Google unveils Ten Commandments for YouTube hits

Those of you who want to create a world-beating viral ad on YouTube (most of you I expect) need look no further.

As part of its ten year celebrations of YouTube, Google has released a list of what you need to do to achieve the above. Top five ads from YouTube’s first ten are here.

Right, the list (it doesn’t always require Leo Messi):

1. Be authentic: On YouTube, authenticity is always the right choice. Look no further than the massive fandoms that vloggers like Grace Helbig continue to build with their straight-to-camera videos. Consider taking a page out of their books, like Dollar Shave Club did in 2012 with a video that shared everything from the brand’s persona to its value proposition — all while oozing authenticity.

2. Make video ads interactive: YouTube viewers are able to engage—comment, share, and click—in ways television never could. Make it easy for viewers to watch more or click-through to your website with interactive cards. Or consider responding to their comments directly, like the Old Spice Man did back in 2010. However you make your videos interactive, give the engaged YouTube audience the opportunity to do something, not just see something.

3. Collaborate with experts who live and breathe YouTube: Consider partnering with an experienced YouTube creator, like Friskies did with BuzzFeed on “Dear Kitten,” and get the added bonus of engaging a fandom of millions. YouTube creators are experts in cultivating relationships with their fans through the content they produce. They know the right tone to take and the right topics to cover because they’re having conversations on their own YouTube channels every day.

4. Take the time you need to tell your story: It’s time to break free of the 30-second spot. Nike’s “Winner Stays” video, which has more than 115 million views, is more than four minutes long. Your story doesn’t have to fit into a timeframe of 15 or 30 seconds anymore; it just has to be a story viewers want to watch.

5. Think like a filmmaker, not an ad maker: “Epic” used to be a word to describe the films that followed ads, but not anymore. Ads these days can be epic too. Consider creating videos with a film-y feel and a dramatic, storytelling quality. Chipotle’s animated short “The Scarecrow,” launched a movement. Cartier’s “The Proposal” moved us emotionally. If you have the time to tell any story you like, why not make it epic?

6. Play a positive prank or two: There are such things as positive pranks, and people love to watch them. Pepsi Max, for example, put an unsuspecting car salesman in a Mustang with Jeff Gordon in “Test Drive.” And when a journalist questioned the authenticity of the ad, he became the unsuspecting passenger in a cab driven by Gordon for a follow-up ad. It’s fun to watch people get fooled, as long as it’s all in good fun.

7. Have fun with ad formats: Ad formats don’t have to be limitations. What if you used them to your advantage? Take the “skip” button, for example. GEICO created a series of “unskippable” ads that communicate the brand’s message in just five seconds, telling the user, “You can’t skip this GEICO ad … because it’s already over.”

8. Make your own memes: Memes aren’t just images and block letters—they can be humorous videos and video themes that spread quickly. Brands stand to benefit from adopting internet memes or inventing their own. Take Pepsi’s version of the “Harlem Shake” or T-Mobile’s flash mob. If fueling an existing meme fire isn’t for you, try making your own. Los Angeles-based fashion brand Wren’s “First Kiss” video, for example, has earned thousands of spinoff videos. For brands that dare to be bold, meme ads are great ways of joining the cultural conversation.

9. Give events a before, during, and after: Whether it’s for a sporting event such as the World Cup, or a cultural moment, such as the Academy Awards, brands are extending their air time during major events by uploading their ads early to YouTube. People watched nearly 7 million hours of ads and ad teasers from the Big Game in the first six weeks of 2015—more than in all 52 weeks of 2014. And adidas proved the value of getting an early start and sticking around long after an event with its 2014 World Cup campaign.

10. More Jean-Claude Van Damme: Enough said.

Got all that? Go on then.

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