What I Learned From This Year's Top Online Videos

It is the end of one year and the beginning of another, meaning that I would violate my moral covenant with this column's tens of readers if I didn't do the look-back-and-look-ahead thing. But really: Video Critique is just one guy's opinion, and that guy is the proud owner of a toddler who doesn't sleep. What I'm saying, I guess, is that reasonable minds may differ, though they'd be wrong and probably not reasonable at all.

So instead of revisiting theclipsIlikedandclipsIdidn'tlike, I thought it'd be didactic to see if popularity correlated with quality and/or effectiveness. To do that, I watched the year's ten most-viewed online campaigns, as ranked by Visible Measures for Advertising Age, and attempted to glean what we can learn from them. Short answer: it's better to be seen than good, or something. Longer answer: see below.



Happy new year, everybody. Catch you on the other side.

10. Red Nose Day 2013 (Comic Relief)

In a few words: British personalities do funny things to raise money for those who are less fortunate.

Brand message conveyed: We dropped nearly 100 clips in your lap as part of this campaign. If you can't be bothered to ante up a few dollars, you suck.

What we learned: That one shouldn't attempt to assess a nearly-100-clip campaign when working on a tight deadline.

Effectiveness: More overseas than in the U.S. Also, if somebody could explain Jessie J's appeal to an old American-type person like me, I'd be much obliged.

9. 5-Hour ENERGY Helps Amazing People (5-Hour ENERGY)

In a few words: People who labor on behalf of charitable organizations like Forgotten Harvest should be applauded, not mocked for their open-heartedness and pelted with damp dishrags.

Brand message conveyed: We have a soul. We're so much more than caffeine in a tin. If only you'd take the time to get to know us, you'd see this. Why won't you take the time? Why?

What we learned: 5-Hour ENERGY: No longer just for truck drivers and tweaky college kids during finals week!

Effectiveness: Maybe for fans of the Extreme Home Makeover approach to minimally subtle emotionalism.

8. Harlem Shake Miami Heat Edition (Miami Heat)

In a few words: The Miami Heat dress up in cray-zee costumes and dance.

Brand message conveyed: The Miami Heat are a most jocular bunch of fellows.

What we learned: LeBron James, jokerman < LeBron James, personality <<<<<<<<< LeBron James, player of basketball

Effectiveness: They won the NBA title, so… yes? Whoever blew the last-second defensive assignment on Ray Allen during Game 6 of the Finals should be sentenced to three years of hard labor at Bobby Knight boot camp.

7. Magna Carta Holy Grail (Samsung)

In a few words: Jay-Z has a new album coming out.

Brand message conveyed: Samsung has some kind of business relationship with Jay-Z.

What we learned: Many members of Jay-Z's studio entourage boast mad air-piano skillz.

Effectiveness: Snuh.

6. The Power Inside (Intel/Toshiba)

In a few words:Mustache Aliens: coming soon to a screen near you.

Brand message conveyed: This Intel/Toshiba computer is neat and all, but… MUSTACHE ALIENS. And HARVEY KEITEL.

What we learned: Techno-dorkified brands are often funnier and lighter on their toes marketing-wise than fun brands. Who knew?

Effectiveness: For branding purposes, not a whole lot. It's perfectly executed nonetheless.

5. Baby & Me (Evian)

In a few words: Babies are cute. This is an immutable fact of nature, like "trees are tall" or "grass is green." Don't fight it.

Brand message conveyed: Evian is in touch with its inner crazed toddler.

What we learned: Evian is going to run this able-baby bit into the ground. This is what we get for enabling a bland water company. Way to go, us.

Effectiveness:This is the one clip on the list I previously reviewed. I alone, apparently, am immune to its charms.

4. Live Test (Volvo Trucks)

In a few words: The elasticity of Jean-Claude Van Damme's groin is unprecedented in modern physiology.

Brand message conveyed: Volvo Trucks are smooth like butter. Smoothness is a trait one covets in large machinery.

What we learned: It's possible to brand a brand that defies easy branding.

Effectiveness: Great concept, negligible impact.

3. The Selfie Shootout (Turkish Airlines)

In a few words: Lionel Messi and Kobe Bryant are competitive superfriends and, like most competitive superfriends, enjoy sending each other selfies from exotic destinations.

Brand message conveyed: Turkish Airlines can fly you to many destinations around the world, as opposed to Amtrak or Chevrolet.

What we learned: Turkish Airlines can fly you to many destinations around the world. Also, my wife isn't the slightest bit ashamed that she doesn't know who Lionel Messi is, and therefore sees little need to defend herself to the people of Argentina. You knew I wasn't a sports fan when you married me, Larry.

Effectiveness: No longer do I recoil in horror when Turkish Airlines pops up in Travelocity or Orbitz searches for flights to places other than Ankara. Mission accomplished.

2. Chrome: For… (Google)

In a few words: Google owns the Internet, so it can pick and choose from among YouTube detritus. It generally chooses wisely. Please don't photograph my house, Mr. Google.

Brand message conveyed: You can do a lot of stuff with Google Chrome - or maybe with Google Chromebooks? I'm not sure. It doesn't really matter.

What we learned: It's possible to pack a whole lot of personality into ten-second chunks. Less is more. Night is day. Barracudas is dolphins.

Effectiveness: Sublime.

1. Real Beauty Sketches (Dove)

In a few words: Sketch artist makes one drawing based on a person's own self-description and another based on somebody else's description of that person. The person is showed both sketches and, invariably, looks better in the one to which she didn't contribute. The person is overcome by emotion.

Brand message conveyed: You're more beautiful than you know, even if we have to pull in impartial third-party observers to get this message through your thick head, dummy.

What we learned: Authenticity trumps artificiality. Always.

Effectiveness: A worthy number one, and one of the genre's finest moments.

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