Creativity in Constraint: Two U.S. Creative Teams Emerge Victorious From YouTube’s Global Creative Hack

When two creative teams from the U.S. arrived in Singapore last month, they knew they’d be facing stiff competition and absurd deadlines. The teams from Deutsch and Grey had just flown halfway across the world to take part in the inaugural YouTube Creative Hack competition as part of Spikes Asia.

Spikes Asia is a yearly event comparable to Cannes Lions that brings together 2,000+ industry leaders from 26 countries to celebrate creative excellence across the Asia Pacific region. This year, the conference focused on YouTube, celebrating the most creative and innovative campaigns on the platform.

Creativity was on display throughout the conference’s keynotes and award presentations—never more so than during the YouTube Creative Hack competition sponsored by YouTube and Young Spikes. Fourteen teams of young creatives came together from across Southeast Asia, Japan, India, and the U.S. for some friendly competition.

The structure was simple: Teams of two had to concept, write, and produce a mini ad campaign in just seven hours. They would create three ads to fit YouTube’s new six-second bumper ad format, all using existing long-form video assets from a brand whose name, objectives, and target audiences were kept secret until the competition briefing session.

Right before the clock started, the client was revealed: the Singapore Tourism Board. In just seven hours, all 14 teams, including the jetlagged U.S. duos, had to present their ads to a panel of expert judges who would determine the winners.

Neither of the teams from the U.S. had ever been to Asia, and now they had to create ads convincing people to come visit Singapore.

The team from Deutsch based their ads on the insight that millennials like to show off to their friends when they’re having a great time. “We started concepting around this feeling of travel envy—that jealousy you feel when looking at pictures and videos from your friends’ awesome vacations. We all hate those friends. That shared hatred/jealousy led us to the line, ‘Singapore. You can be mad, or you can be here,’” shared Andrew Kong, copywriter at Deutsch. Kong and his partner, Curtis Petraglia, art director were able to turn this simple insight into a fun and polished six-second ad, which showcased fun things to do in Singapore while getting the message across quickly.

Alternatively, Grey used the fact that this was their first time in Asia to land on a simple insight: Singapore is very similar to some of the world’s other big cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles, but with particular advantages. “The creative hack was a fun challenge that forced us to trust our guts and whittle down the ads to the core insight,” said Will Gardner, art director at Grey. Their scrappy campaign portrayed that simple message through clever supers and playful iconography. The six-second ads were designed to target users by home country.


The results? The teams snagged first and second place, making the Creative Hack a huge success for the U.S. teams. Despite the challenges a new country and new ad format presented, the team from Deutsch won the jury over, taking top honors unanimously. The Grey campaign also impressed the judges, with its relatable and dexterous execution, earning the team the second place honors. “Initially, we had no idea what to expect from bumpers and this opportunity showed us the possibilities of being creative within constraints. We’re excited to expand on the experience and take what we learned back to our teams,” said Robert Jencks, designer and junior art director at Grey.

Leaning into the creative constraints of the six-second bumper ad format helped the U.S. teams transcend language barriers and local nuances. Having just six seconds to play with meant the teams had to focus their creativity and create pithy ads rooted in simple human truths. Regardless of platform, audience, country, brand, or time limit, that’s the kind of creativity that will always win.

Posted by Noël Paasch, Agency Marketing Manager, YouTube

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