Two brands have recently launched well-publicized campaigns on YouTube using documentary-style videos that encourage viewers to challenge cultural perceptions about women and girls. Last fall, the personal care brand Dove launched the "Dove Real Beauty Sketches" campaign, and in June the feminine products line Always kicked off its "#LikeAGirl" initiative.

The videos themselves are very compelling, and were seen by millions of YouTube viewers. But did they succeed in growing the reach of their respective YouTube channels? Unfortunately, in large part, they did not.

Always vs. Dove: Viral Video Success Doesnt Mean YouTube Success always like a girl

Always vs. Dove: Views, Likes and Shares

The "Dove Real Beauty Sketches" video series came out a year ago. The main video showed women describing themselves to a sketch artist in terms less confident and less attractive than strangers who described them to the same artist. The subjects then reflected on the negatively- and positively-framed drawings. The primary video in the campaign has been viewed 64.2 million times to date, with 150,800 YouTube likes and 17,800 YouTube comments. And, according to Unruly, it has received 4.4 million Facebook shares and 153,480 tweets.

In June, Always launched its #LikeAGirl campaign. It also used the documentary format with a compelling message. #LikeAGirl interviewed women and girls, men and boys, asking them to act out, and subsequently describe their thoughts about, the stereotype of doing things "like a girl." Participants were asked to run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl, and so on. Those younger than puberty age were shown to portray girls with strength, but those older portrayed them with weakness. The primary video in the campaign has received 45.1 million views to date, with 141,700 likes on YouTube and 32,000 comments. Also, according to Unruly, it received 969,000 Facebook shares and 59,600 tweets.

Fighting Stereotypes at the Cost of Brand Visibility?

Both of these video are very compelling, testing us on visceral and intellectual levels when we consider stereotypes about women and girls.

But from a campaign perspective, both videos have also unfortunately missed out on future channel-building value. Neither campaign grew their respective channels' subscriber base in sufficient scale to the views in the campaign. They've spent very large budgets getting these videos produced and seen, and yet their subscriber base has not grown in proportion to their views. The main Dove video received views that were 1,340 times greater than its 48,000 subscribers. That means that for everyone who viewed this video, only one out of every 1,340 chose to become a subscriber and see more videos from this provider.

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According to our research at Octoly, the Dove U.S. channel has more than 135 million views, with more than 63 million of those occurring as part of a paid YouTube campaign. We support using YouTube advertising as a way of driving subscribers, but views for views sake doesn't end up accomplishing much. Dove will still have to pay for those views the next time, when they might have instead worked on building up a native audience on the platform.

Always vs. Dove: Viral Video Success Doesnt Mean YouTube Success dove all plus promoted views pie chart

Not many people chose to actively sign up for more Always videos either (in relation to views). The main Always video received views that were 1,270x subscribers, roughly the same ratio. There are not many videos to be seen though - the channel has only uploaded nine total videos in the past year. Dove has created a better publishing calendar though, releasing an average of five videos per month over the past year.

Low Subscriber Counts Should Be a Concern for Both Brands

Why is this low subscriber number a concern? Because instead of building up a big subscriber base that can help reach the targeted channel fans during the next campaign, Dove and Always will have to pay to promote the videos all over again in essentially the same proportion. As George C. Scott said in the war movie Patton, "I don't like to pay for the same real estate twice." Yet that's exactly what Dove and Always will have to do on their next campaigns. Paid Adwords for Video (TrueView) campaigns should be executed with the goal of building subscribers, not building views.

At Octoly, we believe that brands should go "beyond views" - using KPIs such aa view rates, completion rates, engagement rates, conversion rates and so on. We believe that brand marketers and agencies, including those for Dove and Always, should work on building their subscriber ranks in addition to their view numbers. There are many best practices on doing this that can be found here on, but in large part brands need to continue having conversations with their communities several times a month on a regular schedule, encouraging users to comment, subscribe, like and create their own videos on certain topics.

  • George

    I would like to have some stats on typical subscriber to view ratio's, especially in high view count videos before giving this too much credence. I wouldn't be surprised to see a trend of that ratio getting worse as view count climbs.

    • Guest

      Hi George and others:

      I recently posted on Facebook that getting 10,000 or more comments is a sure-fire way to receive 1 million views (it's actually less but that number is easier to remember). To prove a point I just decided I am offering $20 via PayPal to anyone who can find a YouTube video posted this year (not a live-stream) that has 10,000 or more comments and does NOT have 1 million views. I only want to pay one person though, so if there's more than one successful entry I will pay the person who noted a video that has more than 10,000 comments and has the highest comments-to-views ratio.

      Post the link to the video and the number of comments that videos has here in the comments section by the end of Aug. 4. Hope to see some entries, this could be interesting.

      • Dane Golden

        Oops that was me that posted this - accidentally posted as guest. The quest stands if anyone is interested. Thanks!

  • Dane Golden

    Subscribers are the number one predictor of future views. Of course, it isn't a one-to-one ratio, but they are your most loyal userbase.

  • owadenko

    Hi ReelSEO readers! Did you like the Dove and Always videos? Do you feel they also compelled people to want to use their products? Are you surprised that the paid component is so high in these types of campaigns? I'd love to hear from you here in the comments. To find out more about what we do at Octoly, please visit Thanks!