Programmatic Lunch

Sainsbury's Tops YouTube's Most Popular Ads of 2016

Tim Maytom

sainsbury xmas ad
Sainsbury's official Christmas advert for 2016 was the most popular ad on YouTube among British viewers all year, the Google-owned platform has revealed, with John Lewis' Christmas campaign coming in second.

The top 10 was put together using a combination of overall view count and percentage of organic views vs paid views, and reveals a number of key trends in how consumers approached ads in 2016.

As might be expected, Christmas ads dominated the top 10, with M&S and Waitrose's campaigns also making the cut. The top ranking non-festive advert was KitKat's content marketing campaign, which took third place. The video featured YouTube stars Tobi and Miniminter, and centred around a real-life version of popular mobile game Crossy Road.

According to YouTube, the top 10 ads in the UK drove over 200 years' worth of watch time in 2016, showing that consumers are willing to interact with engaging content repeatedly and in large numbers.

Humour was a key factor in many videos, which YouTube suggested may be due to brands seeking to entertain and lighten the tone against the backdrop of a tumultuous year.

Looking at Europe as a whole, while John Lewis and Sainsbury's both made the top 10, it was Nike Football's Switch campaign took the top slot. The M&S seasonal campaign also appeared, but the European top 10 was dominated by international brands like Coca-Cola and European firms like Edeka and Allegro.

The European top 10 also saw more companies attempting to add to the cultural conversation on YouTube, with campaigns that focused on family and belonging.

"The topics these ads depict may range, but they all tap into what's unique about YouTube and online video –its deep authenticity and participatory culture," said David Black, managing director of branding at Google UK. "Congratulations to each of the brands, creative agencies and media agencies on this list for embracing the storytelling power of YouTube."

The full top 10 for the UK


  1. Sainsbury's Official Christmas advert 2016 – The Greatest Gift

  2. John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 – #BusterTheBoxer

  3. KitKat – Crossy Road (For Real!!!)

  4. M&S 2016 Christmas Ad – Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus

  5. Nike Football Presents: The Switch

  6. Flash Ah-ah Dog 2016 Advert

  7. Waitrose Christmas TV ad – #HomeForChristmas

  8. Dolmio – The Look Up Experiment

  9. Virgin Media – Usain Bolt #BeTheFastest

  10. EE  – Spencer FC vs Weller Wanderers