Shh! I’m Trying To Watch This Commercial.

The world of advertising has turned upside down in just a few short years.  Rather than interrupt you with messages, the most sophisticated brands and advertising creatives now aim to create and disseminate video ads that you will seek out, purely of your own volition.  This phenomenon points to a convergence of two powerful trends: the search for entertainment on the internet, and internet-focused corporations’ attempts to mount whatever content large numbers people find entertaining.  Some would surmise that the future of advertising belongs to the brands and creatives who can figure this out.

One measure of the public’s thirst for entertaining advertising is the number of Google searches entered that are relevant to this topic.  For example, the phrase “best commercials” is entered into Google 201,000 per month, globally.  “Best superbowl commercials” is typed in 40,500 times, and people search for “best commercials of 2010” at a rate of 22,200 times per month.  The most powerful indicator that people enjoy watching these ads:  they often have tens of millions of views each on YouTube alone.

By now it is widely known that people who are searching for internet video entertainment, whether in the form of advertising or not, tend to occupy the 18-44 age group demographic.  These viewers also represent a variety of races and lifestyles.  According to a Sept, 2011 article published on B2W magazine (http://broadcast2world.com/emagazine/2011/09/30/who-watches-youtube-and-what-do-they-watch/), about 45% of all videos watched on YouTube fall into the music and entertainment category – where entertainment might very well take the form of advertising.  B2W also mentioned that on average, people now spend more time online than they do watching TV.  It would seem that creating the type of video ad people can both find out about, and find intriguing, would be an ideal way for a brand to get its message across.

Websites exist whose sole purpose is to help inform viral video entertainment seekers which videos everyone else is watching.  On Best Viral (bestviral.com), not all the videos on this site represent advertising, as some take the form of home videos or re-posted clips from television.  However, visitors may watch branded clips from the likes of Mini, Carlsberg, OxFam, and a brand of cheddar cheese called Nolan’s (the video features a mouse attracted by the cheese, succumbing to a mouse trap, and eventually breaking out of it while “Eye of the Tiger” plays).

Many other websites list the top tens – of the week, month, year-to-date, all time. Common to some of these websites are YouTube clips that have achieved iconic status, such as BlendTec’s “Will It Blend?” series – in which extremely unlikely items, from golf balls to iPhones, are inserted into the blender and summarily reduced to dust.  An interesting fact about BlendTec’s campaign, which appears at the top of many lists, is that it was produced and powered in-house.  BlendTec did not outsource the creative work or dissemination of the video.  The vast majority of other popular branded videos on YouTube were produced and marketed by companies such as Wieden + Kennedy (Nike’s “Write The Future,” Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”) and True Reach (Evian’s “Live Young,” iPhone 4S).

One notable fact about these top viral videos:  many of them last over a minute, some even over two.  That they are nevertheless getting millions of hits shows two things.  First, the companies who produced these videos succeeded so well in entertaining the public that they’ve overcome our perennially short attention span.  Second, corporations and advertisers can now occupy a whole new world no longer limited by the expensive 30 to 60 second TV-spot format.

Such trends inspire one to wonder what might be next for advertising, entertainment, and brands.  Competition may grow increasingly fierce as companies spend time, talent and dollars uncovering and producing the zeitgeist in modern entertainment.  Someone at True Reach predicted the video-watching mania engendered by Evian’s babies on rollerblades, and BlendTec’s team somehow foresaw that a spoof 70’s-style talk show would become huge.  Stay tuned to find out what kinds of mental acrobatics brands must execute in the future, to keep bringing us the best in advertising online.  It may be so good, you’ll be searching for it, rather than simply tolerating it.

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