Teams From Deutsch and Grey Won the First YouTube Creative Hack With These 6-Second Ads

Video site's contest promotes new short ad format

Seven hours might not seem like much time for two people to conceive and produce three video ads of anything resembling decent strategic quality. But if the spots are short enough, and the creatives are good enough, it's plenty doable.

That's the gist of a YouTube victory lap, after a handful of U.S. creatives won the top prizes in a special competition at the Spikes Asia advertising awards show in Singapore—creating zippy 6-second ads for the country's tourism board on unusually short notice, in honor of the video site's new so-called "bumper" ad format.

YouTube, owned by Google, sponsored the contest—called the YouTube Creative Hack—and flew two creative duos, one from Deutsch, and one from Grey, to the other side of the world. The U.S. teams, and 12 other pairs in the running, knew nothing about the brief until the session began. And then they had to produce their entries in the allotted time, using existing long-form entries, and their wits.

Ultimately, the panel of judges gave first place to the Deutsch team—copywriter Andrew Kong and art director Curtis Petraglia—for playful clips that teased fun activities in Singapore, and gently mocked viewers for missing them.

"We started concepting around this feeling of travel envy—that jealousy you feel when looking at pictures and videos from your friends' awesome vacations," Kong says in a promotional blog post from Google. "We all hate those friends. That shared hatred/jealousy led us to the line, 'Singapore. You can be mad, or you can be here.' "

The Grey team—art director Will Gardner and designer and junior art director Robert Jencks—took second place for clever little graphics equating Singapore to other world-class cities like New York and London, but without some of their less charming attributes.

"The creative hack was a fun challenge that forced us to trust our guts and whittle down the ads to the core insight," says Gardner. Adds Jencks, "Initially, we had no idea what to expect from bumpers, and this opportunity showed us the possibilities of being creative within constraints."

YouTube maintains the bumper format is ideal for mobile, where short—or as the company calls them, "snackable"—ads perform well. The brief framework itself can't help but evoke Geico and The Martin Agency's "Unskippable" campaign, which brilliantly packed the brand's message into a similarly minuscule window, during the beginning portion of longer pre-roll spots, before viewers could click past them to the content they were actually trying to see.

The Deutsch and Grey teams came up with fun solutions, for sure. Then again, in an era when a certain amount of fast-turnaround marketing should probably be a regular part of any brand's broader strategy, seven hours might not seem that dazzling.

At the very least, it's probably best from a billings perspective not to let marketers know how quickly ad creatives can actually work. Or maybe the takeaway is a little different—if marketers loosened the reins some, they might be pleasantly surprised with the results.