BOSTON: Purpose-driven ads are not only growing in number, but they generate more views and drive more results in the form of engagement rates, research shows.

Drawing on YouTube data, video ad tech company Pixability established that cause-related ads among the Interbrand 2016 list of top 100 global brands had increased fourfold over the past five years.

And while they were tackling a wide variety of issues, some were more prominent than others – notably women’s empowerment, which accounted for 24% of purpose-driven videos from the top 100 brands.

Other topics being addressed included community aid (17%), adversity (16%), sustainability (14%) and equality (10%); healthy living made up only 4% of the total.

The average number of views for such purpose-driven videos was almost 1m more than for non-purpose ones. And the engagement rate, calculated by Pixability as the sum of likes, dislikes, comments and Facebook shares, was higher at 0.31%, compared to 0.29% for non-purpose ads – something that one might expect.

“Since YouTube is a place where people feel free to express themselves, organic communities exist around causes already,” noted Bettina Hein, CEO of Pixability. “So it follows that cause-related videos garner more attention.”

As to which causes brands should take a position on, “there’s no one-size-fits-all answer”, she added. “Take patriotism for example: patriotic ads attract the majority of purpose-driven ad views, but the cause that generates the highest engagement rate is equality.”

But brands can take stand in a way that works if they accept that there are risks involved and they don’t simply jump on the nearest bandwagon.

Hein advised choosing a cause that fits a brand’s values and looking for suitable occasions to amplify efforts and achieve high audience engagement – as Apple did in its reaction to the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, with a compilation of iPhone users’ video clips accompanied by a Carl Sagan voiceover.

“When purpose-driven ads are done well, brands have the opportunity to not only stand for something they believe in, but also deeply connect with an audience,” Hein stated.

“I believe this will become an increasingly important method to build brands at a time when people are increasingly choosing brands that align with their values.”

Data sourced from Think With Google, Pixability; additional content by WARC staff