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How to create killer YouTube ads

Whether or not video is part of your current digital marketing strategy, you’re probably aware that it’s a pretty big deal. Consumers already watch a huge amount of online video - a billion hours every day, according to Google - and this popularity doesn’t look like diminishing any time soon.

Yet for some brands, creating content for YouTube - the largest online video platform - is still viewed as a luxury. In this article, we’ll explain why you simply can’t afford to think of YouTube ads as a “nice to have”, as well as providing guidance around the different types of ad and what they should comprise. We’ll also take a look at what last year’s top performing ads can teach us about successful video campaigns in 2018.

Why YouTube ads should be at the forefront of your mind when creating video

Obviously video is important. There are now more digital video viewers than smartphone users in the UK, and a million minutes of video content are expected to cross the global IP network every second by 2021.

But there’s more to a successful video marketing strategy than simply “making some videos”. In particular, YouTube ads should be front of mind when it comes to content planning. People head to YouTube for a vast range of reasons (see below); if any of these apply to the products or services you sell, the platform will put you in front of a potentially huge captive audience.

As well as giving you an opportunity to raise awareness of your brand, YouTube ads can be a highly effective way to drive leads and sales. There’s a common misconception that YouTube is all about awareness rather than bottom line, but this simply isn’t the case - and we’ve got the results to prove it.

For one of our clients, the historic north-west brewery Robinsons, our social ad campaign - pushed out via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram - contributed to the company reporting an 81% year-on-year growth in bottles sold across the campaign period.

Best practice when creating YouTube video ads

While creating an effective YouTube ad doesn’t necessarily need a huge budget, it definitely does require some serious forethought. You can’t just come up with a great concept; you need to consider how it’ll fit within the various YouTube ad formats.

There are other factors to bear in mind too. Is your messaging clear? Does your branding, product or service feature prominently enough? Does your video contain a compelling call to action (CTA)? In short - is it clear what you’re advertising and what you want viewers to do after watching the video?

Here, we offer some handy tips on creating successful TrueView and Bumper ads.

TrueView ads (15-30 seconds)

Creative best practice

With TrueView, you'll only pay when someone chooses to watch your video ad for at least 30 seconds, or until the end of the video (whichever is shorter). But just because you don’t have the financial pressure of paying for incomplete views, you still need to give the viewer a reason to keep watching - which makes the first five seconds of the ad absolutely crucial.

Get your branding in early - ideally within the first two to four seconds - and present a clear, compelling message. Try to incorporate your logo as organically as possible (for instance, by including it on a product) rather than forcing it into the narrative.

Make sure your ad has a clear focus with a single message rather than asking the audience to do various things. Remember that attention spans are getting shorter and viewers will be naturally predisposed to skipping your video unless it truly catches their imagination.

How to drive engagement with TrueView videos

  • Use faces and real people – people react to people
  • Choose your audio wisely. Decide whether music or a voiceover (or both) is most suitable for your brand. Don’t use music that is too abrasive or too relaxing, as users aren’t likely to engage with either
  • Try to use quick shots and cuts with high energy levels to make the content exciting and engaging
  • Connect to users with emotion and storytelling to keep them interested
  • Add a clear CTA to the end of your video – whether this is to subscribe, visit the site or make a purchase

Bumper ads (6 seconds)

Creative best practice

These ads are unskippable, making them a great opportunity to amplify the messaging of your campaign by targeting people who have watched your longer TrueView videos.

With only six seconds to play with, it’s important to stick to a tight structure comprising three shots or scenes:

  1. Line (Opening)
  2. Hook (Story)
  3. Sinker (Closing)

Don’t overcomplicate the creative by trying to squeeze everything in. Prime your audience with an eye-catching opener, interest them with the hook and seal the deal with an engaging CTA in the closer.

If you’re using Bumper ads to retarget people who’ve watched your full TrueView video, remember that they’ve already engaged with your message. This is an opportunity to reinforce the key point and encourage them to take action.

What’s next for advertising on YouTube?

Last year, the amount of viewing time from people watching videos in their living room grew by more than 70%. As consumer viewing habits continue to evolve, it’s important that marketers keep abreast of the latest video trends.

Analysing the most watched YouTube ads of 2017, Google has noted a number of key learnings, such as:

  • Bigger is (sometimes) better: While it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold a viewer’s attention, it’s possible to enjoy great results with in-depth video. Samsung’s introduction to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets clocked in at more than 3.5 minutes but still racked up more than 35 million views.
  • Think about your soundtrack: With so much video consumed on the go via mobile devices, it’s easy to assume that a majority of viewers won’t care about - or won’t even listen to - your soundtrack. But it certainly shouldn’t be an afterthought. Some of the best-performing YouTube ads of last year incorporated music in clever, unusual or funny ways. A prime example is German property site Immowelt, which produced a spoof music video for a mobile-first campaign that garnered 24 million views.
  • Emotive storytelling is key: Sparking an emotional reaction from your audience can be a highly effective way to generate awareness. German supermarket giant Netto enjoyed great success with its animated Easter ads about never forgetting your family roots, generating more than 11 million views in the process.
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