Most pre-roll ads on YouTube are something to be endured, muted, and skipped immediately after the mandatory five seconds have passed. It's nothing personal -- people just want to get to their video.
So how can advertisers create branded videos that users actually want to watch?
For an ad to be sought out and consumed willingly on YouTube, it needs to stand out as an enjoyable, compulsively shareable story. It can't just be a typical advertisement -- it needs to compete for attention with viral, non-branded content.
To better understand what YouTube users want in a watchable online ad, let's take a look back at what worked in 2017.
Google released a list of the top 10 most watched ads on YouTube from 2017, and we've compiled them here to inspire your next digital ad campaign. All advertisers and marketers should be taking notes: These are the most watched YouTube videos by brands people actually wanted to see in 2017.
The Most Watched YouTube Ads of 2017
Samsung India Service (SVC)
Clash Royale: The Last Second
Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect
Miss Dior — The new Eau de Parfum
Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | Born The Hard Way
2017 Kia Niro | 'Hero's Journey' Starring Melissa McCarthy
adidas Originals | ORIGINAL is never finished
iPhone 7 | The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day
Levi's "Circles" Commercial
Mr. Clean 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | Cleaner of Your Dreams
The 10 Most Watched YouTube Ads of 2017
1. Samsung India Service (SVC)
Samsung India crushed it with this beautiful short story, called "We'll Take Care of You Wherever You Are." The company used it to promote its customer service expansion across rural India last year. Created by the agency, Cheil, it spans four minutes and collected 150 million views for its multinational appeal.
The ad follows a Samsung van through a cumbersome rural drive to answer a service call at a small Indian home. Who the driver meets inside is exactly what made me cry watching this viral sensation:
2. Clash Royale: The Last Second
This zany, offbeat, and yet still universally appealing mobile game developer won the fifth-most watched YouTube ad of 2016. It's now back with the same agency partner, Barton F. Graf, and a suspensful 50-second spot that garnered nearly triple the views of its clip from the previous year.
The ad for Clash Royale, a multiplayer mobile game, opens with a three-second countdown and a pink-haired archer releasing an arrow into a battleground. What happens in "the last second"? Well, you'll just have to see for yourself:
3. Ping Pong Trick Shots 3 | Dude Perfect
If you've never seen Dude Perfect, you're missing out. This group of friends' homemade clips of sports tricks spawned one of the most successful independent YouTube channels in history -- so successful, in fact, that food brands like Ruffles and Oreo have partnered with them to advertise on their videos.
What started as a series of basketball stunts (some of which are literally in the Guinness Book of World Records) is now a goldmine of addicting content promoting popular snack foods via awesome trick shots.
Their latest? Dude Perfect and the Oreo Dunk Challenge -- using nothing but ping pong balls:
4. Miss Dior – The new Eau de Parfum
Number four on YouTube's list is an empowering ad for Dior's newest women's perfume, Miss Dior. Created by the production company, Iconoclast, it's another installment of actor Natalie Portman's longstanding work with the Dior brand. This ad is just too powerful to not watch.
The ad, set to the tune of "Chandelier" by Sia, focuses on love and the diverse emotions with which the modern woman can express it -- something Natalie Portman sees "reflected in the duality of the fragrance." Check it out below:
5. Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | Born The Hard Way
Budweiser has an expectedly large presence in the ad space of every Super Bowl. In 2017, that presence became unforgettable. Working with Anomaly, a New York-based ad agency, America's beloved beer-maker blew the doors off with the unexpected story of the company's founding.
The ad introduces us to a young man immigrating from Germany to an unwelcoming American community. Who he ends up befriending is, well -- I won't spoil it for you:
6. 2017 Kia Niro | 'Hero's Journey' Starring Melissa McCarthy
Coming in at number six is the most hilarious of the most watched YouTube ads of 2017, starring a lovable and heroic Melissa McCarthy. Made by the agency, David&Goliath, the commercial is classic McCarthy in an unusually slapstick video for one of Kia's newest sedans.
McCarthy plays herself in "Hero's Journey," but with hopeless loyalty to a few too many world causes. The ad originally debuted during the 2017 Super Bowl, along with an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot called NiroBot that viewers could interact with through Facebook Messenger during the game.
See why Kia focused on social responsibility in this amusing but compelling spot:
7. adidas Originals | ORIGINAL is never finished
There's something mesmerizing about this obscure commercial for the adidas Originals line of shoes. Colorful, aggressive, raw -- I can't seem to put my finger on it. But in partnership with the agency, Johannes Leonardo, it continues the brand's "ORIGINAL is never finished" series, celebrating originality in perhaps the most stylish YouTube ad of 2017.
Set to the rising sound of Frank Sinatra's song, "My Way," the ad takes you on a ride where moment-to-moment, there's no telling what'll come next. See if you can spot the Snoop Dogg cameo in this cool piece:
(Note: adidas's "ORIGINAL is never finished" ad for 2018 has already surpassed the view count of its 2017 predecessor! Watch it now.)
8. iPhone 7 | The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day
“Siri, show me that crazy Apple commercial featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.” If she doesn’t give you the video below, she’s probably just shy -- Apple’s AI-based voice assistant is as much a star of the ad as Johnson is. This clip was the brainchild of the agency, TBWA, and grossed more than 25 million views by the end of 2017 having debuted just last summer.
Apple ultimately cut the ad into three smaller commercials to promote the iPhone 7’s launch (no pun intended, as part of the clip takes The Rock and his new hardware to space).
TBWA calls itself “The Disruption Company,” and it’s no mystery why with this flashy plug for the sleek smartphone. Watch it here:
9. Levi's 'Circles' Commercial
Levi’s is celebrating more than excellent dancers in this fun commercial for everyone’s favorite jeans, and it only becomes clearer as the ad progresses. The clip showcases as many styles of jeans as it does cultures of the people dancing in them, making this not only one of the most watched ads of 2017, but also one of the most heartwarming.
Said FCB West, Levi’s agency partner, “Different cultures, religions and groups all share dance as a common unifier, and when we come together to celebrate, we all dance in a circle -- a forum for connections and individual self-expression.”
See how that idea manifests in this catchy spot:
10. Mr. Clean 2017 Super Bowl Ad | Cleaner of Your Dreams
Knowing what I know of the animated Mr. Clean, this ad made me laugh. The man in the famous white muscle shirt never looked so endearing while mopping hardwood floor before … Kudos to Leo Burnett, the agency behind this charming Super Bowl commercial.
Within seconds of this animated head-turner squeezing out the sponge, he likely became every man’s new marriage coach. As they say at the end of this one, you gotta’ love a man who cleans. See why below:
As YouTube continues to release these greatest hits lists every year, the content we're forced to sit through before our video plays will become the videos we actively seek out. Learn how to delight your customers with sweet video content below.
Originally published Feb 11, 2018 10:32:00 PM, updated March 25 2019