They famously say that humour doesn’t travel. Well, whoever ‘they’ are, Hostelworld decided to put ‘them’ to the test by dropping Phil Wang, an English comedian of Malaysian descent, into a crowd in Indonesia to try to get them to laugh, all while filming the results for a YouTube campaign.
More than 12 million YouTube views and in excess of 100,000 app downloads later, the reason for Hostelworld’s approach becomes clear.
The skit supported Hostelworld’s ‘Speak the World’ campaign, advertising the fact that the booking engine’s app now boasts a translation function that lets travellers from all points communicate more easily and naturally than ever before.
The app embeds Google Translate technology, helping people access 43 languages and have conversations that are so much richer than just, ‘Where’s the train station?’ and ‘Two pints, please’.
Hostels’ key point of difference is their friendly, social, open nature. It’s an environment created almost exclusively through human connection and conversation. The app now lets travellers share tips, advice and stories without needing a crash course in Romanian or Bengali first.
Of course, while the app can find the words, it’s up to the comic to land the joke. And so Phil travelled around the country, through Indonesia’s paddy fields, markets and hostels, telling jokes via the app and trying to raise a chuckle. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he didn’t, but the results were always good for a laugh.
But the comedy provided much more than just the chance to watch a hapless comic get himself in sticky situations.
The campaign found its natural home on YouTube because if there was ever a place for funny and creative videos, it’s YouTube. On top of this, TrueView is one of the most effective ‘viewer friendly’ ad formats. The skipable ads allow brands to make the most of the creative space video allows, while putting the message upfront so viewers that are pushed for time get through to their desired viewing with little interruption.
For brands to engage the viewer’s attention and stop the skip, there’s got to be a really good promise of what’s to come. Well, is there anything worse than hearing a joke and missing the punchline? You know it’s going to bug you all day long. Humour and storytelling were the magic ingredients that kept viewers watching Hostelworld’s offering once that five second countdown was done.
Hanging on for that punchline took viewers along with Phil on his comedic odyssey and it showed in the results. Having targeted five million views initially, the videos scored 14.5 million, almost all of which (12.25m) were on YouTube and the rest on Snapchat.
Completion rates (the percentage of people voluntarily watching the ad through to the end) constantly hit above the industry benchmark of 27% – a neat trick considering the target audience of young, impatient, ad-avoiding independent travellers.
Of course, the strategic aim was to increase the number of app downloads and boosting the perception of hostelling in general.
All joking aside, the ad delivered in spades, reflecting how innovation and a focus on high quality creative on YouTube can help brands tap into consumer interests to reap huge rewards. On seeing the ads, two-thirds said they’d be more likely to book a hostel for their next trip. An extra 114,822 people downloaded the app and there have been over 3.5 million interactions with the Speak the World function.
Plus of course, millions of conversations started in bunkrooms, café areas, reception desks, shuttle buses and more that, without the app, would not – could not – have happened.
Here’s one of the videos from the series.