NEW YORK: Brands like Pepsi and Nissan are now using online videos to tell stories rather than just showcase products, in a bid to engage consumers on various devices and encourage social sharing.

"There's a lot of talk now about who owns the brand," Tara Walpert Levy, director of ads marketing at YouTube, told Digiday. "The truth is the consumer owns the brand. But the brand can steer the conversation.

"Today's two-way, social-enabled platforms give tremendous opportunity to brands to steer the conversation."

An example of this trend in action can be seen in YouTube's video ad leaderboard, which regularly highlights the brand videos with the most organic and promoted views. YouTube has found that humour, pranks and stunts generally perform well.

Pepsi Max's Test Drive video topped this list last month. It used a hidden video camera to record the reactions of an unsuspecting car salesman when taken for a test drive by a disguised racing car driver.

In less than four weeks, the video was seen 33.6m times. It was also shared 2.4m times, mostly on Facebook. The only mention of Pepsi is this clip was that the hidden camera was in a Pepsi Max can.

Nissan takes a channel-agnostic approach to video. Chad Jacoby, its senior manager, social media, said "if the video is going to be consumed over a mobile device within a social app, it better be at least formatted to be consumed in that context.

"It's ideal, of course, for videos to have been concepted and designed specifically for the primary user experience with the goals of that experience in mind."

The carmaker also subscribes to the storytelling approach, but heeds YouTube's advice that the majority of viewers on its platform are under 35 and value authenticity.

"When videos come off as trying too hard to be clever, cute or thrilling, that's never a good thing," Jacoby said. "We try very hard to avoid what we've seen some brands put out there. No one wants to land with a thud."

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff