Say what you want about the myriad miseries and disappointments of 2016, but it wasn’t *all* bad. For example, last Friday a little voice in my head compelled me to bring the cushions from the outdoor furniture inside. The next day, it snowed. Coincidence? I think not. When it comes to luck, you make your own.
In that spirit of self-importance and specious conclusion-drawing, here’s my annual guide to the year’s ten most viewed brand videos, as measured by the good folks at Visible Measures. As in years past, we rewatch the videos and try to glean some knowledge along the way. As in years past, we largely fail in that second aim.
Happy holidays, everybody. Take it easy on the nog.
10. Samsung, “The Chant - 2016 Rio Olympic Games”
In a few words: Cord-free earbuds transcend ethnicity, nationality, race, gender and sport.
Brand message conveyed: Look at how global we are! We totally know how many countries there are in Africa! (frantically Googles “how many countries are there in Africa?”)
What we learned: First and foremost, that South Sudan fielded an Olympic team for the first time. I’m not an Olympics guy, so I missed this. I vaguely remember hearing something or other about a US athlete peeing on a gas pump and then faking a kidnapping. Call me a prude, but that wouldn’t make for ideal brand-video fodder. Just to be safe, go with the inspiring runner and supportive countrymates.
Effectiveness: The first 90 seconds are a stirring depiction of what the Olympics mean to a nation that had been on the outside looking in. The last ten reference “truly cord-free earbuds that won’t hold you back.” Why not diminish the imagery even further - say, with some old-school couponing?
9. Victoria’s Secret, “The 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Is Going to Paris!”
In a few words: The 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is going to Paris!
Brand message conveyed: Victoria Secret goes where the fashion is, which in this case happens to be Paris, a place that is fashionable.
What we learned: That the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show went to Paris.
Effectiveness: After watching this clip several times, I could state the location of the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with 100 percent certainty. Mission accomplished.
8. Nike, “Nike Football Presents: The Switch”
In a few words: Cristiano Ronaldo bonks his melon during a game and wakes up the next day as the fan adjacent to him at his moment of bonking. The fan wakes up as Ronaldo. Lessons are learned.
Brand message conveyed: Nike has a hefty percentage of the world’s elite footballers under contract. If Nike footwear is good enough for them, it’s sure as hell good enough for you, Clubfoot Pete.
What we learned: That the whole Freaky Friday body-swapping bit has some life in it yet, especially when kid-in-Ronaldo’s-bod works on the pronunciation of “where do I park my yacht?”
Effectiveness: Super-high. Brand signage taking a back seat to a well-conceived plot? Yes, please. My kingdom for a plot!
7. YouTube, “YouTube Rewind: The Ultimate 2016 Challenge”
In a few words: Energetic young people with nice hair and high cheekbones reenact some of the Internet’s most viral moments from 2016.
Brand message conveyed: YouTube will not cede its (maybe shaky?) claim on web-video preeminence, not even under threat of excommunication. Bring it on, Facebook.
What we learned: That a lot of stuff happened on the Internet in 2016 and I missed most of it. I might have to stop writing about clips and campaigns that presume some basic degree of pop-cultural literacy.
Effectiveness: For people who caught all the references and inside jokes, high. For me, guh.
In a few words: “Bed expert” Goldilocks puts mattress brand Purple on the map.
Brand message conveyed: Purple mattresses differ wildly from the competition and raw eggs can be used to illustrate that distinction, to great effect.
What we learned: That unknown brands can still crash the Internet party the old-fashioned way: By out-clever-ing the competition. The clip promises you’ll dig the mattress “if you, or someone you love, sleeps.” It notes that competing products allow users to “try cool new hobbies, like chronic pain.” The actress who plays Goldilocks deserves her own FX sitcom.
Effectiveness: Best brand video of the year, in a walk.
5. Nike, “Unlimited You”
In a few words: Everyday athletes realize their potential, and then some. They do so clad in Nike gear.
Brand message conveyed: Yeah, Nike is big on the Neymars and Serenas and Mo Farahs of the sports world, but it has a place in its big, commercial heart for dreamers and strivers. Not the clodhoppers or chronically clumsy, though. Let’s not get carried away here.
What we learned: That Nike is capable of switching gears tonally. The clip’s narrator starts off encouraging the budding athletes, then becomes increasingly unhinged (“everybody is going too far!”) when they exceed (his?) expectations. It’s a different vibe for Nike. I like it.
Effectiveness: I recognized myself in the kid who, while logging his first miles as a runner, reacted with disbelief to the narrator’s assertion that he would someday run a marathon. I still wear Asics. I have no point.
4. Samsung, “Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge: Official Introduction”
In a few words: Samsung’s new phone does the things that your phone does, but better and more pool-submersibly.
Brand message conveyed: “You iPhone folks are totally missing out. Just don’t say that nobody ever tried to tell you. Because I just did. Tell you, that is. Okay.”
What we learned: That Samsung isn’t as effective at creating a cult around its phones as Apple is. Comparing this clip to an introductory iPhone spot is like comparing a black-and-white print to a 3-D AI rendering of a fireworks display.
Effectiveness: It lost me at “today, we’re not just launching our new phone - we’re launching a new way of thinking about what a phone can do. A phone, that makes you rethink the phone.” Unfortunately, those are the clip’s first 29 words.
3. John Lewis, “Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer”
In a few words: Animals avail themselves of a poorly secured backyard trampoline. Cuteness follows.
Brand message conveyed: John Lewis likes kids, dogs and Christmas. Those are controversial positions, yes, but the company believes in standing behind its convictions. Doxxers, do your worst.
What we learned: We learned who’s a good boy. Buster the Boxer is a good boy! Yes! Yes he is!
Effectiveness: Love the unabashedly old-fashioned tug on the heartstrings here. Was I this susceptible to adorable animals and family tableaus before I had kids of my own? I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do at the next college reunion.
2. Samsung, “Galaxy S7: Why?”
In a few words: Samsung’s new phone does the things that your phone does, but better and with the explicit approval of Wesley Snipes.
Brand message conveyed: We’re tech-forward, sure, but we’re also whimsical! Frolicsome, too! We wouldn’t argue with “spirited,” “jocund” or “frisky,” either.
What we learned: That Samsung tries on new personalities as often as finding-their-way teenagers do. Frankly, I’ve lost track - and that was before all preexisting brand affinities were subsumed by the phones-that-literally-burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket thing. Different Samsung model, I know, but still.
Effectiveness: By all accounts the Galaxy is a wonderful, durable product. Why does Samsung feel the need to push it as if it lacks coolness and capability? Gentle jokes about skinny jeans are best left to artisanal bread shops in Brooklyn.
1. Shell, “Best Day of My Life/#MakeTheFuture”
In a few words: Singers sing cheery song in ornate multihued eco-environment. I think?
Brand message conveyed: Shell isn’t like all the rest of those oil companies. They’re really into solar power and all sorts of other non-C-word energy sources. (The C-word is “coal.” That I feel the need to spell this out tells you how much of a number 2016 did on us all.)
What we learned: Nothing. Shell has been chirping about its supposed spirit of innovation for years now. They just hadn’t set it to a lilting melody, is all.
Effectiveness: According to Visible Measures, the “True Reach” of this video during the first 50 weeks of the year was 261,868,012 people. I have to assume that figure takes into account 182,000 autoplays before the “Masha and the Bear” clips that kid #2 worships. That’s the only way that number - almost 262 million! - makes a whit of sense. I get that a bunch of the featured singers are far more popular elsewhere than they are in the US, but that’s still a lot of ground to make up. Can we get an audit?