The YouTube Whisperer to Brands: You’re Doing It Wrong

Joel Ackerman, the recently appointed creative director at toothbrush company Orabrush, thinks most brands don’t get YouTube. He ought to know something on the subject. Ackerman has driven more than 50 million combined YouTube views for the brand’s channel, and some of his videos — like Orabrush’s “Bad Breath Test: How to Tell When Your Breath Stinks” — have reached more than 18 million views alone.

Digiday caught up with Ackerman to hear how Orabrush’s creative team works its YouTube magic, what brands are missing on the platform, and how brands should reframe their thinking around the platform.


What makes for a good video?
There’s not a formula or a silver bullet that you can follow. One of the things a lot of brands make the mistake of doing is looking at other successful stuff and trying to duplicate it or come up with the next hot video. People aren’t stupid. If a brand is trying to be ‘hip’ or trying to create a viral video, people can see through that, and it doesn’t work. Brands kill the entertainment value because it’s not authentic. Or it’s just a silly video or maybe it’s just a stunt for publicity — it might get a lot of views, but it didn’t do a lot for their brand.

What do you mean by being real, then?
Brands should acknowledge the fact that they’re brands. People know that you’re a brand. There’s nothing wrong with your product or talking about it. If you look at successful YouTube campaigns, a lot of brands talk about their products within them.

How should brands talk about their products?
The question is to find your brand voice — then use that voice. Part of it probably is to find the humor that’s already there. In commercials a lot, like a car commercial, the humor isn’t about cars or the problems within cars. They’re just trying to be funny and then, BOOM, “Buy a car!” We try to mix the humor or the emotions or music in the same space of the product or the brand. So if it’s Orabrush, the humor is centered around bad breath.


How do videos go viral?
Don’t think about it at all as, “I want this video to be viral.”

What’s the most important thing for a brand on YouTube?
If you’re going to be on a community platform, then you need to be a member of that community and not just pretend to be a member. You need to learn how to work with others who know the space and are more adept than you are. In a very true sense, you’re working together with people rather than being a corporate island.

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