Why TED's 'Ads Worth Spreading' Aren't Really Spreading

When Great Creative Just Isn't Enough

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In March, TED announced the winners of its Ads Worth Spreading competition, a competition that celebrates video ads that people choose to watch and share. The winning ads were selected by a panel of industry experts, including creative directors from some of the most prominent creative agencies in the world. As you might expect, the result is a true pantheon of video ads. From a digital chase, to a boy's wandering imagination, to a town's colorful transformation, these are ads you choose to watch and share, ads that inspire, ads that , in the end, make you forget you're watching an ad.

Besides providing well deserved visibility for the brands and their campaigns, Ads Worth Spreading also serves as a industry resource for best practices in creating video content. Engaging, inspiring, infectious, challenging, arresting, mesmerizing, and more, these spots scrap the facts, features, and figures so many traditional ads frequently use and, instead, focus simply on storytelling.

As lauded as these ads have become, we wanted to see how they have performed in online video. In the same spirit of the Ads Worth Spreading competition, which sought to "reverse the trend of online ads being aggressively forced on users," we've measured the ads based on user-initiated views. This means that audiences have to choose to watch the ad, as opposed to being interrupted by a pre-roll or auto-play advertisement, for the view to count. You can see the complete results in the chart below.

What we found was surprising. Over half of the 10 Ads Worth Spreading winners haven't reached 1 million views in online video. To put this into perspective, Evian's Live Young campaign generates over 1 million views each week. What could account for this lack in views? If these ads are truly some of the best creative work around, voted on by a panel of industry experts, honored by TED, reported on by the New York Times, Ad Age and others, and more, how is it possible they haven't cracked the 1 million view threshold?

Creative is still king, right?

To answer this question, let's refer to a traditional philosophical riddle: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" The same can be said for today's great creatives that are simply uploaded to YouTube: If a creative is uploaded to YouTube and no one knows it's there, will audiences watch it?

Unlike the fallen tree, there shouldn't be much debate here.

In today's fast-paced media environment, where YouTube gains two day's worth of video content every minute, great creative is no longer enough. It's a critical component to be sure, but as we see with TED's Ads Worth Spreading spots, you can't bring a pretty knife to a gun fight.

The secret is that you need media to promote these big ideas. Some folks in the industry are still talking about seeding videos to influencers with the goal of tapping into their audiences to drive views. This approach is no longer enough. Pre-roll and auto-play campaigns that drive passive impressions won't do it either. Audiences won't sit through 90 seconds, not to mention 5 minutes, of a pre-roll or an auto-play ad no matter how intriguing it is .

When it comes to telling big stories across broad and beautiful canvasses, the ideal environment is social video advertising. Social video advertising puts audiences in control of their content, allowing them to decide what's important, what's worthwhile, what's relevant. Social video advertising sparks inspiration, opening a path to evangelism that transforms the curious consumer into a committed brand advocate. This is the world of Earned Media, where brands no longer force impressions on potential audiences, but encourage them to become partners in spreading their big ideas.

This is the environment in which TED's Ads Worth Spreading live and the spirit in which they were created. Such great creative executions and ideas deserve more views, more advocates, and more earned media. They deserve to be chosen. Social video advertising let's them have it all.

Brian Shin Brian Shin is the founder and CEO of Visible Measures, the analytics and advertising platform for social video.
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