What I Learned From The Year's Top Brand Videos, 2015 Edition

How do I know it’s time to turn the calendar over to 2016 and enter mush-mind holiday mode? Because I just now wrote out my mortgage check and, for the first time since last January, didn’t mistakenly inscribe it with “2014.” Now that I’ve finally caught up with the calendar, the calendar has gone rogue. Lousy calendar.

So yeah, it’s time to do our annual look back at the year’s top 10 brand videos, as statistically and mathily quantified by the good folks at Visible Measures. As it was in 2013 and 2014, the idea here is to rewatch all 10 superclips and see what, if anything, impressionable would-be brand marketers can learn from them. Short version: Not much! Longer version: See below.



Happy new year, everybody. Thanks for reading.

10. “Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Samsung Mobile Present ‘Assemble,’ Marvel and Samsung

In a few words: Kid reading an Avengers comic book becomes a part of it, along with Lionel Messi, Eddie Lacy and some other famous people I should probably recognize but don’t.

Brand message conveyed: “Our marketing budget is larger than yours.”

What we learned: You can connect your Samsung phone to a virtual-reality-viewer doohickey through which you can play games and such. Also, I do not want said doohickey.

Effectiveness: The two-part video is as cinematic as they come, right down to the sweeping score. But when the two minutes-after-viewing takeaways are “the VR thing should be a whole lot cooler, shouldn’t it?” and “Eddie Lacy was a poor choice of comic foil,” you haven’t just swung and missed. You’ve shown up at the wrong stadium.

9. “Amazon App,” Borders

In a few words: Ha ha - no, the “Amazon App” video actually comes from Amazon, which is a quaint seller of bookthings that recommends its employees take the afternoon off after undergoing open-brain surgery.

Brand message conveyed: “You can buy stuff from your phone really easily, if you’re so inclined.”

What we learned: That you can buy stuff from your phone really easily, if you’re so inclined. Really, that’s about all you get in 30 seconds - and there’s even an abridged version for those who feel that this first treatment is too deep and forbidding.

Effectiveness: Did people actually click on this intentionally, or was it cyber-affixed to some other Amazon property?

8. “Samsung Galaxy Note5: Official Introduction,” Samsung

In a few words: There’s a new Samsung Galaxy Note5 and it offers “instant note taking without unlocking the screen.” Hello, game? You’ve been changed.

Brand message conveyed: “Comely multicultural selfie-takers between the ages of 28 and 31 prefer Samsung handsets to the iPhone, especially DJs.”

What we learned: That Samsung’s interpretation of the color spectrum includes “gold platinum” and “black sapphire.” Hey Samsung - I know a guy who knows a guy who can cut your words budget by 50 percent.

Effectiveness: As an iPhone diehard, all non-Apple smart-phone marketing is irrelevant to me. Unrelated: Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a non-young person in a video for one of these things? I have to think my Dad attempting to navigate a phone’s notification settings would provide a far richer and more comedic content experience than a bunch of pretty people lifestylin’ the same way they do in beer and vacation and hair-product ads.

7. “France Is in the Air,” Air France

In a few words: Flying Air France is like an army of child ballerinas swaying to and fro on swings inside a jumbo-sized replica of an airplane cabin. No, really, it is. Just forward to the 31-second mark.

Brand message conveyed: “Air France: the preferred airline brand of underemployed art directors everywhere.”

What we learned: Air France has given up on luring Johnny Lunchpail-type flyers and has set its sights on the pretentious-supermodel set. Good luck with that.

Effectiveness: I sort of covered this one here. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now.

6. “Puppyhood,” Purina/Buzzfeed

In a few words: Slacker guy - you can tell by the playful countenance of his facial hair - adopts puppy and shows him around the house. Also: Awwwwwwww! Puppy!

Brand message conveyed: “Puppies are adorable and if you disagree you are history’s biggest monster. Also, don’t forget to feed them.”

What we learned: Cats may own the Internet, but puppies aren’t willing to hand over the cuteness title belt without a fight. Can somebody stage this in a way that won’t upset the ASPCA?

Effectiveness: Marginal, but I did find myself nodding when the guy told his puppy pal that “there’s no wrong way to sit on a couch.” Keep speaking truth to power, brother.

5. “Take It,” Adidas

In a few words: Adidas does lots of soccer stuff.

Brand message conveyed: “You can do something and be remembered - or do nothing and be forgotten.” That’s a direct quote from the video. Adidas sells sneakers and shorts.

What we learned: That writing inspirational copy for dullards is a lot harder than you’d think. My weak efforts to that end: “If you want it, reach for it, unless it’s on a really high shelf” and “the future is a blank slate of blanky blankness, so leave a mark.”

Effectiveness: I’d like to see Adidas downsize. Not every marketing moment needs to be majestic in scope.

4. “The Story of Sarah & Juan,” Extra gum

In a few words: Gum helps people in relationships “stick” together. Hoy-o!

Brand message conveyed: “No moment is so intimate that it can’t be enhanced by the timely proffering of gum.”

What we learned: That the whole meet-cute-with-gum genre has been vastly undertapped by connection-craving marketers. That gum can ease job-related emotional displacement. That gum-wrapper doodles can pack an emotional punch when deployed strategically.

Effectiveness: I saw the end of this one coming two weeks before I knew it existed, and yet it still charmed me. I’m not sure if one can build an emotional affinity around a gum brand, but I appreciate the effort and creativity that went into attempting to prove otherwise. Also, it’s good to know that a non-superbrand can penetrate our collective consciousness.

3. “Create Your Own Game,” Adidas

In a few words: Adidas does lots of soccer stuff, again.

Brand message conveyed: “[Insert inspirational sports-y sentiment about competition here.]”

What we learned: That some soccer - excuse me, football - dudes can kick a ball into a flower pot from around 50 yards - excuse me, 4,225 metres - out. That’s the kind of stunt which could totally blow up on the Internet, no?

Effectiveness: We’ve seen it before, from Adidas and Nike and 37 other footwear/apparel makers. Meanwhile, Messi appears in three of the clips on this list. Leo, I know you’re the world’s most famous athlete and all, but you’re allowed to say no.

2. “Love Has No Labels,” Ad Council

In a few words: The title sums it up pretty concisely.

Brand message conveyed: “Love has no labels. Fondly, the Ad Council, your go-to source for super-broad, super-banal messages of inclusiveness.”

What we learned: That one can agree whole-heartedly with a message - that you love who you love, regardless of gender, race, age, religion or any other supposed complicating factor - and loathe the way it’s conveyed. “Oooh, a live X-ray image of two skeletons kissing? It’s gotta be Brad and Angelina! Cool, here they come out of the machine thingie! Oh, wait - it’s two lesbians. Boy, that really makes you think!!!!!!”

Effectiveness: It’s the year’s most supremely self-impressed video. There’s even a “rethink bias” note at the end. What is this, middle school?

1. What’sOnYourMind?,Facebook

In a few words: If you’ve got something on your mind - about family, friends, politics, pop culture, sports, the weather, the Weather Girls, meme-sharing, meme-busting, Miss America, Mr. T or carpentry - you can share it on Facebook. Who knew?

Brand message conveyed: “Resistance is futile.”

What we learned: Facebook users share all sorts of videos, many of which are funny or deep or heartbreaking or oh lord I can’t compete with any of the people in my feed why just now I had a sandwich on plain wheat bread and like anyone’s going to “like” that? I mean I probably could’ve gone with the multigrain gluten-free puffy pita but that would have been nutritionally dishonest because I like plain wheat bread. I do! Society can tell me how to wear my pants but it cannot dictate what I put into or otherwise do with my body, because I’m a dude.

Effectiveness: On August 27, one billion people logged onto Facebook (according to Facebook, anyway). Like they need to bother with brand messaging? This campaign feels like a tax write-off.

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