Close-Up: Has YouTube changed creativity?

Noel Bussey assesses how the groundbreaking website has shaped the creative process.

YouTube has transformed many things in many ways in the five years since its creation. From alleviating office boredom to making film directors out of everyday people, the internet has been irrevocably altered by the video-sharing website.

In the professional world, there is nowhere that its impact has been more keenly felt than in advertising. Campaign lists the top ten ways in which You Tube has affected adland.


Most creatives admit that they will go to YouTube at some point after receiving a brief because it is, many say, just as valid as going to an art gallery, film or exhibition.


The keenest debate around advertising's use of YouTube is when does inspiration become plagiarism? With so much content, it has become easier to "borrow" an idea.

Getting caught

But blatant copying is now seen as creative suicide because it will be found out instantly. You'd better have your story straight. Within hours of Toshiba's "space chair" launching, it became evident that it was similar to a film by Simon Faithfull. Luckily, Grey had worked with the artist throughout the process.

A creative outlet

So much of what a creative comes up with never makes it off the executive creative director's floor, but YouTube means that creatives can easily make something they think is good and still get it seen.

A longer shelf life

A popular ad such as Cadbury's "gorilla" can now be watched millions more times after the media budget has been spent, increasing its effectiveness and impact.

More effectiveness on less budget

Transport for London's "moonwalking bear" is a classic example. Leon Jaume, the executive creative director of WCRS, which produced the ad, says: "Before YouTube, with the budget we had we would only have been able to do a few regional posters - we got the film out to millions of people and saved lives."


Many believe that it is worthwhile asking consumers to help with a business problem, but the danger is that the quality is hit and miss.

Dave Bedwood, a creative partner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine, says: "It's really one step up from giving infinite monkeys infinite time bashing on typewriters. Eventually, you will get the works of Shakespeare."

User-generated content

This is one of the best ways of letting a consumer interact with a brand, but there are many pitfalls.

Bedwood says: "Wasn't this invented by YouTube? To a client, it sounds great, as if you will suddenly get 500 Martin Scorseses uploading to your brand site. In fact, you're more likely to get 5,000 tosspots and three good ideas sent in by people who work at the agency."

Creative future generations

Many people have found an outlet to help them realise their creative potential, which can only be good for creativity in general, and advertising in particular.

Barometer of success

The number of views and star rating system has become the industry's shorthand effectiveness reader for virals - more than one million hits or a five-star rating generally means success.

CREATIVE - Kim Papworth, joint executive creative director, Wieden & Kennedy

"You Tube is good for 'good people' who use it for inspiration and reference to get their ideas to a better place. It's bad for 'bad people' who are lazy and just copy something they find without moving it on.

"Quentin Tarantino references and is inspired by other films to make his own, but somehow they still end up feeling original and pioneering.

"Any tool that can help speed up the process of the thinking, the tone, the idea and the craft has to be good in my book. You Tube is the greatest thing for this process that has happened since the introduction of widely spread commercial videotape in 1976."

CREATIVE - Leon Jaume, executive creative director, WCRS

"It's incredibly seductive. Advertising has always looked around for inspiration - before You Tube, I remember Harry Enfield once getting really angry because people were using his sketches as inspiration.

"But I do believe in legitimate recycling and that ad people don't try to pass things off as their own.

"Overall, it's good for creativity, but it's not a replacement for cleverness.

"It has also led to people in general being much more creative and better equipped to create content."

CREATIVE - Ed Robinson, executive creative director, The Viral Factory

"What YouTube has done is show people you don't need a film school, or training, or even to follow traditional film-making rules in order to make something people love to watch.

"It also reminds us that creativity is everywhere and that we need to earn our swagger.

"I would love a creative industry that worked like You Tube - open-access, anonymous ideas that are sorted and group-voted to the top by the community itself.

"It reminds us advertising types that creativity does not just rest with us because it's in our job title. Competition and humility are perfect for inspiring us to do something genuinely new and different."

CREATIVE - Antony Nelson, creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

"YouTube can be inspirational and lead to laziness. Everybody gets inspiration from things, whether it's books, films, plays, songs etc - why should YouTube be different?

"Going to YouTube is definitely not the first thing we do, but we always have a look to see what other ads have been done on the same product so we don't end up copying something.

"In some cases, throwing YouTube references around can be quite damaging to genuinely great ideas. It's all too easy to say: 'That Cadbury ad is a rip-off; I've seen a monkey playing the drums before.' If YouTube hadn't been invented, would they say: 'That's a straight rip-off of a wind-up toy I had as a child'? Probably not."