Designing and Running a Contest

Updated March 5, 2015

2015 Important Update

YouTube will no longer be accepting requests for new gadgets or gadget refreshes after March 31, 2015. Any gadget or gadget refresh booked for 2015 that is approved and reserved before March 31, 2015 will not be impacted. The final date for gadgets (including refreshes) to launch is July 1, 2015 and all gadgets will be removed from YouTube on December 31, 2015. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reach out to your Google account team.

After March 31, 2015, we will not be accepting new gadgets on YouTube and advertisers can not launch new contests on the YouTube  platform. We know that contests are a great way for Advertisers to engage with YouTube community members and we are continuing to improve the product and our policies to meet our users' needs.

We'll have more information on this over the coming months, so please watch this space!

In the meantime, there are other great ways to engage users, outside the traditional contest framework. For example: advertisers and creators can engage users through traditional means - requesting specific titles, tweeting video links, adding video links in comments or sharing a video with a particular account. You could have a Call to Action asking users to upload their own videos with titles containing a specific phrase.

Creating a YouTube contest
Contest phases
Permitted Contest Gadgets
Reporting and metrics
Best practices for contests


Contests are a core method of engaging YouTube community members and encouraging them to interact with your brand. Contests create unique opportunities to blend your own content with user-generated assets, including video, photos or text, on your brand channel page. Contests encourage multiple levels of participation:

  • Brand enthusiasts, motivated by loyalty and affinity for your product, create unique content that showcases your brand image.
  • Budding video directors and content creators, encouraged by the visibility that your contest affords their submissions and by the prizes for winning entries, channel their creative energies toward creating new content that communicates your brand identity.
  • YouTube community members are drawn to your brand channel, which becomes a source of interesting, new, and often professional-quality video content.

Information about your contest appears on your brand channel page, creating an integrated brand experience for YouTube users and allowing you to provide a single destination for your brand on YouTube. Brand channel pages that showcase contests still have access to all standard brand channel features, including custom graphics, a branding box and automatic featured video playback. Please refer to the Creating and Customizing a Brand Channel document for information about designing your brand channel and selecting content for your channel page.

About this document

This document is an addendum to the Creating and Customizing a Brand Channel document, which explains unique features available to brand channels and discusses the process of designing and customizing a brand channel.

This document supplements the standard brand channel information by explaining how to set up and run a contest on your brand channel. This document is divided into the following sections:

  • The Creating a YouTube contest section describes the steps you are likely to follow when creating your contest. This section intends to give a high-level overview of the actions you will need to complete to set up your contest. The remaining sections contain general information about contests as well as detailed guidance on YouTube's contest requirements.

  • The Contest phases section outlines the typical stages of a YouTube contest and suggests best practices for each contest stage. This section contains background information that will help you to set up your contest. This section also provides a sample timeline for running a contest.

  • The Permitted contest gadgets section describes the technical and policy restrictions around how the gadget you use may operate.

  • The Best practices for contests section summarizes ways that you can maximize the impact of your contest. The guidelines provided in this section should be used in conjunction with the best practices for brand channels outlined in the Creating and Customizing a Brand Channel document.

Creating a YouTube contest

The following list summarizes the overall process that you will follow to set up your contest:

  1. Sign up for a user account on The account's channel page will be the brand channel page for your contest, and the YouTube username will appear in your channel URL. The sign-up process is described in the Creating and Customizing a Brand Channel document.

  2. Provide the YouTube username from step 1 and a Gmail account name to your YouTube Technical Producer. The Gmail account will serve as the administrator account for your contest, and the account name will not be displayed to YouTube users.

    Prior to your contest launch, your Technical Producer will upgrade your channel to a brand channel with contest capabilities.

  3. You will build your own contest tool, or work with your vendor or agency to do so.

  4. Once your contest gadget is complete, work with your YouTube Technical Producer to ensure that it meets all technical, legal, and policy requirements.  Please be aware that your Technical Producer should take a look at mocks prior to build to confirm feasibility.

  5. After you’ve received approval on your contest from YouTube, your Technical Producer can launch it on your branded channel.

Contest phases

The following sections describe the phases of a typical YouTube contest, though you can customize your contest to have a different number of phases. Each section describes the elements that contribute to successful execution of the contest phase.

Phase I - Announcement and submission

During the first phase of a contest, a contest owner typically announces the rules, submission dates, voting process and prizes for the contest. Generally, contest owners choose to also let users submit video entries during this phase. (An alternate contest scheduling option is to announce the contest in advance of its start date, thereby defining distinct time periods for the announcement and submission.)

The following list identifies the key focus areas for this contest phase:

  • Build awareness of your contest and brand.
  • Clearly define all contest rules and regulations at the moment you announce your contest.
  • Use call-to-action videos to engage users and encourage them to participate in your contest.

The following guidelines describe best practices for designing and running your contest during this phase:

  • Videos and Entries

    • Create a featured video that provides a call to action encouraging users to participate in the contest. The featured video might also include a sample contest entry.

    • Periodically update your call-to-action video to keep the content on your brand channel page fresh and interesting to return users.

    • Often, during this phase, advertisers will upload and display several sample contest entries so users understand the call to action.

  • Contest information

    • Include links to rules, external registration and information about your brand. The contest rules should precisely describe the voting process for your contest.

    • Clearly identify the date and time when the submission period will end.

    • Include information that you would like to convey to users but that you may not want to prominently highlight (or that may not fit) in the contest gadget's content area in offsite or new tabbed links.

    Visual elements

    • Use vibrant, engaging graphics in the contest module to announce your contest.

    • Update your brand channel images – including the background graphic, the channel page banner, the video page banner and so forth – to match the background graphics that you select for your contest gadget.

  • Community-building

    • Create playlists that feature the top entrants for specific time periods. For example, if your contest runs for eight weeks, you might create one playlist each week to showcase the top submissions for that week.

    • You may want to highlight great user-submitted videos. You could also mix in your own sample entries with top user submissions.

    • Encourage users to subscribe to your channel or entrants' channels.

  • Additional best practices

    • Consider displaying downloadable product logos, images and audio clips that you would want users to incorporate into their contest entries. If you do include content for download and use by the user, it should be either owned and controlled by you or you should have a license that permits both your and the user’s use of the content on YouTube.

    • If you have run the contest before, include footage from previous winners or finalists.

Phase II - Viewing

After the submission phase ends, a contest owner proceeds to identify the finalists and winners of its contest. Although contest owners typically involve the YouTube user community in selecting the contest winners, you can choose whether to allow user voting in selecting between several different voting processes:

  • You can select the finalists and then let the YouTube user community vote to select the winner.

  • You can let the YouTube user community vote to select the contest winners from the entire pool of entries.

  • You can define multiple rounds of voting.

  • You can choose the contest winners without soliciting votes from the YouTube user community.

This document describes the first voting process in the list above since that is the one that contest owners most frequently choose. In that scenario, the contest owner defines a viewing period that runs from the end of the submission phase until the announcement of finalists, which the contest owner selects. After finalists are announced, the contest proceeds to its third phase, a voting period when YouTube users vote to select the contest winners.

The following list identifies the key focus areas for this contest phase:

  • Identify contest entries that embody your brand image while adhering to the rules of the contest.
  • Build enthusiasm for the voting round.
  • Showcase contest entries that project your brand image on your brand channel page.
  • Select contest finalists.

The following guidelines describe best practices for designing your contest module and running your contest during this phase:

  • Videos

    • Create a call to action video encouraging users to view contest entries and select their favorites in preparation for the voting round(s). In the video, remind users of the voting process. Many contest owners also choose to highlight key statistics such as the total number of votes received and the entry pool size.

    • Update your call-to-action video as the end of the voting phase nears. Use the video to excite users about the pending announcement of the finalists and the start of the voting phase.

  • Contest Information

    • Remind users of the process used to select finalists.

    • Remind users of the date(s) when finalists will be announced and user voting will begin.

  • Community-building

    • Use playlists and favorites to highlight contest entries that project your brand image.

    • Use the branding box to thank all of the people who entered your contest and to encourage all users to prepare for the announcement of finalists.

Phase III - Voting

Generally, after the contest owner announces the finalists, the contest's voting phase begins. The following list identifies the key focus areas for this contest phase:

  • Encourage users to interact with your brand by voting for contest entries.
  • Explain how user votes will impact your marketing strategy and/or the lives of potential winners.
  • Highlight contest entries that project your brand image on your brand channel page.
  • Engage users with fresh content related to your brand and contest while rewarding brand loyalists by publicizing their contest entries.
  • Based on votes, identify contest entries with messages that resonate with brand enthusiasts.
  • Select contest winners.

  • Videos

    • Create a call to action video encouraging users to vote for contest entries. In the video, remind users of the voting process. As in the voting period, you can highlight key statistics such as the total number of votes received and the entry pool size.

    • Update your call-to-action video as the end of the voting phase nears. Use the video to highlight the impact their votes will have on the pending announcement of the contest winners.

  • Contest Information

    • Remind users of the voting process used to select contest winners.

    • Remind users of the date(s) when winners will be announced.

    • If your contest has multiple rounds of voting, identify the dates when the current voting round ends, the finalists for the next round are announced, and the next voting phase begins.

  • Community-building

    • Highlight contest entries that project your brand image.

    • Use the branding box to reinforce the importance of voting for contest entries.

Voting Tools

Both during the submission and voting phase of your contest, you will need a custom solution (which you or a vendor you hire will provide) on all of your approved contest entries. YouTube will not be able to share information about users or usage in order for you to conduct your voting. Additionally, note that you are not permitted to use YouTube functions, like view counts or ‘likes,’ in order to determine the winner in the voting phase.

Your Voting tool must comply with YouTube ad policies and the Contest policies and guidelines and cannot require any kind of login.

Phase IV - Results

In the last contest phase, the contest owner announces the winners. Please note that there is no maximum for the number of winners. The following list identifies the key focus areas for this contest phase:

  • Foster user retention by publicizing winning entries and encouraging visitors to your brand channel to watch winning and other highly rated entries.
  • Engage users with unique, user-submitted videos that project your brand image.

The following guidelines describe best practices for running your contest during the results phase:

  • Videos

    • Use the winning video entry as the featured video within your gadget.

    • Select and rank other finalists to ensure that more than one video appears in your gadget Placing additional videos on your channel and/or within your gadget makes it easy for visitors to your brand channel page to locate and watch high-quality content that projects your brand image.

  • Contest Information

    • Review the contest dates and prizes.

    • Provide a link to the official contest rules.

  • Community-building

    • Identify and congratulate the winning entrant on your channel.

    • Congratulate the runner-ups. Also, thank users for their participation in the contest and message how their involvement in the contest affects your brand.

    • Highlight contest entries that project your brand image.

Sample media execution

The table below describes a sample contest as it progresses through the four contest phases:

  Phase I – Announcement and Submission Phase II/III – Viewing/Voting Phase IV – Results
Focus Awareness and active participation Engagement Retention
Timing 4-8 weeks 2 weeks 2 weeks +
Media YouTube Display:
Upload path
Premium watch
Homepage roadblock
Google Network:
Targeted display
YouTube Display:
Upload path
InVideo overlay
Homepage roadblock
Google Network:
Targeted display
YouTube Display:
Promoted videos
InVideo overlay
Homepage roadblock
Google Network:
Targeted display
Click-to-play video
Creative Awareness: Contest launch, prizes and teaser messaging; user interaction: voting launch, deadlines, call-to-action and contest gadget syndication Call-to-action for voting, total entry pool size, countdown creative and contest gadget syndication See winning videos, click-to-play formats
Tips for Success Exact submission deadlines, terms and conditions, clearly defined voting process Highlight total votes received, pool size, confirm method of selecting finalists and/or winners Extend awareness for winning videos via homepage and network exposure

Permitted Contest Gadgets

You may build your own contest gadget or hire a vendor directly to build it for you. All contests run on YouTube must abide by the Contest Policies and guidelines. Additionally, all contest gadgets must meet the following technical and policy guidelines:

Gadget must comply with all posted YouTube contest policies, and in addition:

  • Must upload video submissions directly to the users’ YouTube account; your gadget cannot upload video content to a third-party server or into the advertiser’s own account.

  • Cannot offer or include the ability to download user video content from YouTube (i.e. downloading of the raw users’ assets), either for the Gadget owner or other users.

  • Cannot manipulate user content (i.e. add bumpers or non-intended music beds).

  • Must use either the AuthSub or OAuth APIs (and no others) for authentication. See the YouTube Developer’s Guide for more information.

  • If your contest includes voting, advertiser must have self-managed method to deal with voting fraud detection (no data will be passed to the advertiser by YouTube if voting issues occur).

  • Cannot utilize channel functions (such as view count, likes or playlists) to operate the contest or to select winners.

  • Must include a link to the Official Rules within the gadget.

  • Must recognize all user video broadcast and sharing settings.

Content and Data Collection restrictions:

  • Does not collect more personally identifiable data than just name and/or email for contest admin purposes.

  • Any content or data collected cannot be stored or associated with YouTube user accounts or on YouTube servers.

  • Gadgets may collect non-personally identifiable data (such as user location) provided they do so in line with all advertising policies.

  • Use of any 3rd party API must be done so completely in compliance with any associated terms from the 3rd party.

You must receive approval from YouTube for your contest gadget if:

  • It accepts non-video entry or entries.

  • Entry occurs off of the site.

  • Any modifications are made to the gadget after it has been approved/pushed live before the modified version is published/pushed live.

Gadget features and functionality may have media investment spend requirements, please contact your account representative for more information. Additionally, advertiser must have IO for the specific program gadget must be approved and published by YouTube’s technical and policy teams.

Reporting and metrics

You may use any YouTube approved third party tracking vendor on your contest. You're also welcome to use Google Analytics to track events associated with your contest on YouTube.

Best practices for contests

This section summarizes best practices that can maximize the impact of your brand channel:


  • Create compelling call-to-action videos for each contest phase.

  • Assign resources to manage your contest and respond to customer inquiries. By clearly defining the contest rules, prizes, deadlines and entry requirements, you will be able to reduce the need for resources.

  • Review all contest entries to manage brand acceptability.

  • Have your legal team or contest administrator draft rules which clearly outline how your contest works, how winners are selected and ensure that it is legal in the regions your contest is targeting.

Selecting prizes

Frequently, publicity and recognition can be as valuable or more valuable than financial prizes. The following list identifies several different types of prizes that have been awarded to previous YouTube contest winners.

  • Winning videos have been broadcast on network television as ads for the brand running the contest.
  • Contest winners receive experiences, such as the opportunity to meet or perform with a celebrity or band.
  • Winners receive a prize package featuring the sponsor's products, such as a vacation package, musical equipment or an automobile.

Frequently, contest sponsors will combine a financial prize with another prize that provides some type of public recognition for the winners or winning videos.


The following list identifies additional best practices associated with particular contest phases:

  • Phase I: Announcement and Submission

    • Define clear and finite rules to inform users about your contest and aid in the vetting of user submissions.

      • Announce submission deadlines.
      • Announce prizes.
      • Publish terms and conditions of contest.
      • Explain voting method.

    • Provide users with sufficient time to prepare their contest entries before the submission phase begins. We recommend that you announce your contest three to five weeks before you will begin accepting submissions. Shorter time horizons may not provide sufficient time to build awareness about your contest, while longer time horizons may cause users to lose interest in the contest before it actually begins.

    • Encourage contest participation by highlighting recent submissions on your brand channel page.

    • Create playlists that feature the top entrants for specific time periods. For example, if your submission period is four weeks long, you might create one playlist each week to showcase the top submissions for that week.

  • Phase II: Voting

    • Restate the process for selecting the contest winner(s). Confirm important dates during the process, such as the time when finalists and/or winners will be announced.

    • Use call-to-action videos to encourage user interaction with your brand during the voting period.

      • Let users vote to select the eventual contest winners. Users can vote on the entire set of entries or you can choose a set of finalists and let users vote on those.
      • Even if user votes do not influence results, you can still encourage users to watch and submit comments about the contest entries. Comments may help you to identify the contest entries that best resonate with your audience.

  • Phase III: Results

    • Extend awareness for winning videos through your brand channel page, website and other media outlets.

    • Feature additional content related to contest winners, such as behind-the-scenes interviews, footage of the winners learning the contest results, or other videos about your brand that the winners may have made.

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