The YouTube Works Awards recognises advertising on the platform that raises the bar on effective and creative marketing communication.
Unlike previous years where brands only competed at the country level, winners from across Southeast Asia will be funnelled to the regional show where they will vie for top honours this year. The categories cover the best launches on the platform, the best use of AI, and the best demonstration of the platform’s full-funnel capabilities, reflecting a contemporary and progressive view of marketing communications. The final winners will be announced on October 12, 2023.
With over 750 entries — 2.8 times more than 2022 — the 2023 YouTube Works Awards are the most competitive yet. Campaign Asia-Pacific sat in on the closed-door judging at Google’s Asia HQ with a high-profile jury, including leaders across advertisers, media, and creative agencies, to learn what it takes to win. We discovered the rigour required for an entry to meet the exacting standards of a multi-disciplinary jury, which will make YouTube Works rank among the most prestigious, hard-won awards in the region.
The jury highlighted the most exceptional aspects of work that had already beaten stiff competition in local markets to make it this far. Entries were lauded for simplifying messy, complicated customer journeys, launch strategies that helped cut through the clutter, and marketing communication campaigns which leveraged the full range of formats and creative renditions available on YouTube.
Effective multi-format communication requires bespoke experiences across touchpoints
One of the biggest differences the judges pointed out in this year’s work is the way brands were adapting the fluid way in which consumers move across screens, devices, and durations. Judges noted that the best entries this year were ones that created truly multi-format campaigns, going beyond adapting existing work to fit different formats and capitalising on the true power of the YouTube platform, which is multi-format in nature.
Preeti Mascarenhas, head of strategy and product of Mindshare APAC said, “YouTube works brilliantly in crafting an experience journey from discovery to buy. If you consider the formats in stream, it could be anything from an open theatre to a shop for consumers. Essentially, it’s a full-funnel innovation which consumers can experience at each stage with the YouTube formats.”
Sook Ping Lau, chief digital and marketing officer at L’Oréal Malaysia and Singapore, said, “Previously, you would start from the long-form and cut it down to a kind of ‘trailer.’ However, we saw many variations of shorts this year that were not necessarily just short edits of long-form content, but also depicting different stories.”
Johnny Tan, chief creative officer, Accenture Song SEA, observed that the best multi-format entries understood that “each touchpoint should be a bespoke experience. YouTube tools encourage this.”
For instance, non-skippable bumpers can create quick impact according to Sunil Naryani, chief product officer - media, Dentsu APAC. Shrinking consumer attention spans are being addressed through innovations such as Shorts. Naryani said, “YouTube has done a good job with the horizontal format. Shorts in vertical format help marketers become flexible and versatile storytellers.”
AI holds the promise of helping in a lot of these areas — from quicker, more efficient storytelling to delivering personalisation at scale. However, going by entries at YouTube Works, using it optimally is still a work in progress.
What will it take to effectively deploy AI?
While jurors were excited to see how brands were innovating to tell stories across formats, platforms, and devices, they struck a more balanced tone around AI, acknowledging the need for further education. The number of entries in the Alchemist category — created to celebrate communication that effectively reached audiences using AI-powered capabilities — was markedly lower than others, with some countries failing to produce any shortlisted entries.
Speaking about the work, Dennis Perez, digital marketing, media, and commerce lead of Unilever said, “There needs to be an education of what AI really means for brands, communication, and businesses. The focus should be looking at AI as an output, but also as an input.” In other words, using the right prompts to generate insights, as opposed to solely using AI as a tool to create or deliver personalised content to users.
There was a lot of optimism around how AI can drive more bespoke marketing and enable marketers to tap into more formats and channels optimally. Mascarenhas said, “A single ad could be multiple ads, moments, and be purposeful at the same time.” On a platform like YouTube, this translated into AI being a partner in serving the right story, to the right people at the right time, at scale.
A common theme among jurors was AI as a “co-pilot.” Dentsu APAC’s Naryani said, “AI can be used to storyboard, make small edits and push boundaries. Human magic can then be applied to the final edits.”
Several judges spoke about an abundance of impressive AI-driven work that had emerged recently outside of the awards. BBDO Bangkok’s CCO, Thasorn “Pete” Boonyanate, referenced a Mother’s Day ad from McDonald’s Thailand, which used AI to generate drawings of mothers as their children see them, as a particularly effective example.
The use cases for AI are growing exponentially, and so are the tools that make it easier to deploy. It is highly likely that next year at YouTube Works, a fresh crop of campaigns will wow the judges and set new standards for AI.
Boosting marketing effectiveness with YouTube
Even as marketers get up to speed on AI, campaigns on YouTube across Southeast Asia are delivering on diverse objectives and goals. Campaigns that won top honours at YouTube Works ran the gamut from online to offline integration, product launches, and even social change.
What makes the platform the perfect venue for such a diverse range of marketing programmes is its ubiquity. Citing the example of Vietnam, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam Beverages’ executive VP of marketing Nguyen Dinh Toan said, “Over 60% of people use YouTube every day; it’s a huge platform for entertainment and also a trusted source of information.”
This trust goes a long way in YouTube being used for new launches or restaging existing brands. This was evident in work submitted to The Big Bang, a category within YouTube Works that celebrated brand launches on the platform. Despite YouTube being filled with new videos and cutting-edge content creators, the most impressive entries in the category left the jury with a few pointers on how brands can get noticed.
Head juror Merlee Cruz-Jayme, founder of The MisFits Camp and former CEO of Dentsu Asia Pacific said, “We looked for fresh and engaging creativity, brand-building effectiveness, and work that was uniquely YouTube-worthy. While the winning works could simply be content that improves on what we have today, what we were excited about was work that will pave the way for the future of YouTube.”
Perez added, “The videos on the platform that stand out, touch the audience. A successful YouTube launch is about striking a balance between ‘new news’ for your brand while being in tune with real emotions, or universal human truths.”
Whether the objective is social or commercial, there are multiple tools on the platform to deliver results. Boonyanate said, “Every brand is fighting a war for consumers’ attention, and YouTube has many weapons. Besides providing data and analysis, it helps marketers make campaigns stronger.”
Mindy Yap, head of regional brand and partnerships of Grab added, “YouTube serves marketing objectives across the entire funnel, not just the top. If your brand is app-based, you can easily drive leads or conversions and see attribution by providing specific deep-links back to your app.”
Innovation and smart use of YouTube’s tools can help creativity resonate and drive conversions from online to offline. Perez said, “YouTube is proving that it’s not just for awareness, but also a platform for action.”
Why experimentation should be the norm and not an exception
The jurors recommended an iterative test-and-learn approach to forge connections with consumers on YouTube given the multiplicity of formats, creative strategies, AI-powered tools, and content partnerships at a marketing team’s disposal while using the platform.
While the winners at YouTube Works represent a diverse range of geographies, product categories and campaigns, the unifying thread that binds them together is an appetite for experimentation. Danone Indonesia’s CMO Sri Widowati endorsed this approach, even though Indonesia remains a country that invests significantly in traditional media because of its potential for mass reach. She said, “Knowledge and the willingness to experiment are important. If you don’t experiment, you won’t develop those skills.”
Some of the best campaigns on YouTube that have embraced such novel approaches and broken category clichés will be awarded at Southeast Asia’s first regional YouTube Works Awards on October 12, 2023, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The finalists for all nine regional categories have now been revealed here
— watch this space to discover which entries bag the most valued trophies, besides setting the agenda for effective marketing in the region.
The jurors at YouTube Works included: Merlee Cruz-Jayme, founder of The MisFits Camp and former CEO, Dentsu Asia Pacific (jury chair); Thasorn “Pete” Boonyanate, chief creative officer, BBDO Bangkok; Marcus Chew, group CMO, and Mike Dela Cuesta, VP regional creative, Lazada; Natalie Lam, chief creative officer, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa, Publicis; Sook Ping Lau, chief digital and marketing officer, Malaysia and Singapore, L’Oréal; Sulin Lau, regional head of marketing and brand, and Mindy Yap, head of regional brand and partnerships of Grab; Preeti Mascarenhas, head of strategy & product of Mindshare APAC; Sunil Naryani, chief product officer - media, Dentsu APAC; Dennis Perez, digital marketing, media, and commerce lead, Unilever; Robert Sawatzky, editorial director, Asia, Haymarket Media Group; Johnny Tan, chief creative officer, Accenture Song SEA; Nguyen Dinh Toan, executive VP of marketing, Suntory PepsiCo Vietnam Beverages; Sri Widowati, CMO, Danone Indonesia.