Recently there has been a wave of viral brand videos. Nothing new there, you might think, but these are specific videos are different. Why? Because it is students who have created them, with no brand input or direction.


I’d like to show you just some of the student created videos which have gone viral over the last year or so. The most recent one is the one below, called Break Free and was created by a German based film student for Adidas.

It has, since its launch in December 2015, racked up 8.5m views. Christmas videos are often some of the most eagerly anticipated of the year, with brands going all out on them. One film student created his own video advert for John Lewis and quickly saw it go viral, with 1.5m views to date.

And of course, there is one of my personal favourites – created by two film students for the whisky brand Johnnie Walker, which currently stands at almost 5m views. I’ve mentioned this in other blogs but for those that haven’t seen it, enjoy.

So these are examples of just some of the student created videos that have been widely viewed, and applauded. But why are they so successful? Why are film students creating video adverts for brands in the first place, and how are the brands reacting?


Firstly, film students are creating these video adverts as  part of their course work, at least in the main. Some have admitted they have done it in their spare time while others have been more open, and said they have done it in the hope of attracting the brands attention in order to secure a job there. So it should not be, perhaps, a surprise that these videos are as good as they are.


And they are good. To quantify just how good, were the Break Free video (the student Adidas video above) to be uploaded to the Adidas channel, it would sit 3rd in the most popular videos, based on views. 3rd. You must admit, that is pretty impressive. But just why are they so well received?

And to give you an idea on some of the comments on the Adidas student video, see below. You’ll also see comments like these, and better, on all of the other videos I’ve included in this blog. 


I think that, if I was to try to pinpoint it to just one thing, I would say it is due to perspective. When you’re working in a company it can be difficult to see things outside of the traditional brand view. People in brands are creative, of course, but sometimes this creativity is constrained by the perception they have of the brand. They can be unwilling to take a risk, to try something different.


These students are viewing the brand from the outside, they are interpreting what the brand means to them personally and then putting that into their creativity. For example, for the Adidas video, the student film maker has said that the inspiration for the elderly runner came from his granddad. This helps these student videos to stand apart from the content that the brand usually produces. It is a different view, a different take and ultimately, a different idea on how to portray the brand. Of course, they aren’t wildly different, the students still want to show that they understand the brand and the fact many viewers on YouTube comment saying ‘this could/should be an advert’ for xxx brand is testament to the balance the film makers have struck – the balance between creavitity and being ‘on brand’.

In terms of brand reaction to these, and other, videos, there has been relatively little, at least publically. One filmmaker got a job with an agency as a result of their video creation but that seems be it. Whether the brands have directly contacted the relevant filmmaker or not, I don’t know. The brands should, however, be pretty pleased – with views like these on a video they didn’t pay for, it is essentially free advertising for them. 


What lesson can brands takeaway for the success these videos have achieved? If there is only one, then I’d say to the brands that they should try to look at creative concepts from their individual perspective. To view the brand from, perhaps, from their own experiences and emotions. Yes, there are brand guidelines to work within but these can be flexed, and one imagines should an amazing idea be suggested, that the brand would at least consider running with it.