When you think of an portly, brandy loving gentleman spreading festive cheer throughout the Christmas season, it's fair to assume Winston Churchill isn’t the figure who immediately springs to mind.

But as the sleigh bells jingle and Christmas kicks into full swing, I find myself turning to words from the former prime minister, who once noted that “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection”. Beyond the trees and the tinsel, Christmas provides us with the rare chance to think about the year that has passed, and begin planning for the year ahead.

With this in mind, I find this festive season an opportune moment to reflect on some of the most creative advertising we’ve seen on YouTube in 2018.

Amazon Alexa Loses Her Voice  

Super Bowl season is always an exciting time for advertising, with non-US viewership for Super Bowl ads on YouTube growing by over 28 times since 2008 - and 2018 was no exception. 

While the Lombardi Trophy made its long awaited return to Philadelphia, the equally coveted trophy for “My Personal Favourite Super Bowl Ad” headed to the UK as London based agency Lucky Generals, making its Super Bowl debut, conceived the brilliantly funny and star-studded Alexa Loses Her Voice. Featuring Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Hopkins and hip-hop sensation Cardi B, the spot highlights just how poorly suited the A-listers would be to replace Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.

BT Sport The Ashes

The Ashes might not quite have the glitz and glamour of the Super Bowl, but it still inspired one of the most creative uses of YouTube advertising I’ve seen. Having won the rights to broadcast the 2017/18 Ashes on its channels, BT Sport faced a unique problem of reaching and convincing audiences to watch 25 days of cricket taking place not only during the busy festive period, but also – due to the time difference with Australia – mostly at night.

To crack the puzzle, they turned to data. BT Sport discovered that cricket fans weren’t just searching online for cricket. They also had a propensity to search for football highlights, travel content and much, much more. Within the data, the patterns and shared preferences of their target audience soon became clear.

BT Sport then targeted advertising against non-cricket related search terms used by cricket fans on YouTube. By enlisting Geoffrey Boycott, famous cricketing curmudgeon, to directly and disruptively appeal for fans to drop what they were watching and tune into the cricket, BT Sport drove a 98% increase in Google searches and a 40% YoY sales uplift.

Nike Nothing Beats A Londoner 

Nike’s Nothing Beats a Londoner campaign by Wieden+Kennedy made a huge splash when it first debuted on YouTube in February, racking up 2.6m views in just four days. The ad features famous footballers, comedians and music stars Skepta and Giggs, but with real deference and in an expertly tactful manner, never taking the spotlight from the true star of the show: the people.

From the rowers with their unthinking parents yelling “failure” to the kids battling for space on the multi-sports court, the tennis players in howling winds and the runner making tracks on two miles of streets just to get to training, Nike managed to capture the competitiveness and the camaraderie which makes one of the world’s most vibrant and diverse cities truly unique.

Hostelworld Speak the World

Hostelworld and Lucky Generals sought to challenge the old adage that ‘humour doesn’t travel’ by sending comedian Phil Wang to Indonesia equipped with nothing but Hostelworld’s app - which embedded Google translate technology so that users could speak to one another in up to 20 languages.

The spot sees Phil travel around the paddy fields, markets and hostels of Indonesia engaging with locals and travellers in their own languages and seeing if he could raise a chuckle. This campaign illustrated how creative you can be with advertising on YouTube when you align the natural strengths of the platform with the natural strengths of your brand - which in this case was humour.

Bodyform Viva La Vulva 

Bodyform earned worldwide acclaim for their Cannes Grand Prix-winning campaign #Bloodnormal last year - using YouTube’s viewer-centric platform to reach a targeted audience of over 800m.

It was great to see the brand continue championing female body positivity with its 2018 campaign Viva La Vulva, created by AMV BBDO. It takes real bravery to break taboos in advertising, and Bodyform are exemplifying how creativity can knock these doors down.

John Lewis The Boy and the Piano

For brands, Christmas ‘tis the season of high engagement on YouTube. Western Europeans – and particularly Brits – love adverts at Christmas more than any other time of the year, showing a huge 147% increase in affinity for advertising content over the festive season.

Consequently, I don’t think it’s possible to exclude John Lewis’ annual Christmas blockbuster from this list, with the spot racking up 11m views in three weeks on YouTube. John Lewis can somewhat suffer from its own brilliance having set the standard for Christmas advertising for nearly a decade - but this year, the expertly crafted journey the ad takes us on, following Elton John backwards from superstar to a young boy receiving his first piano, won me over entirely.

Iceland Say Hello to Rang-tan 

It’s impossible to discuss 2018’s most impactful adverts without discussing Iceland’s Say Hello to Rang-tan - the Christmas blockbuster that went viral after being banned on TV. Generating almost 6m views on YouTube and a leading a petition to over 700,000 signatures in just under a month, this spot is a beautiful example of how powerful and influential advertising can be - even when only existing in online video.

So there you have it. Some memorable highlights from a year that has flown by all too fast. But before we embark upon a new year of craft and creativity, I’d recommend some relaxation and reflection over the festive season. And if you need a hand getting the Christmas spirit going, I’ve found this clip of a log burning on a fire in pristine HD a very useful ally.