Video has undeniably become a key part of today’s consumer journey. But with more people creating content on YouTube than ever before,1 brands need to work hard to stand out.
The annual YouTube Works Awards celebrates the most innovative ad campaigns in more than 15 countries, including Sweden and the Netherlands. From ‘creative innovation’ to ‘breaking barriers’, winning brands are successful in at least one of the eight creative categories.
But what can we learn from these winners when it comes to creating a full-funnel marketing strategy? After all, Nielsen research reveals that on YouTube, a full-funnel strategy drives a 10% higher ROI than campaigns just centred on awareness.2
The ABCD principles — a guiding framework outlining the key creative elements that make up good ads — were created specifically to help brands achieve this. Let’s apply these principles to three of this year’s Dutch and Swedish YouTube Works award winners to see what they might look like in practice.
1. Upper funnel: Hook attention with audio
Any marketing campaign starts with grabbing the attention of your prospective audience. For online video, this upper funnel tactic means tapping into the creative power of audio, since 95% of YouTube ads are played with sound on. But to do so, it’s key to know which audio elements will serve you best — and when to use them.
With their ‘Bad Times for Super Thieves’ campaign, Dutch e-bike brand VanMoof wanted to ease the concerns of their customers around the safety and security of e-bikes.
To promote their advanced anti theft technology in a lighthearted way, they produced a compelling film featuring three stop-motion puppets; a global art thief, a master lock picker, and a cyber security specialist.
Throughout the video, the brand uses sound to complement the strong visuals and narrative. At the start, the audio helps grab attention with quiet, mysterious glockenspiel and a thrilling sound effect that introduces the anti theft alarm in a powerful way. It then continues to immerse the viewer through curious music and sound effects that contribute to a magical ambience.
While too many competing sounds can distract from the ad’s core messaging, finding the right balance will help you bring your product to life in an authentic and relatable way. As part of a strategy focused on connected TV (CTV), the ad drove an above average brand awareness lift of 3.47% across all active markets.
2. Mid funnel: Build connections by involving your customers
Humans are social creatures, so it’s no surprise that featuring people in your ads can boost the consideration and intent of consumers. It helps you demonstrate your product in a relatable way and makes it easier for your audience to imagine and understand its benefits.
To achieve this, the people in your ad need a defined role that helps bring the product and your brand to life.
When COVID-19 lockdowns at the start of 2021 made it impossible for people to visit their favourite restaurants, Lay’s wanted to bring the experience to customers’ homes by introducing a new range of crisps: Iconic Restaurant Flavours, including KFC, Subway Teriyaki, and Pizza Hut Margarita.
The flavours were available until the end of summer, at which point the brand activated their community to vote for their favourite flavour. As the winner, the Subway Teriyaki is now permanently available in the Netherlands and Belgium. To ensure the leftover packaging of the other two flavours didn’t go to waste, the brand created a branded ‘crispy’ puffer jacket.
People were at the heart of the entire campaign, including the video ad. In the ad, we see three people hanging out, followed by closeups of them each enjoying a different crisp flavour.
In line with the fun undertone of the campaign, the mood is bright and positive, and the familiar setting of a living room helps build an instant connection with the audience.
For the wider campaign, Lay’s tapped into the power of customers and community to promote the product and create buzz each time a new activity was announced, from the first launch through to the reveal of the final winner. As a result, the brand achieved their highest ever organic engagement rate to date.
This shows that it pays off to go further in your efforts to connect with people. Featuring them in your ads is one thing, but making your audience a central part of the campaign can lead to whole new levels of engagement.
3. Lower funnel: Drive action with clear CTAs
Every advertiser knows that call-to-actions (CTAs) are crucial to driving purchases. But CTAs are not just destined for the lower stages of the marketing funnel — they just change depending on your objective.
Where you might start with inviting people to learn more about your brand in the awareness phase, the CTA should become more intentional and specific as you move further down the funnel.
In any case, you want your audience to know exactly what they’re expected to do.
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides housing for families with children in hospitals around the world. When demand was outgrowing supply in Sweden, the local RMHC started thinking of an impactful way to raise money.
Owing to competition in a crowded market, they knew just asking people to donate wouldn’t be enough, so they looked to build an experience that the children in their homes could share with the public.
As many of the children turn to gaming, the charity collaborated with some of Sweden’s biggest esports players and asked them to donate Skins (purchasable in-game goods), which were then auctioned off. To spur action, all esports players promoted their donations on their social channels, including YouTube, and enticed viewers to join the auction and purchase the Skins for a good cause.
In addition, the charity ran video ads inviting the public to participate in the auction either physically or online. Rather than asking people to donate directly, the ad encourages people to join the event by emphasising the value of the auctionable goods, presenting them as prestigious works of art. This sense of exclusivity is amplified by the opening phrase ‘Welcome to an unprecedented auction’, drawing people in from the very first second.
Combined with the promotional activities of esports players, the ad campaign effectively communicated what RMHC wanted the public to do. The auction was a success, and in December 2021, the month of the campaign, RMHC received 6X more donations than they did the year before.