2010 was a breakout year for video advertising, which is an unmitigated good thing for advertisers and viewers alike. As audiences, platforms, channels, and devices continue to fragment into ever-more-specific niches, earning people’s attention has become ever more challenging. To find audiences and break through all the noise, brands must create content that people seek out, love, and share with others.

On the coattails of YouTube Rewind, which highlighted the most viewed videos of 2010 - we took an informal poll of our team and reporters in the industry to find out their favorite YouTube ads of the year. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" (25M views)



2010 was Old Spice’s year. Released to YouTube a few days before the Super Bowl, Isaiah Mustafa’s shower-transcending, horse-sitting manliness had already attracted a fan base before the Saints and Colts took the field. This new franchise culminated in Old Spice’s Twitter response campaign, attracting more than 100 million views in fewer than 10 days. Smells good!

Experts say: “The challenge for advertisers in social media is keeping up with the real-time nature of it. Old Spice provided the blue print on how to do this with a video blitz that perfectly fit with how the Web operates nowadays.” - Brian Morrissey, AdWeek

Lesson learned: Old Spice spent millions developing the character, and then took advantage of this brand equity by speaking directly to key influencers, who then got their followers to tune in.... for free!

2) Nike "Write the Future" (22M views)



Who was your favorite official sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup? If you said Nike, you’re not alone. You’re also not an expert on global sports sponsorships, because Nike didn’t sponsor the Cup. All they did was hijack world soccer with a glorious, 3-minute mini-epic directed by Alejandro Iñárritu.

Lesson learned: It’s hard to imagine a 3-minute commercial running during a major sporting event, but online it attracted an enormous audience that accelerated via sharing.

3) Tipp-Ex "NSFW. A hunter shoots a bear!" (13M views)



Vaguely reminiscent of the revolutionary Burger King Subservient Chicken, this campaign for correction tape product Tipp-Ex hands control of the story to the user, with dozens of funny outcomes that reward experimentation and discovery.

Experts say: "One of 2010's greatest examples of interactive ads." - Ben Parr, mashable
Lesson learned: Interactivity + video = a truly immersive, memorable, and sharable experience.

4) Hell Pizza, “Deliver Me to Hell (2.5M views)



Ads are definitely content when they include interactive zombie attacks. When you feature clever product placement and a narrative viewers can participate in, it's advertising gold.

Experts say: “With the increased sophistication of YouTube annotations has come a greater number of interactive adventures, and this branded experience sponsored by the New Zealand pizza company Hell Pizza is one of the better ones I've seen. Not only is it executed well, but a zombie comedy fits perfectly with Hell Pizza's brand -- and really makes you crave a hot slice.” - Liz Shannon Miller, NewTeeVee

Lesson learned: YouTube video annotations create new opportunities for fun, turning the video viewing experience into an adventure.

5) Toyota "Swagger Wagon" (7.6M views)



Awwwww, yeah. Decidedly un-hip-hop people rapping about their un-hip-hop lives is nothing revolutionary, but the execution on this campaign for Toyota’s Sienna minivan was a cooling salve for Gen X parents struggling to embrace the cul-the-sac.

Lesson learned: Perhaps the perfect example of a brand creating content that people will seek out, love, and share.

6) Toy Story 3, “Lots-o-Huggin' Bear Commercial(1.2M views)



Experts say: “We loved Pixar's phony retro toy ads promoting Toy Story 3. The ‘Huggin' Toys’ videos were made to resemble toy ads circa 1983 -- complete with VHS tape static crawling along the bottom of the screen.” - Zach Rodgers, ClickZ

Lesson learned: The Toy Story franchise has been the most critically and financially successful animated movie series of all time, mostly because of its ability to appeal both to kids and to parents. Kids who grew up in the Reagan Years are powerless against the nostalgia appearl of this very convincing faux-retro spot .

These are, of course, just a tiny taste of what brands and agencies did with online video in 2010, and we didn’t even touch the best creative in other languages. We’re hoping this list gets people inspired about the creative possibilities.

Eric Meyerson, Video Business Marketing Lead, recently watched "Complete History of The Soviet Union, Arranged to the Melody of Tetris."