Perennial heavy-hitters like Old Spice and Nike continued to dominate the viral-video field in 2011, using new executions to keep their brands on top in the web-video world -- but often benefiting from new views for old clips as well.
Old Spice, for example, became the most-viewed brand in online video for the second consecutive year, primarily on the strength of three campaigns: "New Old Spice Guy Fabio" and "Old Spice Man is Back," both released in 2011, and "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," the 2010 campaign that first made Isaiah Mustafa and his chiseled abs into an internet meme. Old Spice's decision to hire Fabio, whose romance-novel-cover looks helped put I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! on the map in the '90s, paid off this year by refreshing the original campaign.
Evian, No. 7 among brands ranked by web-video plays this year, continued to benefit from its 2009 roller-skating babies video. But it was the exception on a chart where most brands used fresh content to achieve viral reach.
Volkswagen wasn't in the top 10 last year but made a big splash in viral video in 2011 thanks to "The Force," featuring a 6-year-old aspiring Darth Vader who tries to exert his "powers" in his suburban home. It handily won the online battle of Super Bowl ads with 20 million views, half of which were collected prior to the game due to aggressive paid placement by Volkswagen, and was the most-watched video of the year on YouTube. "Black Beetle" and 2009's "The Fun Theory" also drove audience for the automaker, which racked up 85 million views this year.
Google continues to be a nimble user of its own platform, YouTube, notching third place this year -- the same as last year -- with 78 million views. "The Google+ Project" and "Gmail Motion" helped drive views, but the most viral campaign was "The Web Is What You Make Of It," a celebrity-studded project featuring Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber to introduce Google Chrome.
Two footwear brands populate the chart: Nike and DC Shoes. Nike has more than 100 video campaigns on the web to help stake out its fourth-place position, but its most-watched campaign was "Back for the Future," launched this fall to promote limited-edition Nike MAG sneakers modeled on the kicks Marty McFly wore in 2015. DC Shoes's 51 million views were all driven by its Gymkhana series. Released over the summer, Gymkhana Four continued to feature professional rally driver Ken Block and pulled previous installments back into heavy circulation.
Three companies in the cell-phone business also made the chart this year. Apple collected almost half of its 63 million views from "Introducing iPhone 4S," a lengthy and fairly didactic tribute to the new device, and Samsung's most-watched video was "Gamer Commute," which was shot with a Samsung Galaxy S II.
T-Mobile, No. 6 among brands ranked by web-video plays this year, is a perennial viral-video champion thanks to its plays on the flash-mob meme, but its Royal Wedding spoof was responsible for most of its views in 2011. (That clip was actually No. 2 on a similar but distinct chart ranking the year's most popular new viral video campaigns.)