5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Sara Mattsson, Elham Rizi-Shorvon / August 2019

What stops you from skipping an ad on YouTube? Research indicates that good creative is the key driver to success – but it’s one of the hardest things to measure. As a platform, YouTube brings many creative opportunities but also creative challenges.

YouTube Works celebrates the campaigns that have used YouTube in smart and engaging ways. We spoke to five of the jurors to understand what effective advertising on YouTube means to them, and to get their strategic top tips.

5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Make it measurable: YouTube represents an unparalleled medium for reaching a vast variety of audiences in a vast variety of ways. Most importantly, an effective ad should achieve its predetermined purpose, and that purpose should be measurable. Be it sales or brand awareness, I want robust, well defined, and reliable metrics indicating desirable effects.

Define a robust KPI framework: Somewhere along the way, it appears that the business of online video advertisement inherited some of the bad habits of its ancestral media platforms. Today, there’s no excuse not to continuously optimise, tailor, test, learn – regardless of the overall campaign objective (yes, even ‘reach’).

Test on mobile first: Whoever is involved in developing a campaign should really test the experience themselves on a mobile screen (this goes for both the ad itself, and possible next destination, such as a website or app). A classic mistake is to create ads on a large desktop screen, and then relatively carelessly adapt them to mobile. If anything, it should be the other way around.

5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Enjoy creative freedom: Sound, visuals, no time limits, scalable across different devices, the ability to reach audiences – YouTube offers a creative freedom in a way that brands have not had before.

Be transparent: But equally we can't “fool” anyone: advertisers need to be honest and true, and understand that the audience today can select what they want – and don't want – on their screens.

Listen to your audience: Today’s challenge is getting clients to understand that audiences aren’t listening to them in the same way as before. Brands need to appeal to audience interests – tell them something they want or need to hear, not just what the brand wants to tell them. Today, it’s all about what brands stand for and how they want to be perceived, and be true to that.

5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Bad assumptions! No biscuit!: The biggest challenge with YouTube is shaking off the assumptions of old broadcast media, and discovering new ways to tell stories that don’t rely on a captive audience; on the flipside, YouTube is where people’s passions live. You can reach people when they’re deep diving into their hobbies, strange obsessions or new discoveries.

Be an explorer: The creative opportunities of YouTube are still unexplored. Using YouTube to discover new themes for stories, and new ways of telling them, is something we should be focusing on more. For example, sequenced storytelling, or short teasers that turn into long-form experiences, are still waiting to be used properly.

Be wary of production bias: Good stories are good stories, wherever you experience them but advertisers should be wary of production bias – viewing content meant for mobile on big beautiful high definition screens in luxurious production suites. In general, the rule for mobile is the same as for any great work – try to see it from the perspective of the audience. Your ad is presumably an unwelcome intruder on their time, so make sure it makes itself presentable and welcome in their world.

5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Don’t be late: Discussions about effectiveness come much too late, often when evaluating campaigns and ads. Brands need to understand and communicate business goals more specifically in the briefings, then add metrics and then add world class creativity sprung from the platform and your audience. These three steps are key.

Plan strategically: The fantastic advantage with ads on YouTube, besides all the metrics you can get, is to simply know what metrics that matter connected to your specific business goal. A media or creative team can not fix this in the end, it’s strategic planning in the briefs that secure the base for an effective ad.

Mix up the A-Z: There are so many possibilities with storytelling on YouTube. Often I still see creative scripts and edits created from A to Z as a classic “motion story” and created for the screen size and viewing behavior as for larger TV screens. The possibility in tailoring your content to your audience is of course the fundamental opportunity, but creative height is needed and, if crafted brilliantly, gives way to an opportunity to build relatable contextual content like no other advertising media can deliver. To get the right insight to inform the creatives requires good comms between planner and media agencies; simple things such as creation based on mobile screen formats or connecting search trends with the creative solutions can make all the difference.

5 creative innovators reveal what works for them on YouTube

Emotionally connect: For me, YouTube offers a great way to emotionally and rationally connect with large audiences that are in a more active video watching mode.

Remember the end user: The biggest challenge is really understanding how YouTube differentiates from all other video platforms for the end user. That insight is the key to a successful campaign.

Mobile needn’t be daunting: Creating for a mobile audience shouldn’t be daunting – it’s the same difference between having a latte to go or a cup of coffee while sitting down at a café, by which I mean we need to make the content relevant for the moment it is consumed. It’s crucial to remember that consumption behaviour changes rapidly as we become more and more mature YouTube consumers.

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