David Blecken
Feb 2, 2017

Behind Japan’s most popular YouTube video ads

Pikotaro was outshone by a squeaky-voiced humanoid.

(Lux Japan)
(Lux Japan)

It’s not always easy to see why a branded video takes off. We spoke to Masanobu Nakamura, product marketing manager at YouTube, for some analysis of the most popular content on YouTube in the second half of 2016.

Firstly, here are the top 10 branded videos in YouTube’s leaderboard, based on a combination of promoted and organic views. They are pretty diverse, ranging from a bafflingly popular spot featuring the virtual entertainer Hatsune Miku, to the fashion retailer Beams’ excellent ‘Tokyo Culture Story’.

1. Lux Official Japan
Lux Straight & Beauty Live Straight
Creative agency: ADK

2. AbemaTV Official YouTube
PPAP Pikotaro First CM | AbemaTV
Creative agency: Cyber Agent

3. Suntory Official Channel
Pepsi ‘Momotaro’ Episode 4
Creative agency: TUGBOAT

4. toyotajpchannel【WOW】
I Hate Ichiro
Creative agency: Dentsu

5. Square Enix
Final Fantasy XV 2016 Trailer
Creative agency: Square Enix

6. Hajime Shacho
Battle in the sauna/Water vs Icebox (Morinaga)
Creative agency: Keio Agency

7. PlayStation Japan
Ryo-Z & PES (Rip Slyme) + tofubeats PS4 Lineup
Creative agency: Hakuhodo

8. Glico Japan Official
Almond Peak Creators' Movie
Creative agency: Dentsu

9. PlayStation Japan
PS4 New Price: New PS4 x Persona 5 Movie
Creative agency: Hakuhodo

10. Beamsbroadcast
Tokyo Culture Story presented by Beams
Creative agency: Six Inc

Why these videos rose to the top

Nakamura says an element of surprise played an important role. The top video, Lux’s ‘Straight and Beauty’, caught people’s interest not just because there are still lots of Hatsune Miku fans out there, but because the choice of ‘endorser’ made it instantly stand out from most hair care product work, which tends to look very similar. This intrigued viewers and made them want to watch the video to the end, he says. Other factors that helped videos do well included having a connection to characters or topics of the moment, being part of a series with some element of drama, and being recognizable from TV spots but adapted for the online format.

Nakamura’s personal favourites

For Nakamura, the highlight was the fourth episode in Pepsi’s series of scenes from Momotaro, a popular piece of Japanese folklore. He liked the original interpretation of the tale, but the surprise appearance of Jude Law gave this installment special appeal, he says. He was also enthusiastic about Toyota’s intelligent use of the baseball star Ichiro around the Paralympics, and a spot for Icebox featuring popular YouTuber Hajime Shacho. The latter demonstrated excellent understanding of target viewers, he says, noting that it’s unusual for a video as long as six minutes to become so popular.

The lifespan of a meme like Pikotaro’s ‘PPAP’ for brands

According to Nakamura, the good thing about the unlikely comedic sensation Pikotaro is that his song is infinitely customizable: 10 brands are currently using it as a platform, and he says acts like this probably have a lifespan of up to six months before people finally get tired of them. Whether people will actually remember any of the brands at the end of it all is highly debatable though.

What these examples say about where video in Japan is heading

Nakamura says 2.5 minutes is typically a popular length for video content. But he expects shorter spots to become popular this year due to increased viewership on mobile devices. Google recently introduced Bumper, a six-second ad format that, while challenging, has already yielded some promising work from brands such as Nuro (an internet provider) and Weider In Jelly (an energy substance). In using such a short format, Nakamura urges brands to cut out everything but the key message, and present it imaginatively—unlike the frequently bland product shots that have become the norm on more traditional media.

The proliferation of shorter content won’t mean longer-form video disappears, however. “It’s based on objectives,” Nakamura says. “If the advertiser wants reach or awareness, shorter video ads may be best. But if they want to accelerate consideration, brand love or purchase intent, they are likely to produce longer videos.” He encourages brands to think ahead to video when making TVCs. If filmed intelligently with other formats in mind, the content can then be re-cut to something that will hopefully hold people’s interest online. 

Common mistakes brands still make when it comes to video

Brands are often still too focused on hard selling without considering their audience, Nakamura says. It’s important to remember that people can skip videos easily. As always, relevance and understanding of placement is key. Simply presenting a tea product as healthy or delicious is likely to annoy. But presenting that product’s health benefits to someone who’s unwell is likely to be more effective. “When watching sports or watching cooking, the same person’s mindset is likely to be different, so the message has to change to match their intent,” Nakamura says. “In Japan, advertisers tend to only want to get reach. They see reach as the most important currency of performance. But we need to achieve marketing goals. That’s not only reach, but impact and accelerating people to buy a product or share a message. Agencies tend to talk about how to get reach but I think they should also report impact.”

This article appeared first on Campaign Japan: 話題になったYouTube動画広告の背景 

Campaign Japan

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