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2011 may forever go down in history as one the best years ever for online “best of” lists… there were a lot. However, amidst the kerfuffle of “best of’s 2011” banter that pervaded the online space this season, there was a particularly insightful piece run by Adweek about the top 10 commercials of 2011. Aside from essentially being an aggregated list of the top viewed YouTube videos of the past year, the Adweek post gave a pretty comprehensive rundown on the best of the best in anthropomorphic viral phenomenons of 2011. From bear skin rug French directors (RSCG), to cats with thumbs forming street gangs (W+K), to sharks with a taste for “peanut butter Snickers” flavored humans (BBDO), the best of advertising in 2011 was dominated by animals with human like characteristics… and a diminutive Darth Vader (Deutsch L.A.).

And, of course, being a link builder, I could not help but first wonder: “How many drugs are the dudes at BBDO on?”. But then I wondered, “hmm… which (if any) of these respected advertising behemoths is screwed together tightly enough to actually maximize such a ridiculous amount of user engagement into bonafide links?”

First up to the competitive analysis gallows is Cravendale and their excellent “what if cats grew thumbs video” (Wieden Kennedy London).

Aside from the fact that W+K may have done the impossible and made a cat video worth watching, the capable crew did the smart thing and embedded the video into a landing page on the Cravendale site, complete with Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can follow the online exploits of “Bertrum Thumbcat,” the rather formidable looking tabby who is undoubtedly well on his way to becoming the leader of be-thumbed feline world domination.

YouTube Views to Date: 5,128,330
Inbound Links Gained: 762
*Link Leverage Score: A-

Next up on the chopping block is Snickers and the admittedly awesome “Shark’s in a Focus Group” (BBDO, New York).

Now, while the concept of sharks eating humans is nothing to laugh about, the concept of sharks eating humans because they taste like a Snickers is downright vaudevillian in its comedic genius. And while this video and concept certainly both deliver in their promise to make you crave a four by four of peanut-buttery goodness… it ain’t doing nothing for Snickers.com’s link equity. In fact, the Snickers video page on their website has a re-direct in place that sends you to YouTube!

I for one would be appalled that no one took advantage of this sensational piece of link bait if I hadn’t stumbled upon this page on the BBDO website proudly showcasing all of their clients’ videos. All I can say is thank goodness somebody at BBDO knows something about SE… Oh wait… the URL is hidden from search behind a hashtag… nevermind.

YouTube Views to Date: 1,056,877
Inbound links Gained: For BBDO? probably a few… none for Snickers… sorry Snickers.
*Link Leverage Score: D

Next up to be taken to the off site SEO woodshed comes all the way from France with Canal+’s Epic “Bear Rug Director” (BETC Euro RSCG).

Now I love this. A stupendous piece of content that is just dying to be shared all over the bloody place created as a promo spot for what is now essentially the French version of YouTube, Canal+. They had to have leveraged the links here a bit for themselves, right?

Wrong… mostly…

The majority of any relevant links (I counted 2,500 going to the player via Majestic) go straight to the Canal+ video player which sorts all of the videos behind a hashtag and a bunch of ugly numerical permalinks. Basically that all boils down to this:

Well that’s a crying shame. According to the search engines (i.e. according to Google) this Canal+ video doesn’t even exist… and we all know you can’t link to something that doesn’t exist… just ask Yahoo Site Explorer. (ooohhh burn!)

YouTube Views to Date: Hundreds of Thousands over Several Different YouTube Versions
Inbound links Gained: No Idea. Could be substantial, probably isn’t… definitely not utilizing best practices for link bait. 
*Link Leverage Score: D-

Finally we come to what was indubitably the gold medal winner in terms of Super Bowl halftime brand recognition, ladies and gentlemen… a video which hardly needs any introduction… I give you “adorable little squirt in Darth Vader costume” (Deutsch L.A.).

Millions of views, hundreds of thousands of likes, a handful of dislikes (seriously? who on earth could dislike a kid dressed as Darth Vader using the force on his dad’s Volkswagen?), this video is literally the “Star Wars” of big brand viral videos. And since it was a video for a car company, and we all know car companies love their search results, there is no earthly way this opportunity could have slipped through the cracks, right?

Wrong! Very Wrong! Like, dark side of the force wrong. More wrong than replacing C-3PO as a comedic sidekick with Jar Jar Binks wrong.

Volkswagen did house this video on their website. But their efforts were anything but stupendous. It was on a subdomain, blog.vw.com (link juice lost)… within a blog post (archived within days)… without using “the force” as a title tag (eliminating any good SERP positioning).

And considering that (even now, months after the spot has run) people are still actively searching for the video…

That means the opportunity for missed traffic by not ranking for their own video is an ongoing problem for Volkswagen… and probably always will be. They aren’t even on page one for either search term. (Insert “clever ‘Star Wars’ pun about totally dropping the ball with the words ‘the Force’ in it” here)

Youtube Views to Date: Approaching 50,000,000
Inbound Links Gained: I found 16 going to the blog post…  and that’s probably being generous.
*Link Leverage Score: F+ (the + is for the effort and because I can’t totally blame them… it’s tough to outrank YouTube, but definitely NOT impossible)

So there you have it, a sample of the 2011 major advertising link bait winners and losers. More losers than winners this year, but hey… there’s always next year, right?

*Link leverage score is based on integration of campaign into web property, and promotion of said web property with SEO in mind… and also from a magical excel spreadsheet that I will never share with anyone… and also from science.


One thought on “Cats vs. Bears vs. Sharks vs. Darth Vader – The 2011 Video Link Bait Smackdown
  1. Davis says:

    Great write-up! It’s one thing to get a potentially “viral” video up, but where you put it is going to be the deciding factor on its success.

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