This post is brought to you by YouTube Malaysia.
What makes for a great ad? The perfect formula may yet to be agreed upon, but brands have long considered the combination of deep audience insights and strong stories as building blocks for great ads. With attention higher in demand than ever, only the best ads rise above the rest to earn and retain viewers.
It is clear certain types of stories resonate and while many companies can create content by theme, it takes three key elements of planning and collaboration to really succeed. As concepts are created and adapted, the core strength of an ad is always the story.
"We need to find a balance between tech and creativity, while never losing sight of the story,” Amit Sutha, MD, Ensemble and Universal McCann, said. He added that while a hero story can transcend boundaries and platforms, it needs to be adapted. Consumers have distinct behaviours across media platforms. The message, the length, and the format have to respect their preferences and align to their interests to earn attention, Sutha said.
He added that a "pivotal shift" has occurred, and that successful brands now rely on platform-specific consumer behaviors to understand how to tell the most engaging story to their target consumers. Sutha said. that the agency takes a segmented strategy on YouTube, developing its creative concept in a mix of formats that can reach viewers across different stages of their consumer journey.
Meanwhile, Alvin Teoh, ECD, Naga DDB, said companies often blame the length of the video for lack of consumer engagement. "I believe there’s a time and place for everything. Tactical short videos are fine if they have a good story. So too are longer stories that give deeper emotional connections,” he said.
When asked how brand stories have evolved with digital opportunities, Tai Kam Leong, head of marketing at Maxis, said that YouTube has always been about real stories from real people. "As a brand, we understand that we must be completely authentic in our storytelling to engage viewers," Tai said.
Client-agency relationship was also a core issue for the winners at last year's YouTube Awards Gala, who concurred that everyone leaves pride at the door and concentrates on the brand truth, understanding the consumer and what story will connect the two.
What are some examples of ads that have stood above the rest taking authenticity and context into account? Last year, we recognised some of the top Malaysian ads of 2017 at the YouTube Awards Gala in December. Let us take a look back at the winners and identify a few key themes that helped them capture attention.
Humour works every time
If done right, humour can effectively humanise brand and product messages, making advertisers more relatable to consumers. McDonald's Malaysia, winner of the Retail and Restaurant and Multi-Video Campaign categories, parodied the rising appeal of Korean drama, in an effort to push their new Spicy Korean Burger through a multi-video story arc.
The ad sets up familiar dramatic plots, with a humorous resolution and an unexpected focus on their Spicy Korean Burger.
“In today’s day and age, customers do not want to see the same video over and over, it annoys them,” Eugene Lee, marketing director, McDonald’s Malaysia, said. “A strong multi-video campaign helps eliminate ad fatigue, retain interest and sustain the campaign’s momentum to ensure strong results.”
Ultimately, the combination of comedy and smart multi-video planning paid off for McDonald’s. “We sold the new product out within 2 weeks, doubling the number we had initially targeted,” Lee added.
Additionally, Nivea Men, winner of the Consumer Packaged Goods category, depicted an exaggerated cautionary tale documenting missed opportunities throughout human history. The narrator warns the audience that time after time, these moments have been ruined by body odor - cheekily positioning their product as the solution.
Innisfree Malaysia, winner of the six-second Bumper Ad category, used humour in a different manner, by challenging larger-than-life personalities to a make-up competition. The bumper ad cuts straight into the funniest bits of the challenge gone-wrong, teasing the audience to catch the complete action in the longer video.
Unique sound and visual direction goes a long way
In competing for modern audience attention, advertisers are measured to a much higher standard when it comes to visual storytelling. Not only do visuals have to be striking, but there is a growing appreciation of sound as an effective tool in storytelling.
This is exemplified in Cathay Pacific’s “The Sounds of Travelling Well", winner of the Travel category—a mashup of actual sights and sounds of a traveller—utilising incredible audio mixing and visual editing to showcase the magical moments of travel.
Similarly, 11street’s “Shop the World” advertisement, winner of the five-second intro category, immediately captures attention with an eye-popping color direction and a catchy backing track to match, showcasing the breadth of selection and ease of shopping through their online platform.
Authentic and heartfelt stories, centering around human relationships
Across the board, no matter the season—authentic and heartfelt stories, especially surrounding familial or communal relationships, are the de facto favorite narratives in Malaysia.
Visa’s “Magic PayWave Beep”, winner of the Finance category, centered on a parent-child narrative. The ad is a sincere portrayal of a parent instilling a sense of wonder in his child, which thoughtfully weaved the “magical” tap-and-pay feature of Visa PayWave into the story.
Malaysians love stories that celebrate multi-faceted Malaysia. KFC’s “The Bucket Sessions”, winner of the Long-Form category, brought together Malaysians of all ages, races and walks of life over a bucket of KFC. A five-minute long ad, the lighthearted conversations slowly developed into meaningful connections as we see these everyday Malaysian evolve from total strangers to friends.
“We sought to bring to life how these different strangers could quickly become friends through conversation (and food),” Naga DDB's Teoh said. “Racism and class divides may exist, but we have more in common than we realize. Merdeka and Malaysia Day was a perfect time to tell this story, and tell it as long as it needed to be," he added.
Maxis’ “Buatan Malaysia”, winner of both the Tech and Telco category and Ad of the Year 2017, is a simple story about a little boy who desires to see the world beyond his kampung. “Our process for finding real stories is very organic, it doesn’t start with a product brief," Maxis' Tai said.
Unable to afford to go on international trips, the boy goes on a whirlwind tour of Malaysia with his father. The trip evolves into a special shared experience and newfound appreciation of his home country - serving as a poignant reminder of gratitude to local audiences on Merdeka Day.
“This was classic storytelling at its best having a real human story to showcase country pride. It was possible because we have seamless integration with Maxis,” Sutha said, whose Ensemble team worked with Maxis on the ad. “Great ideas come from both the client and the agency teams, and the seamless integration makes it possible to transform these ideas into great stories," he added.