6 billion hours.
On average, we watch 6 billion hours of YouTube videos each month. You know those pre-roll ads? Those ads that show while you wait for your video to play? I’m sure you only just about put up with them, because they’re boring. Well, in 2015, Grey Canada found a way to make them more interesting, with their campaign “6 Billion Hours”.
To advertise the Volvo XC60 SUV, Grey Canada put technology and data to work, creatively. The agency looked at YouTube video tags and identified hundreds of themes they could match up with the car’s features. It selected individual trending videos and added customised messages. This resulted in enormous exposure for the brand, with peaks of 10 million views. In all, Grey Canada created 60 different pre-roll ads – the 60 of XC60 – related to the 6 billion hours of YouTube videos watched. An example? If a user selected a video about tornadoes, they would see a pre-roll ad about the XC60’s rain sensors. So far, so sensible. But, get this: if the user chose a video about twerking (that fast buttock-jiggling dance), the pre-roll ad would be about the SUV’s grocery bag holder in the boot(y) – or trunk if you’re American. Customising pre-roll ads depending on the content, and then ironically linking the subject of the pre-roll to this content meant the viewer was highly engaged.
A brief side note: the Swedish car manufacturer had already started to enjoy YouTube success. In 2013, Volvo’s legendary 75” ad featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two moving lorries went viral, achieving 68 million views.
But back to our pre-roll ads. In 2016, “6 Billion Hours” touched down in the Swiss market and I worked on the German to Italian transcreation. It was extremely motivating to work on such an intelligent and innovative campaign. It was, however, a double challenge. I needed to make sure I didn’t lose sight of the SUV’s features without losing the humour and clout of the original superimposed text (supers). This was particularly important because these pre-roll ads didn’t have a voice over, only the supers. Since these would appear at the beginning of the video for a matter of seconds, the Italian had to be concise and immediately comprehensible. And for a language as verbose as Italian, being succinct is not always that easy. Here are some of the pre-roll ads that I adapted into Italian.