This year, advertisers managed to get viewers to watch longer and engage, which is important given the widespread use of ad blocking tech. The prevalence of those tools indicates ads still illicit feelings of impatience and dread, but at least some concepts kept viewers from hitting "skip."
From Unruly's most-shared to YouTube's most-viewed, the most successful ads all told a compelling story – some punctuated with pets and unlikely pals, others highlighting good causes – and all emitted warmth or inspiration.
"It's not that adland has lost its sense of humor this year; it's just that it's found a sense of higher purpose," Sarah Wood, co-founder and co-CEO of video ad tech company Unruly, which has been tracking video ad shares, said in a statement.
One other important aspect that tied these successful ads together was time, Unruly's President Richard Kosinski told Marketing Dive. He believes that to get a story going you need about 45 seconds, and the Internet and mobile have allowed brands those precious extra seconds to expand campaigns and really hook viewers. All of the most-viewed and most-shared ads this year ran at least one minute long.
"If you have time to tell a story, you can start talking about things beyond the product and make [the ad] much more emotional," Kosinski explained. Emotion is a trigger, he explains, and ads that make an emotional connection are twice as likely to be shared than any other ads, he said, adding, "Unless you're made of stone, you're going to have a reaction."
Trust us, you won't want to hit skip on these ads:
1. Supercell: Clash of Clans: Revenge
Views to date on YouTube: 91 million
This mobile game app ad, featuring Liam Neeson, originally appeared during the Super Bowl in February and also made Unruly's most-shared list with over one million shares when the ad tech company published its list in late November.
2. Hyundai: A Message to Space
Views to date on YouTube: 69.8 million
In this ad, the automaker helps a young girl from Houston send her astronaut father a message using Hyundai's fleet of vehicles. Not only did her dad see her message, but Guinness World Records recognized it as "the largest tire track image."
3. Budweiser USA: Lost Dog
Views to date on YouTube: 30.5 million
The beverage company's lovable puppy ads, though popular in ratings and shares (2.8 million per Unruly), will sadly not be returning to next year's Super Bowl. AB InBev, Budweiser's parent company, said the ads didn't sell as much beer as they'd liked, prompting the change in creative direction.
4. Barbie: Imagine the Possibilities
Views to date on YouTube: 19 million
The Mattel's ad, created by BBDO San Francisco, gained traction for pushing back against gender stereotypes and encouraging little girls to imagine themselves as coaches, doctors and college professors. According to Ace Metrix, the ad scored well for likability (36%), attention (42%) and changing brand perception, for which it rated 35% higher than the average commercial.
5. Extra Gum: The Story of Sarah & Juan
Views to date on YouTube: 16.7 million
Wrigley's sweet new ad tells the story of a guy, a girl and a stick of gum, per the gum maker's description on YouTube. The spot also features Haley Reinhart's cover of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and was created by Energy BBDO. The ad is a follow-up to last year's "Origami" spot about a young girl and her father and silver gum-wrapper swans.
6. Android: Friends Furever
Views to date on YouTube: 21.7 million
The most-shared ad of the year, per Unruly's data, with more than six million shares, is also the most-shared ad of all time. The Google Android ad, created by Droga5, tells the story of unlikely furry friends and was stitched together out of clips from around the Internet, which isn't the agency's typical way of doing things. But, per David Droga, who told Adweek, "this spot probably created more love in my household than anything I've ever created."
7. Purina: Puppyhood
Views to date on YouTube: 8.5 million
"This man found his soulmate in a puppy and it’s adorable," per BuzzFeed, which created the actually uber adorable ad. And if anyone knows viral, it's BuzzFeed, so it's no surprise this branded content spot for Purina has struck a chord with as many viewers. Per Unruly, the ad boasts some three million shares and counting.
8. The Collective Project: Robert Downey Jr. Delivers a Real Bionic Arm
Views to date on YouTube: 10 million
Arguably the most inspired spot, Microsoft's video featuring "Iron Man" actor Robert Downey Jr. has been shared more than two million times. In the tech titan's ad, Downey Jr. and and Limbitless Founder Albert Manero surprise a young boy with a brand new bionic 3D printed arm, at no cost to the family.
9. Roc by Ronaldo/Monster: Cristiano Ronaldo in Disguise
Views to date on YouTube: 13.7 million
In an ad for the launch of his own line of Monster headphones, Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo goes undercover sporting an unnatural gut and hipster-length bushy beard. The spot is shot in Madrid, where Ronaldo's team is based, and yet, despite his fancy dribbling, nobody recognizes the Real Madrid player. The ad, which was produced by Los Angeles-based Shareability, has nearly three million shares, according to Unruly.
10. adidas: Create Your Own Game
Views to date on YouTube: 45 million
Between puppies and soccer players, these ads have proven to be highly-shareable. In fact, athletic apparel maker Adidas held not one but three of the top 20 slots on Unruly's most-shared ads of the year list. This specific ad, featuring the likes of Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Diego Rubio, has been shared over 770,000 times.
Bonus: GE: What’s the Matter with Owen? – 'Big News'
Views to date on YouTube: 225K
General Electric's "Owen" series ad trilogy have made a splash with viewers, especially with GE's target audience: millennials. The ads, which were created by BBDO, debuted in tandem with the launch of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," and per GE Chief Creative Officer Andy Goldberg, the ironic spots have helped improve the century-plus old company's recruitment numbers – which was the aim of the ads.
"The goal was really to solidify GE's role as more than just an industrial company, but as a digital industrial company," Goldberg told Marketing Dive. "The challenge of any great work is finding the next thing that cuts through ... so it's exciting to be part of something that has resonated, especially since moments pass so quickly."