest jump in views and engagement on fan-uploaded videos after the game. For the month of February 2014, there were 480 percent more engagements on fan-uploaded versions than on the official video.


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