How 4 leading brands captivated audiences on YouTube by pushing the boundaries of creative storytelling

Fiona Walford / February 2021

Over the last year, telling resonant stories has called for guts and experimentation. The latest Australian and New Zealand Ads Leaderboards show how brands that embraced creative bravery were the ones that caught people’s attention as they used online video to cope with 2020's challenges.

To learn more about what inspires compelling video ads, we spoke to four of the marketers behind some of the region’s best campaigns. Here’s what they shared:

Be bold

If you're going to take creative risks, embrace a no-holds-barred attitude. R.M. Williams' striking ad featured Hugh Jackman as the brand’s Global Boot Ambassador who takes the contractual clause that he can “only wear R.M. Williams” quite literally. Throughout the ad, Jackman is shown in nothing but his boots as he chats with a brand executive who clearly doesn’t know how to say, “Thank you, but please get dressed.”

CMO at R.M.Williams, Mathew Hayward, believes the ad’s humour hit home with Aussies because of its cheeky approach. “In true Aussie spirit, Hugh [Jackman] was all in from the get-go,” Hayward said. “Our ad connected with so many people — from the bush to the boardroom — because it depicted the ‘twinkle in the eye’ that’s unique to Aussies.”

R.M. Williams cleverly drew viewers’ attention to its boots in a daring ad featuring Hugh Jackman.

Win over viewers with relevance

Online betting website Sportsbet made the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for the third year in a row with its parody of the Olympics, aptly named the “Elite Average Games.” The brand’s creative showed Aussies who are world-class champs of ”sports” such as synchronised bomb diving, grocery bag lifting, and my personal favourite, the wheelie bin sprint.

By turning everyday tasks into Olympian feats, Sportsbet found a way to resonate with humour and relatability. “Deep down, every Aussie dreams of being a hero for their country on a big sporting stage,” said Sportsbet’s creative director Rambo Goraya. “Everyone from a 25-year-old footy fan to a 56-year-old mother-in-law got a great laugh out of this idea.” The fast-paced and humorous narrative, complemented with bright, high-contrast colours, helped to pack a punch.

Sportsbet’s ad let everyday Aussies vicariously live out their Olympian dreams.

Partner with creators your audience loves

Teaming up with compelling personalities can help you resonate with the viewers who matter most. That’s why meal-kit company HelloFresh created a five-episode-long cooking show on YouTube with Kiwi creator Jordan Watson — also known as How to DAD — when it expanded its services to New Zealand. Watson’s hilarious, relatable parenting stories were a perfect fit for the brand, which wanted to show how easy it was to whip up delicious meals with its services.

“Jordan Watson’s focus on simplicity when it comes to parenting is well aligned with the simplicity HelloFresh brings to dinnertime,” explained Amy Smith, managing director and CMO at HelloFresh Australia and New Zealand. Because the sponsored content felt right at home on Watson’s channel rather than an interruptive ad, HelloFresh won the love of his fans. “[Watson’s] large, engaged audience contributed significantly to organic views and positive sentiment,” shared Smith.

HelloFresh worked with Kiwi creator Jordan Watson to enthrall a local audience.

Show up where people are paying attention

As Aussies consume more content across more screens, it’s even trickier to catch and keep their attention. But online food ordering company Menulog found a way to do both with some help from Snoop Dogg. First, the brand hooked its audience by featuring a famous face within the first five seconds amid quick-cut scene changes. Then, Snoop Dogg’s hip-hop jingle kept viewers leaned in as they jammed along to catchy rhymes such as “oodles of noodles” and “tacos to the chateau.”

The brand’s strategic execution amplified the ad’s impact. Menulog Marketing Director Simon Cheng said, “We ran all our video edits, featured our campaign on the YouTube Masthead, and brought our ad to premium channels such as Vevo at launch.” With its digital-first game plan and memorable creative, Menulog was able to reach its core audience. “YouTube was key to connecting with younger Aussies who don’t typically consume a lot of traditional media,” explained Cheng.

Menulog reeled in viewers by shining a spotlight on Snoop Dogg’s melodious tunes.

Earn a spot in people’s personal primetimes

The 2020 Ads Leaderboards are a testament to the breadth of effective, creative work that brands shared throughout a challenging year. By learning from these top ads’ techniques and leaning into emerging audience trends, you can show up for viewers regardless of when, where, and how they decide to press play.

2020 Australian YouTube Ads Leaderboard