Launching a YouTube video that “goes viral” is often seen as the epitome of digital success. However, brands that hope to achieve this kind of popularity organically might be wasting their time. L2’s Intelligence Report: Video finds that the “viral video” is a myth. In order to achieve significant scale, branded YouTube videos require paid support.

Nearly all brand channels with above-average view counts attract most of those views through True-View InStream advertising, according to the study. Even Dove, whose  “Real Beauty Sketches” earned the title of “most viral ad video of all time” in 2013, obtains nearly 75% of channel views through paid advertising.

Brand channel views on YouTube

Beauty and Hair Care brands like Dove have invested heavily in scaling YouTube content. All the most popular brand channels (those with more than 25 million views) use skippable in-stream advertising, as do 82% of channels with high view counts (10.6 million-25 million views). In contrast, only 35% of channels with low view counts employ the strategy, suggesting that paid advertising is key to achieving “viral” scale.

Percent of brand channels that use in-stream advertising

Except, perhaps, if you’re Chanel. The brand’s superb name recognition and creative content draw viewers to its YouTube channel, making Chanel one of only three brands with above-average channel views to capture an above-average share of those organically. However, Chanel strategically employs advertising for its more commercial videos, indicating that the brand recognizes the limitations of organic popularity.


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