These five ads were shortlisted for a new award that’s focused on connecting digitally with target audiences.

What does it take to make a popular ad that truly resonates with audiences in today’s crowded digital world? A look at the shortlist of top five campaigns that competed to win this year’s Best Use of YouTube Award at the Festival of Media MENA gives a good idea. By combining crafty storytelling and strong production, these major brands created content on YouTube that strongly resonated with target audiences.

Here’s why you should care: mobile watch time of videos in the MENA region is one of the fastest growing in the world, rising by 90 percent year on year (2014-2015). The United Arab Emirates stands out for 120 percent growth of mobile watch time during this period, faster than the global average. People are hungry for good content they can watch any time - and these marketers took advantage of the reach and longer time frames on YouTube to tell stories to strong effect.

The Festival of Media MENA awards worked in partnership with YouTube on a new award category, Best Use of YouTube execution, where nine judges gathered to evaluate the success of a campaign against reach on target audience, impact on brand metrics such as brand awareness, and results on business metrics such as sales or revenues.

One of the judges, Chris McCarthy, head of creative strategy for the Zoo, Google’s creative think-tank for brands and agencies, gives his two cents on why these ads made the cut.

“As YouTube continues to grow and evolve, it's great to see brands and agencies really lean in and put YouTube at the heart of their communications. In the region with the world's highest mobile phone usage, it's no surprise that video content on YouTube is becoming so important for brands wanting to connect with mobile-first audiences. We've seen some very exciting work coming from the MENA region in recent years, and this year's shortlist is no exception," said Chris.

“It was interesting to see the different ways brands used YouTube in the campaigns: to launch premium new products, give a new twist on well-established brand equities, or continue a story of discovery… In each case the best campaigns were able to find ways to make YouTube help them achieve the brand and communications objectives. The message for advertisers across the region? If you’re not using YouTube, you’re missing out. ”

In the region with the world's highest mobile phone usage, it's no surprise that video content on YouTube is becoming so important for brands wanting to connect with mobile-first audiences.

Chris McCarthy, Head of Creative Strategy, The Zoo

Judge for yourself. Here are the five shortlisted ads with Gold, Silver and Bronze winners:

1. Gold Winner

Campaign: Celebrate the Breakers' Breaks

Brand: KIT KAT

Entering Company: MEC

Country: United Arab Emirates

Agency: JWT, Thampy Digital

What do people do when they are on a break? In this lighthearted ad, KitKat moved strategically away from the traditional idea of just taking a break, which means switching off for five minutes, to a more active and user-focused definition of who the people are who are taking breaks and what they do during that downtime.

KIT KAT marketing representatives said: “YouTube was a jack of all trades for KIT KAT Celebrate the Breakers’. From launching unbranded teasers, to revealing stunts, to over 10 million views of the manifesto and finally to the ongoing episodic content of The Breaker Show, YouTube proved to be integral to the success of the campaign.”

“KIT KAT pulled it together nicely by showing portraits of really interesting people,” says Chris. “The ad breathed new life into the ‘take a break’ campaign and was inspired by the spirit of YouTube that’s all about cool content and how people interact.”

2. Silver Winner

Campaign: MAGGI Diaries - A Journey of Women, Food & Change

Brand: MAGGI

Entering Company: MEC

Country: United Arab Emirates

Agency: Publicis

This brilliant web series delves into the lives of interesting women, such as the first Saudi woman who climbed Mount Everest, while focusing on a theme of the universality of food culture. An all-woman team worked on this - down to production and direction. Maggi Diaries goes beyond food: it’s about culture, discovery and surprise.

According to Chris: “This campaign was built around YouTube, which provided the ideal platform for long form storytelling in a series.The campaign is now being rolled out globally by Nestle. It’s a best-in-class example of doing local projects that are successful enough to massively scale up.”

3. Bronze Winner

Campaign: Pepsi UrTheCast

Brand: Pepsi Arabia

Entering Company: OMD

Country: United Arab Emirates

Agency: BBDO

A moving peace sign made with 125 hand painted cars in the desert is captured on camera from space in this nearly 4-minute, “go big or go home” ad that’s all about dreaming big. The ad broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest peace sign - even seen from space.

“This story is about dreaming big,” added Chris. “If you’re going to do a stunt this big, that you can literally see from space, YouTube can give you the scale to let the entire planet see what’s going on.”

4. There Will be Haters - Adidas

Campaign: There Will Be Haters

Brand: Adidas

Entering Company: Starcom Mediavest Group

Country: United Arab Emirates

When you’re successful, there are bound to be haters. Adidas touches on an important message in this ad about keeping your head held high.

“The concept was inspired by Internet age, inspired by trolling - we’ve all seen the comments section in YouTube,” Chris elaborated. “Adidas spun that in an empowering, positive way: if you’re good, there will be haters.”

5. Chipsy Smiles - Pepsico

Campaign: Chipsy Smiles

Brand: Chipsy

Entering Company: OMD

Country: Egypt

Agency: BBDO Egypt

Hold up a Chipsy packet in front of your face and smile. Literally. Because there is a smile printed on the packet and that will make you smile. It’s a lighthearted ad that brings happiness back to the people who need it most.

“This ad was great not just on YouTube, but across social media and activations,” he said. “It even had a parody that got 5 million views on YouTube.”

The best campaigns were able to find ways to make YouTube help them achieve the brand and communications objectives.

Chris McCarthy, Head of Creative Strategy, The Zoo