On March 3, the Ad Council released “Love Has No Labels,” which aims to overcome bias and embrace diversity through love. It has surpassed all 2015 Super Bowl campaigns to be the most-watched campaign of the year, to date.
The three-minute video from the nonprofit, which specializes in public service announcements, starts with a crowd gathered in front of a large black screen. Then, two x-ray-like skeletons embrace on screen and kiss -- who soon become two real-life women appearing from behind the screen, who embrace again as the surprised audience cheers. The screen reads “love has no gender” and, over the video, the song “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert, starts to play. More skeletons appear on screen representing diverse couples, and more messages of inclusion are revealed: love has no religion, love has no race, love has no age.
In a little more than two weeks after its release, the campaign has generated a viewership of more than 89.4 million. This puts it more than 25 million views ahead of the next-most-viewed campaign of the year: the Super Bowl smash hit, Budweiser’s “Lost Dog,” which has garnered more than 63.5 million views.
What’s more impressive, the Ad Council campaign is already the 22nd-most-viewed branded video ads of all time. It has already surpassed a number of groundbreaking campaigns, including Old Spice’s innovative 2010 “Responses” (89.3 million views); VW’s 2011 Super Bowl campaign, “The Force" (85.8 million views); and Pepsi MAX’s 2012 stunt,” Uncle Drew” (64.4 million views).
It’s not surprising, however, that an Ad Council campaign would take its place among such recognizable campaigns. From its earliest work during WWII (“Loose Lips Sink Ships”) and its creation of Smoky the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, to its “Keep America Beautiful” campaign, the nonprofit has always been effective in capturing public attention for major social issues. But this is the organization’s biggest branded video hit to date, by more than 80 million views.
It’s also indicative of the trend we’ve seen in video creative where many popular videos tell emotional stories with uplifting messages. Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” and “Lost Dog” are examples of how a brand has adapted that creative approach to capitalize on the huge audience of an event, the Super Bowl. But over the last year, brands like Always (“#LikeAGirl”) and little-known Wren (“First Kiss,” the most-viewed campaign of 2014) have proved that moving creative can generate massive buzz without the platform of an event where a brand would have to share the spotlight.
While nonprofits may not be able to produce and distribute content the way big brands do, they have a unique opportunity to leverage this hunger for emotional, uplifting content with human stories of hope and inspiration built into their individual missions.
Consumers want to share this kind of heartwarming content with their social networks. If nonprofits can package those stories in a surprising way, as the Ad Council did, there is extra incentive to share, which is why nearly half of the campaign’s viewership was generated on Upworthy’s Facebook page.