YouTube’s top trending videos of the year

YouTube Rewind compiles the most viewed, shared and talked about videos of the year. 2013’s global top ten includes three ads amongst a collection of content whose popularity may be mystifying to anyone other than teenage boys…

Trending videos are those that have been embedded in popular sites on the web and viewed by a significant number of people on both YouTube and external sites. Here’s a run-down, in reverse order, of the top ten trending worldwide plus a look at the top UK videos and the most popular music promos.


10, Mozart vs Skrillex. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2 by ERB

Most of this two-minute video revolves around poo jokes and quips about Mozart’s dad issues – yet it’s had more than 42 million views since April. This will no doubt baffle adult audiences and anyone who has no idea who Skrillex is but the Epic Rap Battle series has enjoyed staggering success this year. The list of world leaders, celebrities and musicians that can be pitted against each other in spoof vocal battles is endless, big names rank highly in search results and, as viewers are encouraged to vote for a winner, there’s a high level of engagement – some videos in the series, such as Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney, have received more than half a million comments.


9, THE NFL : A Bad Lip Reading by BadLipReading

As 80 percent of YouTube’s audience is based outside the US, it seems surprising that a National Football League video is the ninth top trending worldwide – but this is one of a hugely popular series from BadLipReading that dubs ridiculous comments over films, TV shows and sporting clips. In the NFL video, athletes, coaches and managers appear to throw hissy fits demanding cake, spit in each others’ drinks and reveal details of one night stands.


8, Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise by CarrieNYC/ThinkModo

The first of three ads that have made the top ten this year, this video promoting a remake of horror film Carrie received more than 50 million views and global media attention. An elaborately staged prank featuring remote-controlled furniture, a fake wall and a stuntman, it shows customers in a New York coffee shop aghast as one customer (an actress) appears to throw another against a wall using telekinetic powers.

The video’s success is proof of the viral power of ‘prankvertising’, a tactic that has proved hugely successful for ThinkModo this year (the New York agency has also staged zombie invasions and a fake murder in the city). It’s a format, however, that should still be treated with caution to avoid a PR disaster.


7, YOLO (feat. Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar) by thelonelyisland

Comedy group The Lonely Island has been making spoof pop videos since 2005. They’ve recruited an impressive line-up of stars from Justin Timberlake to Lady Gaga, and while the format is starting to feel a little tired, it’s still pleasing YouTube audiences – YOLO had more than 53 million views.


6, Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme by VolvoTrucks/Forsman Bodenfors

Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits. Between a pair of moving trucks. This video for Volvo Trucks, one of a series of stunt-based ads for the brand, needs little explanation and has been watched more than 59 million times in less than a month. Proof that sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best. (Read our blog post on the ad here).


5, Baby&Me by EvianBabies/BETC

In 2008, Evian’s first roller babies ad was crowned the most viewed online video of all time. Five years later, audiences are still enjoying watching babies jump and spin like adults thanks to CGI trickery. The latest instalment has had over 67 million views, and apps allowing users to view their dancing baby self have also proved successful.


4, Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball (Chatroulette Version) by SteveKardynal

Miley Cyrus’ controversial and wildly popular Wrecking Ball video has elicited all kinds of parodies this year – a quick Google search reveals covers from Radio 1 DJs and even hedgehogs. This video made by a user on chat site Chat Roulette was the most successful. The split screen device offers added humour, allowing viewers to watch other Chat Roulette users bemused and horrified reactions.


3, How Animals Eat Their Food by MisterEpicMann

Perhaps the most ridiculous video we’ve seen all year, this features two grown men eating at a table: one who sits quietly munching his dinner while the other re-enacts the eating habits of hogs, kangaroos, flamingos and elephants. It’s slapstick humour at its silliest but has been watched more than 88 million times and was the most trending overall in the UK.


2, Harlem Shake (original army edition) by kennethaakonsen

In 2012, it was Gangnam Style. In 2013, the most widely parodied dance online was the Harlem Shake. Office workers, chat show hosts, teens in their bedrooms and politicians have all had a go but the most watched spoof was made by a group of Norwegian soldiers. Presumably, this one topped the list for being the most bizarre: two men wriggle in sleeping bags, two more dance while buttoned inside the same shirt and another shuffles in skis.

1, Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) by tvnorge

Norwegian DJ duo Ylvis’ What Does the Fox Say? is a spoof video made to promote the pair’s TV talk show. Much like last year’s top trending video, Gangnam Style, it features all the key ingredients of a viral song and music vid: limited (and therefore memorable) lyrics, an infuriatingly catchy tune and easy to copy dance routines. It also features grown men dressed up as foxes making animal noises, so should please toddlers and younger audiences as well as teens. As well as enjoying staggering success on YouTube – it’s had more than 279 million views – the song is now the highest-ranking chart entry by a Norwegian artist since a-ha released Take on Me in 1985.


Top trending videos in the UK

Only two videos from the global top ten appeared in the UK’s top trending – how animals eat their food was number one, followed by the harlem shake army video at number six.

Other videos featured include Tom Fletcher from pop band McFly’s Wedding Speech, which he composed out of lyrics from the band’s songs (a subtle plug for their re-union tour, perhaps?), two acts from Britain’s Got Talent, Will Smith and his son Jaden re-enacting a dance from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on Graham Norton and a black and white cartoon sketch show by British comedy producer Thomas Ridgewell.


People are Awesome, which features a series of people doing jumps, dives and outrageous sporting stunts also made the UK top ten, as did Tom Daley’s video confession that he is in a same sex relationship, released last week. The tenth most popular was a Learn the Alphabet video featuring children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, proof of the growing number of toddlers watching YouTube and its potential as an educational tool. You can see the full list and a video about it here.


Top trending music videos

Unsurprisingly, US acts featured heavily in the list of top trending music videos this year, but Swedish DJ Avicii and British producer Naughty Boy also featured, ranking eighth and tenth respectively. Korean rapper Psy topped the list for the second year running with his video Gentleman, which has had more than 599 million views, followed by Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball (viewed 379 million times).


Katy Perry, Robin Thicke, Rihana and Selena Gomez videos also made the list, proving that scantily clad and/or beautiful females are still almost guaranteed to achieve viral success. The list is no surprise given the chart success of top ranking artists, but a real shame considering the wealth of great, original videos we’ve seen this year, particularly at the UK Music Video Awards.

So what can we learn from the top trending videos of this year? For brands, it demonstrates the power of the PR stunt (a subject we wrote about back in May). As audiences are swamped with channels, ads need to be ever more inventive to get our attention and prank or stunt-based spots are likely to be both widely shared on social media and widely written about by journalists. For relatively little expensive, advertisers can reach millions – particularly if the stunt or prank featured needs no translation.

Not one video on the list correlates to a major event in 2013 – last year, Felix Baumgartner’s freefall made number 10 and Obama and Romney’s rap battle ranked fith – and despite the success of animal memes and dog and cat gifs, no animal videos featured in the UK or global top ten. Dance crazes, pop music and silly spoofs, however, still dominate the internet.

On YouTube’s Rewind channel, you can watch a video summary and see lists from around the world, including the full music video and UK top ten lists. Google will also be posting a year in review video on Zeitgeist next week.