What does it take to create a standout video ad campaign? Lessons from the YouTube Works winners

Stacey McLeod / February 2020

Canadians are taking a more personal approach to the way they watch videos online, and this means marketers have more access to audience insights when crafting campaigns. But this shift to online viewing can also mean they have mere seconds to capture people’s attention with their pre-roll ads.

The YouTube Works awards, in partnership with Kantar, celebrates creative and effective ad campaigns on YouTube in Canada. A panel of marketing and advertising industry experts from across Canada selected six winners across eight categories. We asked the brains behind last year’s winning YouTube Works awards ads to share their secrets for creating a standout video campaign.

Winner: The YouTube Ruby (best overall), Best Brand Campaign, Best Creative Effectiveness

IKEA drove action by telling late-night YouTube viewers to go to sleep

IKEA Canada, with Jungle Media and Rethink Canada, swept up three YouTube Works awards for their “Bedtime” campaign that took personalization to new levels. They used granular YouTube audience insights to literally speak to late-night viewers by referencing the videos they were watching and when their nearest IKEA store opened the next day.

“As eyeballs move online and on mobile, it’s important to go there — but go there with big ideas,” says Aaron Starkman, creative director at Rethink Canada.

Winner: Best Response-Driven Campaign

Brita’s four-hour ‘Walkumentary’ campaign used the YouTube ‘skip ad’ button for good

The Clorox Company Canada and ME to WE wanted to drive sales of a specially-marked reusable Brita water bottle that helps give people in Africa access to clean water — but first, they needed to contextualize the issue for Canadians. Brita, along with DentsuBos and OMD, put their own spin on the “skip ad” button to capitalize on society’s impatience. Instead of crafting a conventional pre-roll campaign, they ran a four-hour ad that followed a woman’s real-life daily walk for clean water in Africa, and prompted viewers with a button to “end her walk” by clicking through to purchase the reusable bottles. The result was a powerful campaign that made a big difference.

Winner: Small Budget, Big Results

Texada’s low-budget campaign shows good storytelling can go a long way on YouTube

Rental software brand Texada needed a big way to differentiate its products from others in the market — without spending big dollars. What they lacked in budget, they more than made up for in creativity. Texada’s lighthearted “spoof” ads inspired by iconic movies Ghostbusters and Lord of the Rings generated millions of YouTube views. Then, a smart targeting strategy allowed them to zero-in on qualified customers and turn YouTube viewers into clients.

Winner: Best Integrated Media Campaign

The Oh Henry! ‘4:25’ campaign seized a cultural moment, by curing ‘the munchies’

The Hershey Company Canada, along with UM and Anomaly, saw an opportunity to reach millennials by tapping into cannabis culture and providing a cure for “the munchies,” with a limited-edition Oh Henry! 4:25 chocolate bar. They knew it could make Oh Henry! a household name, but also knew the cannabis message wouldn’t resonate with everyone. The teams crafted a clever strategy that used a combination of audience targeting, timing, and online and offline integration — then partnered with the right YouTube influencer, Epic Meal Time, to deliver their message.

Winner: Best Organic Reach Campaign

Interac’s ‘$100’ Interac Flash campaign shows how a creative challenge can drive organic action

Interac Canada wanted to tell the story of how the $100 Interac Flash limit on their contactless debit card can help millennials achieve financial freedom. So, they turned to YouTube creators and influencers to demonstrate how far $100 can go. With the help of Kin Community Canada and APEX PR, the teams created a $100 YouTube creator DIY challenge that used TrueView In-Stream Ads to help female millennials were receive the message.

Winner: Best Full-funnel Campaign

A&W’s full-funnel YouTube strategy made the Beyond Meat Burger a household name

When quick service restaurant chain A&W Canada discovered the plant-based Beyond Meat burger, they knew it could convert meat-eaters across Canada. But first, their marketing team needed to drive awareness about the product. A&W teamed up with Rethink Canada and Vizeum for the A&W Beyond Meat Burger Launch campaign and took the burger on the road — capturing real-life reactions from tasters for YouTube ads. Then, they used YouTube Masthead and a clever custom affinity audience strategy to lead YouTube viewers down the funnel and into stores.

Repurposing your TV spot as your YouTube campaign? There’s a better way