YouTube Ads - Claude Van Damme
Imported Layers Created with Sketch. AdHawk Blog
Marketing Tips

How to Make “Damme” Good YouTube Ads Without Jean-Claude Van Damme

YouTube is THE place to advertise.

With 4 billion views per day, YouTube has more engaged eyes and ears than any other platform.

That said, there are 300 HOURS of new content uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE.

Advertising gives you access to these engaged audiences for a fraction of the money and effort it takes to grow organic views.

Not convinced? 71% of YouTube advertisers claimed they experienced a significant boost in search rates after their ad campaigns have finished running.

Mastering the art of a successful video ad has never been more important (especially in the age of the “skip ad” button). So what makes a good YouTube ad? It may seem impossible to match the grandeur and emotional heft of Jean-Claude Van Damme performing the splits between two Volvo trucks, scored to the music of Enya. But do not fret (and please don’t try performing the splits yourself between your HR person’s car and the mail delivery truck that just showed up to the office); the secret to a successful YouTube Ad IS NOT the use of star talent or a hefty budget. Let’s break down 5 of the best strategic approaches you can take to make Damme good YouTube ads, no matter what the budget.

The Vulgar Approach

Finding a loophole in censorship like Kmart did might be your ticket to fame. In Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” commercial, several unassuming customers learn that Kmart will ship products one can’t find in the store for free. But with tricky phrasing and lack of enunciation, the common euphemism “sh*t your pants” is easily confused with “I just shipped my pants!”

Not only did this choice send a message clearly in a hilarious way, but it also provided Kmart with a catchphrase that could be repeated in multiple ads. Especially in today’s age, censorship is losing its importance as society has become more accepting of language that might have been considered “crude” in the past. So long as you are careful with the word or phrase you choose, utilizing the vulgar approach in your advertisements is a simple direction that can achieve great humor to hook your audience.

The Low-Budget Copycat

If you feel like you are lacking in creative spirit, sometimes copying another popular ad might be a great jumping-off point for a creative spark. did just that. After Old Spice had a successful gimmick with a shirtless stud telling ladies what they want their man to smell like, the co-founder of tried his hand at acting and performed a similar feat in his own warehouse, complete with a toddler, a cheap bear costume, and a leafblower with dollar bills flying all over the place.

And remember the vulgar approach? Well he did that too, and it worked like a charm. The key to this ad walking the line of being a playful copycat or just entirely stealing an idea is that DollarShaveClub only took a general aspect from the Old Spice commercials. Make sure that, if you choose the copycat approach, you take only the general idea and use it as inspiration to create something completely unique.

The Shirley Temple

No, this doesn’t refer to the classic cherry Sprite combo beverage. When the vulgar approach doesn’t fit the wholesome image you might be trying to create for your business, then whip up your animal cracker soup and find yourself a cute kid with some clever pop references.

Volkswagen did just that with their popular Super Bowl ad that featured a boy dressed up as Darth Vader, attempting to use the force on everything he possibly could. While you might not be able to afford the rights to use Darth Vader or John Williams epic music in your ad, there are creative techniques to avoid this. Many ads hire musicians to compose a score that can sound similar to, say, “The Imperial March” of Darth Vader, but features a few different notes that avoid trademark claims. And if the child and the story are cute enough, you can toss the Darth Vader costume and avoid that legal trouble as well. The results? Some great, easy humor and a heartwarming conclusion.

The Tearjerker

Humor is almost always the way to go for a successful YouTube ad. But sometimes that humor can have a powerful message that hits viewers deep down.

American Greetings, a greeting card company, delivered a striking Mother’s Day ad entitled “World’s Toughest Job,” during which a fake skype interview was setup between an actor playing an interviewer and several real-life job applicants. They all believed they were applying for the role of “Director of Operations,” with ridiculous-sounding requirements, before it was revealed that the real job these applicants were applying for is the same job mothers around the world do everyday. Viewers are stricken to the core with admiration for their mother and ready to buy their mom a Mother’s Day card.

Holidays are excellent occasions to utilize the tearjerker approach, but whenever you decide to go this route, ensure genuine emotions on screen by surprising real people or even actors. Genuine emotions onscreen increases the potential for genuine reactions offscreen from the viewers.

The Epic Surprise

Finally, if you have reached this point in our rundown of YouTube ads to learn from and feel you want to get a little closer to the epic proportion of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two trucks, but without Van Damme, two recommendations: please do not try to do those stunts yourself (no matter how nimble you might be) and look no further than a TNT ad that brought the drama to a real-life town square.

TNT, a cable network known for drama, decided to place a button in the center of a square that, if pushed, would “add drama.” Sure enough, when an unsuspecting bystander decides to push the button, chaos ensues.

While you may not have the budget to feature movie cars, a wild gun shootout, and several actors (if you do, please make the sequel to this awesome ad), the lesson to be learned from this is to find a way to involve a community. It could be as simple as staging a flash mob in a mall. Finding a way to involve your ad with real people who aren’t paid actors helps legitimize the advertisement with viewers.

A viewer is already dreading that advertisement keeping them from their program because they expect a big business tycoon will bore them or try to fool them in some way. Real people with real humor and an innocent plug at the end (like the banner with the TNT logo in this ad) makes for pure entertainment that elevates your brand in the mind of the viewer.

These are just a few examples of businesses that took a bold step in advertising, which paid off big. What’s important to learn from each of these YouTube ads is that what made them successful was that they were new and unexpected. Even the copycat ad found its own creative take on something we had seen before. Find what makes your company unique and make it a “stamp” that can leave an imprint on your future customers in an epic, totally-your-own, YouTube ad.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About the Author

The Steven Spielberg of Content Marketing at AdHawk, he is determined to find the most valuable of marketing secrets his mentors and the internet have to offer, all while scored to the Indiana Jones theme song.