Deadpool, Red Bull, Estrella Damm: love the videos but did they work?

Adam & Eve/DDB's executive strategy director Nick Hirst reveals some of the campaigns he hopes will enter the 2019 YouTube Works awards

Deadpool: were the fourth-wall-breaking anti-skipping antics just clever or did they help sell tickets?
Deadpool: were the fourth-wall-breaking anti-skipping antics just clever or did they help sell tickets?


The best thing about judging awards – particularly those with an effectiveness bent – is satisfying your curiosity. Everyone’s got an opinion, but when you’re judging effectiveness awards you get to peek behind the curtain and see if it worked. And if you’re entering, these awards are really your only chance to prove that you have some trousers to go with that mouth.

It’s all the more important now because, while we’re blessed (well, "blessed") with more data and more ways to measure than ever, communications effectiveness is somehow on the wane. Depending on who you talk to, this is either because we’re focusing on the wrong kind of effects, or we’re witnessing the death of creativity. Maybe it’s both.

That’s why I’m particularly looking forward to spending a few hours with some incredibly smart people discussing this year's entries to the YouTube Works awards. To my mind they hit both nails on the head, because they reward effectiveness and creative strategic thinking.

In fact, that’s one of the exciting things about evolving platforms like YouTube: it allows, even encourages, new kinds of creativity. The kinds that planners can get in on.

Of course, traditional creative craft still matters. But a smart strategist being clever about how we use YouTube’s particular features; how we exploit the new things it allows us to do - that can create disproportionate impact too.

You can see it in the campaigns that won last year, from the Grand Prix-winning Hostelworld campaign, which knowingly aped clickbaity editorial video, to the data-driven contextual savvy of BT Sport and Tesco. The best ones, whether in use of data, or form, or content, couldn’t have been TV ads. They were more interesting than that.

So whose curtains do I want to peek behind this year?

I want to see if Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking anti-skipping antics were just clever, or if they helped sell tickets. I want to know if there was method to the madness of Purple Mattress’ bonkers reinvention of the longform infomercial. Whether Red Bull’s documentary on Ross Edgley’s swim around the UK was good content planning or just an indulgence in pain and jeopardy. Whether the 16-minute film starring Peter Dinklage for Estrella Damm actually worked, or whether it was just a colossal waste of production money and an excuse to hang out with Tyrion Lannister.

I want to see which out of Turkish Airlines or British Airways upgraded safety films did more for the brand. (I must have seen the BA ones about 40 times last year on planes, but I’m intrigued to note they both pop up on YouTube’s leaderboards, with very healthy view counts, which makes me wonder: is this accidental, or was the plan all along to create longform brand films disguised as utility, seeded on planes then distributed online?).

I’d love to know if Beats’ reframing of headphones as a kind of self-help tool is working. And whether Apple’s epic product film "Big News" is a good case study for how to crack a "product news" brief, or just self-indulgence.

How about your campaign? Does it justify the hype? Have you got a surprise low-budget corker that you want the world to know about? Did you use data, or context to make a difference to your brand? Did you do video in a way which could only have worked on YouTube? And can you prove your creative, imaginative approach to YouTube paid back for your brand? Now’s your chance: enter or it didn’t happen.

YouTube Works, run in partnership with the APG and Campaign, closes for entries on the 8 March. Find out more and how to enter here.

The full list of 2019 YouTube Works awards judges: Verra Budimlija (chair of judges), chief strategy officer, Wavemaker; Nick Hirst, executive strategy director, Adam & Eve/DDB; David Carr, strategy director, Digitas; Bridget Angear, joint chief strategy officer, AMV BBDO; Katie Mackay, partner and head of strategy, Mother; Neil Godber, head of planning, JWT; Geoff de Burca, managing partner, MediaCom; Hamid Habib, managing director, Starcom; Clare Peters, chief business strategist, Manning Gottlieb OMD; Will Whalley, marketing strategy & comms, Google UK; Mark Evans, marketing director, Direct Line Group and Claire Hilton, managing director, brand & insight, Barclays.