How brands like BMW, GEICO and Lenovo create video content for the “skipping” generation

Ads that tell a compelling story, are immersive, and use influencers, are key ingredients when creating winning video ads for YouTube.

By breaking down the winning formulas of top YouTube Leaderboard advertisements, Simon Kahn, chief marketing officer, Google Asia Pacific, offered useful insight for marketers for creating engaging and shareable video content for the ‘skipping’ generation. Kahn was speaking at a Google YouTube Creative Summit in Hong Kong and drew on examples from BMW, Lenovo and GEICO.

“YouTube is powerful, it’s large and reaches incredible audiences and it’s effective for advertisers, but it’s effective for advertisers who actually create content that engages with their audiences,” Kahn said.

He said the new tools, devices and platforms now available to marketers meant nothing if the audience couldn’t be won over.

“Unless you make stories that are compelling, to make people laugh, make people cry, make people think, you are not going to win them. Gimmicks are not going to work,” he said.

Drawing on the YouTube’s leaderboard of top ads, Kahn offers the following insight.

1. Hyper-tailored stories

Toyota’s video marketing strategy is an example of how a brand creates a series of content targeted for the different types of customers or potential customers based on the types of vehicles it wants to sell.

But it begins with broad scale content at the top of the funnel to then drive consumers to its YouTube channel where it has more content, ‘how to videos’ and other information about specific types of brands or vehicles to push consumers down the funnel to purchase.

An example of this broad scale content is its 2012 stunt using a Toyota Tundra to pull a space shuttle through Los Angeles.

However, it then develops specialized content for its different consumers. For example, in 2014, Toyota worked with YouTube influencers Rhett and Link to promote its Camry Sedan to a younger demographic in the United States.

Toyota: Rhett and Link’s Bold Surprise #OneBoldChoice | 2015 Camry | Toyota

Using the hashtag #OneBoldChoice, this Toyota campaign repositions the sedan from something your grandparents might drive, to the kind of sedans a young person might want to have.

2. Immersive

Being immersive is about using new tools and technologies to put the consumer at center stage.

Here’s an example from BWM where gamification is employed using 360-degree technology. Can you follow which car the model Gigi Hadid is in?

BMW USA: The BMW M2 – Eyes on Gigi Hadid (360° Video)

This video has been viewed more than five million times since its launch in April.

“This is a really fun way to get people to spend not 30 seconds, or 60 seconds, but minutes, playing with this feature,” says Kahn.

The beauty of ads such as this one, is that the immersive experience becomes the take away, not the technology itself.

3. No time constraints

Successful video ads no longer follow the time constraints of traditional television. Winning ads on YouTube don’t have to be restricted to 30 seconds or 60 seconds, but can be developed with a much longer time frame in mind.

Thailand has become synonymous for engaging, tearjerker advertisements. Here’s an advertisement from Google to promote its search capabilities. This four-minute video has been viewed more than 11 million times since its launch in mid-March.

Google Thailand: Google Search

One thing many of Thailand’s most viewed ads have in common is they are long.

The average length of the top ads on the 2014-2015 YouTube Leaderboard across Asia grew by 53% to over 4 minutes, says Kahn.

He used the ROI from the four-minute Google Search ad against a 22-second cut out piece, which was run alongside it.

The four-minute piece was viewed seven times more than its shorter counterpart, had 10 times more likes, 20 times the number of comments and 10 times the number of shares.

“So telling a great compelling story actually drives people to interact, engage and share it with their friends. If you have a story you think is powerful and works you don’t necessarily have to be restricted to 30 or 60 second ads,” says Kahn.

The reverse also applies especially when engaging younger audiences with shorter attention spans.

For shorter ads, those first few seconds have to be compelling, says Kahn.

GEICO is one brand which has taken the short form video ad to a new level with its Fast Forward collection. Here is one of them:

Forest: Fast Forward – GEICO

“This is a beautiful piece of 15-second work and makes you sit up and more importantly share with your friends,” says Kahn.

GEICO has also created 60 and 90-second long pieces for audiences who want to see what happens in between – amplifying the interests and the engagement in the process.

Forest (Extended): Fast Forward – GEICO

4. Tell stories through YouTube creators

Kahn says winning video ads partner with YouTube creators.

“Why do you do this when you have great agencies, which are talented and who have been making great work for years and years? Why go with potential amateurs? [Because] these folks know this medium. They know it works and they have built in audiences who tell them instantly if that message is resonating, if it’s getting through,” says Kahn.

Using influencers is an opportunity to have your brand story told in authentic ways.

Younger audiences will watch great stories but they need to believe it’s a great piece of work, and having someone tell that in an authentic way, is quite powerful, he adds.

In this example from Lenovo, the brand is shown only a couple of times. It’s designed to promote a Lenovo product called Yoga, which can be used in unusual and different places. From that, Lenovo developed a campaign called Good Weird. It then used YouTube creators from three different markets to create this video, which has garnered almost 1.5 million views.

Lenovo: Three Continents, One #Goodweird Dance Off (ft. EeOneGuy, Matt Santoro & TheViralFever)

Each of those YouTube creators then created their own #GoodWeird videos for their own channels. These new videos have amplified Lenovo’s message with a further 21 million views, according to Kahn.


Relationships with the influencers however should not be seen as another distribution arm for the campaign, warns Kahn. “These people are artists, you have to trust that they understand this platform and give them the freedom to go out there and help sell the values and the brands that matter to you,” he says.

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