Google’s YouTube Battles with Big Brands

Here’s a short article I wrote for The Conversation on Google’s current battles with brands… More on this to come I think.


Superbowl Commercials: The game in numbers

Along with my class at the University of Nottingham, I’ve been looking at the recent Superbowl adverts. Not being American/interested in NFL, we were interested in the engagement with the YouTube videos of the ads rather than the broadcast versions. The Superbowl commercials are a microcosm of the best and most expensive creative executions. But do they drive audiences to engage with brands?

This is incredibly hard to measure, of course. But we can look at the social media stats for an indication. Looking at the viewing figures from the first week, it seems to me that there’s a real “superstar” economy at work in adverts. The few standout ads, really outperform the rest.

In terms of overall views, this morning the most viewed ad had 24,116,618 views (Hyundai). The least viewed had  6,153 (McDonalds). As this chart shows, there’s a steady decline in between.


However, YouTube has a decent enough measure of the success of an ad – at least an indication that the viewer ‘likes’ it – through its like/dislike buttons. Generally, there’s a positive association at work between views and likes (indicated by the straight line on the graph below).


Put simply, the more times an ad gets watched the more times it gets liked. But this positive association is really driven by five standout performers who really drag things up. These, I would argue, are the superstars from the big game. They are (in order of most liked):

#Pokemon20: Pokémon

First Date:  Hyundai

Coke Mini (Hulk vs. Ant-Man): Coca-Cola

Puppymonkeybaby: Mtn Dew Kickstart

Ryanville: Hyundai



Tattroulette and bumfights

Back in 2002 the first Bumfights video came out.  Basically, a group of unrepentant rich kids paid homeless men to fight with each other.  They recorded the fights and posted them to YouTube.  Eventually, they even paid for the “bums” to have BUMFIGHT tattooed on their forehead.  There’s a Channel 4 documentary about it (here).

How quickly the worm turns.  This week Grey London, an ad agency, won an award from YouTube for their FilmHack competition.  The idea was for ad agencies to demonstrate they understood how YouTube communities worked.  The winning entry saw Lexi, a YouTuber, play #Tattroulette.  She asked viewers to sender her tattoo designs and promised to have one of the designed tattooed on her.  If you watch the video, it’s pretty silly as the tattoo she gets is basically exactly the same as the picture she shows when asking for designs.  It’s also striking that there’s no mention of the competition or of Grey’s involvement in the videos.

I think this is a perfect analogy for social media.  We’ve gone from rich kids paying bums, to ad agencies paying rich girls to get tattoos for our viewing pleasure.  Apart from showing that ad agencies can pay idiots to have bad ideas, I’m not sure what else this competition achieves.