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A panel of experts chose the most creative, compelling, and effective YouTube campaigns of 2018. Kim Pedersen of Kantar, who advised the panel, shares some lessons to help any advertiser or agency create videos that drive real business results.

What does it take to create a great video campaign? This year, I got to find out.

As partners of the first ever YouTube Works Awards — a competition that celebrates the brilliant minds producing the most innovative and effective campaigns on YouTube — my team and I at Kantar reviewed dozens of submissions, spoke to the judges who chose the winning campaigns, and even carried out a quantitative analysis of the most impactful ads.

Here are the insights we gathered that can help any advertiser or agency create a YouTube campaign that drives real business results.

How to create a winning YouTube campaign

Lightbulb. Sparks: Tap into YouTube insights to come up with new ideas. Person icon with Wi-Fi waves. Signals: Use audience signals to inform your creative and media approach. Book. Stories: Stories: Choose the right storytelling format and techniques.

Sparks: Tap into YouTube insights to come up with new ideas

For the marketers behind the winning campaigns, YouTube wasn’t just a platform on which to reach their audience. It also provided the inspiration they needed to create stand-out ads. Of the finalists, 86% used YouTube to identify insights that could serve as the creative spark for their campaigns.

After noticing the rise of grossly intriguing and humorous experiments on YouTube, Liquid Plumr created a series of videos that both picked up on this trend and helped showcase its product. The videos increased awareness and favorability by 38% and 40%, respectively.

Samsung did something similar for its winning campaign, which showcased the new Galaxy smartphone. Knowing how popular YouTube creators can be among the Gen Zers it was trying to reach, it created a video series called Make, which featured influential YouTuber creators doing things like reviewing scripts and shooting footage on the smartphone. According to Samsung, 17% of those who were exposed to the ads were more likely to purchase the Galaxy as their next phone.

Signals: Use audience signals to inform your creative and media approach

When people go online to start researching a family vacation or head to YouTube to watch highlights from their favorite sport, they’re giving all sorts of clues as to their passions, interests, and needs.

The most effective advertising campaigns draw on these signals to inform both their media and creative processes. For example, 71% of finalists (compared with 42% of nonfinalists), used YouTube to personalize content to individual audiences at scale.

That’s what Xfinity did in its Grand Prix-winning campaign “Data in Dollars,” a series of pre-roll, six-second ads that showed users how much the video they were about to watch would cost to stream using their current cellular provider.

“We shot completely different commercials to match all of the most popular genres on YouTube,” explained Tristan Graham, a creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the agency that worked on the campaign. For example, if someone was about to watch a beauty tutorial video, the pre-roll, six-second video they saw was on a related topic. “It was a lot of work, but it created a sense of mass intimacy,” Graham said. “Every part of every ad felt like it was made specifically for the person watching it.”

Stories: Choose the right storytelling format and techniques

People are fascinated by stories, yet only 40% of advertising uses storytelling as a technique.

The most effective YouTube campaigns we saw all understood the importance of storytelling, but none more so than “Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home.” The team behind the award-winning ads, Tourism Australia, Droga5, and Universal McCann, created a trailer for what viewers were led to believe was a remake of Crocodile Dundee, a movie that, when it was first released in 1986, spurred a huge amount of interest in Australia as a tourist destination. The team created a dedicated YouTube channel and used YouTube in-stream ads to get the trailers in front of viewers. Two weeks later, they released a new trailer that revealed the truth: It was an advertising campaign, not a movie.

The elaborate story captured people’s imagination and their attention. Visitor spending increased 30% and U.S. tourist visas increased by 12% in the six months following the campaign.

Building a winning YouTube campaign

Anyone looking to build a video campaign that captures attention and drives real business results will want to take into account these three lessons. It might just make them the next YouTube Works Award winner.