Here Are the 4 Creative Agencies That Ruled YouTube in 2017

Leo Burnett leads pack with eight of the most-watched ads

Burnett's 2017 Super Bowl spot for Mr. Clean made the YouTube Ads Leaderboard twice.
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Each month, Google and Adweek present the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, a listing of the 10 most-watched commercials on YouTube in the prior month—with the caveat being that the spots must have significant organic views, not primarily paid views.

Google has now looked through all of the 2017 Ads Leaderboards and identified the creative agencies that placed the most spots on the monthly lists throughout the year.

Below are the results.

“So what’s their strategy?” Google asks. “Stellar creative and media talent are a good start but agencies like this year’s winner, Leo Burnett, have that unique ability to repeatedly make impactful, memorable content that stands out.”

Winner: Leo Burnett

YouTube Ads Leaderboard placements in 2017: 8

• Sample spot: Mr. Clean – Cleaner of Your Dreams

The evolution of Mr. Clean was made clear in 2017 with the Super Bowl debut of this two-time Ads Leaderboard winner. Audiences were treated to some of his best cleaning moves yet and were pretty satisfied in the end.

Runner-Up: Publicis

YouTube Ads Leaderboard placements in 2017: 4

• Sample spot: Heineken – Worlds Apart

Perhaps one of the most courageous ads of 2017, Heineken succeeded where many haven’t when they embraced the most prominent political conversations of the year. The ad arguably became an example of what socially conscious advertising looks like when done well.

Runner-Up: The Martin Agency

YouTube Ads Leaderboard placements in 2017: 4

• Sample spot: Geico – Triangle Solo

When was the last time you noticed the triangle player in an orchestra? The Martin Agency took an often neglected instrument and gave it a moment in 2017. The ad was watched by millions and even inspired a series of equally funny parodies across YouTube.

Runner-Up: Wieden + Kennedy

YouTube Ads Leaderboard placements in 2017: 4

• Sample spot: Nike – Want It All

It’s a familiar story of a young boy’s dream to superstardom in the NBA but Wieden + Kennedy successfully captured the intense, high adrenaline moments every player faces on their lifelong journey – all within two minutes.

In a Voice piece below, Leo Burnett’s Britt Nolan talks about his agency’s embrace of YouTube as a real-time testing ground for creative work.

Skip the Quant Testing. Why YouTube Is a Better Focus Group

By Britt Nolan
Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett

It’s the most feared phrase among agency creatives.

A phrase that signals the end of the part where your idea gets better and better, and the beginning of the part where it starts morphing into something much more responsible.

The phrase is, “Quant testing.”

Britt Nolan

Quant is where good ideas go to get validated before production, and where great ideas go to become good.

The methodology involves rounding up a bunch of the kind of people who answer yes to the question “Are you willing to participate in a survey?” and getting their opinion on creative work that’s in its most vulnerable, larval stage.

It’s great for preventing disasters. But if you are trying to learn what real people in the real world want to seek out and engage with, quant isn’t going to help you.

Know what’s great for that?


On YouTube, people watch what they want to watch. And they aren’t an easy audience—the entire internet and every other video on YouTube are just a click away. It’s like the world’s biggest, most honest focus group, hanging out inside the ultimate clutter reel.

There is one thing our top performing work at Leo Burnett has in common: It wasn’t tested before production. It was audience-tested directly, in a live setting.

A scary approach? Sorta.

But where quant is good at mitigating risk, YouTube is great for giving the people what they want. And in a world where nobody has to watch your ad, at all, ever, isn’t that what really matters?

What if people don’t love it as much as we want them to love it? On YouTube, audience feedback comes in immediately, so we can optimize on the fly, making creative changes and responding to audience signals in real time, in the real market. That leads to a much more effective experience for both the consumer and the brand.

This digital-first approach is also shifting the way we’re approaching television. We’ve helped some of our more traditional clients shift to running work on YouTube first, learning about it, optimizing, and then getting the confidence to put it on TV.

Of course, I’m sure there are some who disagree with me. I’m sure there’s a beautiful argument somewhere in favor of quant. But the world I’d rather live in is about creating what the people want—work they’ll seek out on YouTube, watch all the way through, and watch again.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.