In reviewing the top digital ads of the year, we took a slightly different approach for 2014.

Typically, we focus on the ones that are designated as the “best of the best” by industry experts. This year, we wanted to see which ads the public chose.

Our search brought us to a list from YouTube that was published by Advertising Age. The top 10 ads to land here weren’t simply hand-selected by marketing gurus, but instead, they made the cut based on a variety of user-based factors. These included total paid and non-paid views, likes, shares and overall watch time.

After doing a quick scan, you’ll see that this “people’s choice” list is made up of the same kind of stuff we’d expect the pros to pick – from inspirational sports clips and ads produced by the big beer brands to spots that tug on our heartstrings and make us laugh.

Who were the stars of these ads? Not so surprisingly, athletes made appearances in five of the top 10 spots (Always, Duracell, Procter & Gamble and two from Nike) and puppies took center stage in another two (both from Budweiser).

But even though the content didn’t surprise us that much, a few other things did.

Unlike past years, some of the ads that made the list never aired on TV. Instead, they were specifically produced for – and targeted to – an online audience. And as was likely the goal, many were shared over and over with a huge viral effect.

Plus, longer ads were the theme in 2014, with three minutes clocked as the average length for those that made it among the top 10. The results show that last year’s ads were 47% shorter per clip and people spent 57% longer watching this year’s final selection.

So what does all of this mean?

From the looks of it, the best digital ads are no longer limited to just what we see on TV. Advertisers are really picking up on the shift to online and realizing just how powerful these web-based channels can be. They’re also learning that length may not be as much of a factor if the content succeeds in drawing people in and keeping them captivated.