The Significant 7: Top Trending Videos & YouTube Ads of 2018

Examining YouTube’s lists of most-watched music videos, top trending videos in 2018, and all seven of the winners of #TheYouTubeAd of the Year can teach marketers some important lessons that they can apply in 2019.

But, it helps if you have a secret decoder ring to decipher why there are three lists – and why each one uses a different methodology to come up with the rankings.

Now, YouTube unveiled its first list of the 10 most-watched YouTube videos (excluding major label music videos) along with a second list of the 10 most-watched major label music videos in December 2010.

Unfortunately, these lists taught many marketers that “view count” was the only metric that mattered.

But, I got my secret decoder ring back in October 2012, when YouTube started adjusting the ranking of videos in YouTube search results to reward engaging videos that kept viewers watching.

In other words, YouTube replaced “view count” with “watch time.”

This was a significant shift, because “watch time” gives you a sense of what content viewers actually watch as opposed to videos that they click on and then abandon.

And in December 2012, YouTube shifted from unveiling its 10 “most-watched” videos of the year to unveiling its “top trending videos,” based on time spent watching, sharing, commenting, liking, and other factors.

In other words, “watch time” and “engagements” were now the metrics that mattered.

This brings us to two of YouTube’s lists of top videos of 2018.

For marketers to learn important lessons that can be applied in 2019, we need to:

  • Realize that “view counts” still seem to matter with music videos.
  • Understand that YouTube isn’t explicitly disclosing the “watch time” of other types of video.
  • Pay more attention to the “engagements” of other types of video.

7 Most-Watched Music Videos of 2018

Let’s start with the seven “most-watched” music videos of 2018:

In the post on the Official YouTube Blog that announced this list, Kevin Allocca, Head of Culture & Trends, and the YouTube Rewind team, noted, “Latin Music has continued to explode on YouTube in 2018. In fact, eight of the ten most-watched music videos over the past year were by Latin artists.”

But, marketers can learn another important lesson from this list:

Each of these music videos is 2:33 to 7:03 long and has 3.5 to 11.4 million engagements.

So, even though this ranking was based on “view counts” as of December 6, 2018, music videos get a ton of “watch time” and “engagements.”

Now, most marketers are focused on telling a story visually, but the soundtrack can also have a huge impact on “watch time” and “engagements.”

In fact, lots of savvy marketers have created some very successful “trackvertising” to tap into this phenomenon.

So, use your ears as well as your eyes when creating and editing branded videos as well as advertising in 2019.

Top 7 Trending Videos of 2018

Next, let’s look at the top seven trending videos of 2018 (excluding major label music videos).

1. To Our Daughter (11:33 long, 79.3 million views, but engagements were disabled for this video)

This pregnancy reveal video was uploaded by Kylie Jenner on Super Bowl Sunday.

Now, most marketers will think, “We can’t do that,” but Jenner wasn’t the only celebrity to share breaking news or take viewers behind the scenes in 2018.

A few examples:

  • Stephen Fry Announcement told us about his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels.
  • Will Smith’s They Challenged Me showed us why he bungee jumped out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.
  • And Beto O’Rourke let voters track his 254-county tour of Texas (down to the four-hour drives and late-night burger runs) on a near-constant video feed.

So, which big moments would your CEO or founder share with viewers?

2. Real Life Trick Shots 2 | Dude Perfect (4:18 long, 146 million views & 2.5 million engagements)

This Sports + Comedy video was sponsored by Kay Jewelers.

Sponsored content is a huge trend that marketers can apply in 2019.

According to Tubular Labs, 14,800 influencers and publishers uploaded 77,000 YouTube videos that were sponsored by 13,800 brands in 2018.

These sponsored videos got a total of 12.9 billion views and 341 million engagements during the year.

Dude Perfect was the top YouTube partner. They uploaded 17 sponsored videos for 14 different brands, which got a total of 624 million views and 14.0 million engagements.

So, if your brand’s YouTube videos aren’t getting tons of watch time and a plethora of engagements, then consider sponsoring a bunch of former high school basketball players and college roommates at Texas A&M University.

Kay Jewelers did.

3. we broke up (6:19 long, 48.6 million views & 2.8 million engagements)

This breakup video got 1,000 comments per minute within the first hour of being uploaded.

Now, most marketers will think, “We can’t do that,” and they’re probably right.

Liza Koshy and David Dobrik are two of YouTube’s biggest creators and they had often shared their romantic relationship on their channels.

So, viewers were shocked when they announced in a video that they had separated six months earlier.

Now, the average tenure for Chief Marketing Officers of leading U.S. consumer brand companies is 44 months and the median tenure is just 31 months, according to Spencer Stuart.

But, I don’t expect many CMOs and CEOs will start uploading breakup videos that are both emotional and funny.

About the only two categories where marketers might be able to apply this trend are Entertainment & Pop Culture and Sports.

Hey, a channel focused on celebrity breakups could help influencers and publishers build a huge audience on YouTube, and there is a small army of basketball fans who would love to watch a video of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James trying to explain their breakup.

4. Walmart yodeling kid (2:02 long, 61.4 million views & 1.4 million engagements)

In April, Mason Ramsey became an internet sensation with his cover of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues.”

Between 10,100 parodies, memes, and remixes, related videos of the young star raked in 601 million views.

Following his viral fame, Ramsey was invited to perform on “The Ellen Show”, Coachella, and the Grand Ole Opry.

Ramsey parlayed his meme status into a full career complete with a musical single that gained 22.9 million views and drove 570,000 new subscribers to his YouTube channel.

What lessons can marketers learn from the Walmart yodeling kid?

Well, you never really know what crazy new thing will take off. So, keep experimenting with unique and interesting video ideas.

5. Do You Hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”? (SOLVED with SCIENCE) (2:59 long, 50.9 million views & 822,000 engagements)

Now, who would believe that science could be fun and interesting?

Well, check out the AsapSCIENCE channel on YouTube.

“Do You Hear ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’? (SOLVED with SCIENCE)” may be their most watched and most engaged video, but they’ve uploaded another 246 videos that each has more than 1 million views.

Overall, their channel has 1.2 billion views and 8.3 million subscribers.

6. Portugal v Spain – 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – MATCH 3 (2:10 long, 67.5 million views & 487,00 engagements)

In 2018, Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup, one of the biggest global sporting events.

According to YouTube, videos related to the World Cup generated more than 300 million hours of watch time.

Since the FIFA Word Cup is only held every four years, marketers won’t be able to apply any lessons learned until 2022. But, they may want to focus on highlight clips.

While France defeated Croatia to win the 2018 World Cup, the event’s top trending video featured highlights from the Spain vs. Portugal match.

7. Build Swimming Pool Around Underground House (13:32 long, 91.3 million views, & 1.1 million engagements)

What lessons can marketers learn from the Primitive Survival Tool channel on YouTube?

Well, we already knew that how-to videos were popular.

But, maybe all of us underestimated the size of the audience for how-to videos about building things in the wild.

In fact, there are more than 30 primitive living YouTube channels.

And considering the uncertain world that we live in, maybe we shouldn’t be shocked that so many people – mostly males 18-34 – want to learn how to search for groundwater, catch water ducks by hand, or build a Hobbit house.

7 Winners of #TheYouTubeAd of the Year

Meanwhile, YouTube used an entirely different methodology to determine #TheYouTubeAd of the Year. I guess this makes sense.

The “most-watched” video ads are generally the ones with the biggest budgets to drive up view counts.

And, maybe YouTube doesn’t want to let its competitors know who spent the most to promote their brand videos or launch huge advertising campaigns.

If YouTube had ranked video ads by “view count,” then:

But, YouTube didn’t use this metric, so you will need to read “6 Lessons In Video Storytelling You Can Learn from Indian Brands,” which was published here on , to discover what lessons you can learn that can still be applied in 2019.

YouTube didn’t use “watch time” or “engagements” to rank the top ads of the year, either. I guess this also makes sense.

Bumper ads, which are non-skippable video ads of up to 6 seconds that must be watched before a video can be viewed, aren’t designed to get eons of “watch time.”

And with new video formats like TrueView for action allowing marketers to start optimizing for a specific user action (e.g., signing up for a service or buying a product), maybe YouTube doesn’t want to call out other ones that got a plethora of “engagements.”

Instead, YouTube asked subscribers in one of its newsletters to vote for the winners after viewing shortlists compiled by YouTube staff.

After tallying up 70,000 online votes, the winners of #TheYouTubeAd of the Year in seven different categories were:

#TheYouTubeAd That Deserves Best Picture

Gatorade’s Heart of a Lio – TBWACHIATDAY Los Angeles, OMD & Resolution Media

#TheYouTubeAd That Taught Me

Nintendo’s Nintendo Labo – Make, Play, & Discover – Leo Burnett, Blue449

#TheYouTubeAd That Rewrites the Rules

Bonobos’ Evolve The Definition – Observatory, Exverus

#TheYouTubeAd That Makes Me

McDonald’s’ Speechless Thoughts with Charles Barkley – We Are Unlimited, OMD

#TheYouTubeAd That Frees Your Inner Gamer

World of Warships’ You Haven’t Played World of Warships Yet?!

#TheYouTubeAd That Turns an Ad into Action

Nectar’s Make America Sleep Again – BlackBoard Studios

#TheYouTubeAd That Has Six Appeal

Groupon’s Save Money on Groupon! – O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul

Most Important Lesson That Marketers Can Apply in 2019

Looking back at YouTube’s lists of most-watched music videos, top trending videos in 2018, and all seven of the winners of #TheYouTubeAd of the Year, there is a meta-lesson that marketers can learn:

One size does not fit all.

Different metrics matter when measuring different types of video.

And different types of ads are better for different marketing objectives.

Or, as the British say, “There are horses for courses.”

Now, that’s a lesson that all of us can apply in 2019 and beyond.

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