Creativity in times of crisis: Lessons from the YouTube Works Awards’ 2020 winners


This post was done in partnership with Google Malaysia.

2020 was an unexpected year that forced everyone – from consumers to brands alike – to deal with a myriad of new circumstances. Brands found themselves faced with the challenge of reaching consumers in spite of the rippling effects of the pandemic in Malaysia, a broad Southeast Asian market with a population of more than 33 million and an internet penetration of 83%. 

With the demand for entertainment as the world stayed home, YouTube saw a 35% increase in watch time, and proved to be a highly effective platform for brands in driving business goals. The most adaptable brands persevered and reached new heights in terms of creativity and results, winning the hearts and trust of consumers and ultimately 2020’s YouTube Works Awards

Breaking the moulds of social responsibility 

Taking a difficult topic and turning it into something of value may be daunting to most, yet these brands took it upon themselves to stand firm and deliver a message that would resonate in the hearts of viewers across Malaysia. Winner of the best Ad of The Year 2020: Know Your V by Libresse Malaysia.

Kicking up a storm at the YouTube Works Awards, Libresse Malaysia went against the safety of conventional norms and addressed the subject of femininity, a topic often seen as taboo.

Through intimate scenes in its campaign, “Libresse: Know Your V” (which garnered more than 3.5 million views), Libresse highlighted the struggles faced by the everyday woman and demonstrated how brands can be forward in creating deep and valuable conversations with their audiences. 

Its almost defiantly bold campaign stood out in making a statement, receiving praise from the judges and community alike. It was a clear win in the judges’ eyes when the brand took a stand and created both the opportunity and platform to talk about topics otherwise deemed “inappropriate” – regardless of the repercussions. 

“It’s something that not every brand would dare to do. Libresse Malaysia is making a stand and I’ll always remember them for the fact that they did this.” – Angelina Villanueva, ex-CMO, KFC.

Similarly, Toppen Shopping Centre did a clever play on the sensitive topic of race with the hashtag #KitaDLL. By celebrating the uniqueness of people outside racial “checkboxes”, its campaign reached more than 3.2 million views, creating social buzz and cementing it as a retail giant who cares. 

While Libresse and Toppen touched on social taboos, Celcom Axiata’s “MeReka Merdeka” campaign rallied Malaysians together by inviting viewers to create and submit face masks designs for pre-order online to raise funds for those who needed them. Its campaign raised more than RM66K and generated 4.5 million views, winning it the title of Force for Good COVID-19 Edition. 

Staying relevant amid uncertainty 

Needless to say, the world underwent a massive change in 2020. With mounting uncertainty, brands chose to stick to notions of familiarity – but with a little creative reinterpretation. 

Clinching the title of Best Storytelling for Occasions, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB)’s Chinese New Year film, #RealityNotVirtual stood out by bringing the concept of home to Malaysians instead. Its comical reinterpretation of CNY traditions renewed the often forgotten excitement of hometown visits and family celebrations, and achieved 4.7 times more views above target. 

Initially fearing ad fatigue around yet another campaign for its fried chicken, McDonald’s Malaysia won Best Media Innovation for its campaign “Jangan Search Ayam Goreng Viral” by telling Malaysians not to search for its video – predicting they would do quite the opposite.

By collaborating with partners and hosting an unbranded video on YouTube, McDonald’s cleverly created a sense of viral curiosity before launch day. Relevant search keyword targeting ensured that McDonald’s always appeared at the top of the results, amid the induced search frenzy for terms such as “Ayam Goreng Viral”.

Interest in McDonald’s fried chicken soared by 200% above its initial target of 12,000 searches a day, and the fast-food chain saw a 15% spike in launch day sales with a 40% boost in McDelivery transactions. 

Know your audience and build real emotional connections 

When it comes to change, 2020 forced many brands to move online and many quickly learnt the best way to capture attention was to truly understand their audiences. 

Combining the creative use of innovative technology and knowing what consumers deemed important, Grab Malaysia targeted foodies and parents with its Grab Delivery Doodles campaign. Despite the lockdown, mealtimes became fun again when consumers searched for restaurants using simple drawings of food.

Engagement surged as more than 200,000 unique users used the platform across one million-plus sessions, leading to a whopping 70,000-plus incremental orders over a month. 

Toppen Shopping Centre, on the other hand, celebrated Johorian state pride with a hyper-localised campaign called #JelesEk (Johorian slang for “Jealous Lah”), collaborating with home-grown superstars Joe Flizzow and Joyce Chu who invited people to join them at the new mall.

Within just two months, Toppen Shopping Centre’s footfall traffic increased by 65%. In addition, its music video garnered more than seven million views, securing it top spot as YouTube’s most subscribed shopping centre channel. 

Conclusion: bringing the lessons learnt to 2021 

2020 may have been unpredictable, but it was also a year that taught us to dig deep by forcing us to not just slow down and reflect, but to look inwards and discover the essence of what truly mattered most. 

The winners of the YouTube Works Awards 2020 understood the importance of the human touch, and the interdependence between brand and consumer. From demonstrating social responsibility beyond just extending a helping hand, to a creative play of messaging, and realising the significance of emotional connections, these brands stayed true to their values while always placing their consumers at the core.

The last YouTube Works Awards Malaysia was held virtually in December 2020. To learn more about the winners and the awards ceremony, visit our Malaysia page.

Not in Malaysia? The YouTube Works Awards also takes place internationally. Visit the global website for more information.