Insights unveiled: Four key themes from winning ad campaigns

How YouTube Works Awards winners lean into creative excellence to engage, wow and connect with consumers.
02 May 2024
Content creator
Kashmira Joshi

Senior Director, Creative Client Services, Insights, North America

Yvonne Sun

Senior Associate, Creative Client Services, Insights, North America

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With consumer attention being pulled in so many directions, YouTube has emerged as a powerful advertising platform, offering brands a dynamic canvas to showcase creativity and connect with audiences. Kantar’s attention measurement partner, Affectiva, shows that interruptive environments, like YouTube, tend to create higher overall visibility compared with social media where the ad exposure is not forced.

Driving creative excellence and effectiveness

YouTube Works Awards is a global submission-based program across multiple countries designed to honor the brands and agencies producing the most groundbreaking and effective advertising campaigns on YouTube. As a proud partner for the awards program in the U.S. for six years running, Kantar has witnessed the evolution of experimentation on the platform over the years.

In 2023, we observed several trends from ads that broke the mold. We have taken an analytical lens to dive into the themes that set apart the winning ads and developed insights that can be taken back to the industry to inspire future campaigns.

Here's a closer look at the key themes that drove business results in the U.S.:

1. Visual allegory leveraging cultural trends speaks a thousand words:

Post COVID, consumers are expecting more from brands. Many of the winning campaigns tapped into social and cultural phenomena and visual allegories such as cakes or fakes, a love of miniatures, ASMR, oddly satisfying, or even a fascination with deep fakes. These campaigns embraced what content viewers were already engaged with on social media. Brands that have a true creative idea along with an understanding of their consumers and culture have an opportunity to have an impact:

  • BlendJet strived to surprise and delight their existing consumers and target new audience segments by creating videos that spoke directly to a unique YouTube fan base. Assets included cakes or fakes, miniatures, ASMR, and oddly satisfying videos.
  • Dove found a new way to bring to life its long running campaign on real beauty through the use of deep fakes, a current moment in culture, to emphasize the ills of harmful beauty advice with the help of a 3-minute-long video.

2. Surgical precision in targeted outreach:

Gone are the days of targeting audiences solely based on demographics. The winning campaigns demonstrated precision in reaching audiences by tapping into their passions, fears, and concerns. This deeper understanding of people is creating a new sense of authenticity. We found that 67% of winners demonstrated surgical precision in reaching the right audiences on the YouTube platform.

  • Benjamin Moore leveraged geo-targeting on YouTube to granularly reach intended consumers in six priority regions across the U.S. (New England, Midwest & South, South & Mid Atlantic, Tri State Area, The West Coast, Rocky Mountains) with paints that reflected the colors in the region.
  • eBay successfully built and fostered a community for automotive enthusiasts with a 5-episode series through a key insight – YouTube was the number one social platform for auto enthusiasts looking for inspiration.
  • MassMutual defied category conventions and tackled head-on the very stressful and often terrifying conversation around financial future. They showcased real families having authentic conversations to encourage consumers to take action for their financial future by featuring a ‘don’t skip’ call out at the beginning of the video which acted as a creative nod to this “uncomfortable” truth.
  • Mailchimp accurately captured the pain points of small business owners and entrepreneurs in their arresting creatives and deployed a full funnel strategy to target and retarget this audience.

3. The long, the short and everything in between:

These are typically dynamic and bespoke assets. Overall, 50% of winners crafted multi-format campaigns to enhance storytelling.

  • BlendJet created unique bespoke assets for each target audience, and strategically integrated both horizontal and vertical assets as well as long form and short form videos to stay agile and maximize reach for their consumers.
  • Mailchimp had a clear intention of educating their audience and implementing a variety of formats for each phase of the purchase funnel. They deployed 6s bumpers and 15s skippable assets to drive strong reach and brand lift at the top funnel. Then using 30s, they were able to drive on-site conversions, convey different messaging and CTAs to increase Paid Sign Ups throughout the middle-bottom funnel. Additionally, Mailchimp broadened their reach by leaning into vertical assets to target prospects on mobile.

4. Creator charm and co-creation:

Marketers are no longer being lazy in using YouTube creators to extend reach of their message by handing them products to endorse. The paradigm has shifted to a more “do-it-together,” with both brands and creators being in the driver’s seat shaping relevant content for their audience.

  • eBay strategically partnered with content creator Collete Davis to co-create a five-episode series. Each episode featured a new auto creator representing a unique subculture and product category of the motor community, while the brand, eBay Motors, was organically integrated as part of the series.

Getting it right across platforms

With Kantar’s Media Reactions study indicating that YouTube was the most preferred platform among marketers, brands and content creators are experimenting on the platform like never before. With its ability to bring brand stories to life, tap into social trends, and reach the right audiences, the platform is continuing to play a crucial role in shaping the future of the digital landscape. Learn more about the YouTube Works Awards here. Media Reactions helps you understand what consumers want, and where they are most receptive to advertising, so you can get your ad context right and make the most of your media investment. Learn more about Kantar’s Media Reactions study and participate in the 2024 survey.


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