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Commercials appear on YouTube's most-viewed list ... again

January 9, 2009 |  2:03 pm


For several hours today, YouTube's most-viewed list showed that the day's two most watched videos were L'Oreal commercials called "Mon look, rien ne peut lui arriver" (French for "My look: nothing can happen to him/her."). The first, from a boy's perspective, had 25,000 views, and the second, from a girl's, had about 17,000. As of this writing, both had only four comments and were rated less than two stars. Yet the videos remained in the most valuable and visible positions on the site despite having hundreds of thousands of fewer views than the actual most-viewed video, a gag from BarelyPolitical.

This is not the first time a commercial advertisement has appeared on the most-viewed list without having mathematically qualified. A similar episode, also involving international content, occurred in December when a series of viral videos advertising "The Day the Earth Stood Still" appeared atop the week's most-viewed list, that time with more than 1 million fewer views than the true winner, a Miley Cyrus video.


At the time, a YouTube spokesperson wrote that the videos had appeared because of "a glitch that happened during the last site update which threw the list out of sync. They have fixed it and it should be back to normal later today."

Today, shortly after I requested a comment from YouTube about the L'Oreal videos, they disappeared from the most-viewed page.  Their comment this time around: "This was a glitch that occurred on the site. It has now been corrected."

The videos (which, as an aside, are pretty good as shampoo commercials go) are still leading the French YouTube's most-viewed list. It's difficult to tell whether they belong there, though, because the French list is all over the map, numerically -- it has videos with 700,000 views and some with 1,500.

A pattern of commercials artificially qualifying for the most-viewed pages would seem to suggest that paid commercials are treated differently than other videos in YouTube's database, or even in its search results. But screaming that YouTube is disingenuously promoting ads would seem to be a conclusion-jump. You have to think YouTube would be a little smoother than this if it wanted to start mixing ads into its browse pages. But that doesn't mean the whole thing isn't a little strange.

— David Sarno