The Ancient Art of Video Ads: What We Learned as “YouTube Gurus”

An Invitation to Insider Training

This spring, YouTube beckoned 20 of Canada’s top digital marketers to Toronto to learn video marketing tactics straight from the masters themselves. I was very lucky to be one of the 20 nominated for this program, and gained insights on how to further leverage YouTube for our clients at 6S Marketing.

YouTube held a kick-off workshop in Toronto for their new “YouTube Guru” program, where digital marketers across Canada represent their agency and receive exclusive updates on video advertising. Following the kick-off, all participants had the opportunity to share insights, ask questions, and learn best practices on creating video campaign strategies in an ongoing online forum. Now, as any good guru should, I’m happy to share our insights with 6S’s followers.

Tina Star at YouTube

The Method Behind the Magic

The YouTube Guru workshop was a collaborative achievement, focused on best practices for launching a successful video campaign, not only on YouTube but on all video channels. We discussed how to begin video-related strategy, use engaging content, and properly execute video campaigns. Here are some of the Gurus’ top tips.

Craft a Strategy Beforehand

Before launching any video campaign, it’s important for advertisers and brands to determine their measures of success. Fortunately, video platforms such as YouTube provide transparency and measurability of metrics such as shares, comments, clicks, conversions, and new subscribers.

Once the key performance indicators of the campaign are confirmed, the right video ad format needs to be determined. This includes skippable versus non-skippable ad units, companion banners, and interactive overlays. Therefore, it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest formats available and understand their differences in performance. For example, a recent study by Innovid showed that interactive video ad units performed better than standard pre-roll in terms of total interactions, completion rates, and levels of awareness.

As with any marketing campaign, it’s also essential to properly define your target audience. Similar to other digital media campaigns, targeting tactics for video advertising are dependent on the user’s whereabouts within the purchase funnel. If the target audience is within the brand awareness stage, broader targeting capabilities such as demographic and content targeting are recommended. In comparison, if users are in the intent phase where purchases are being made, then demographic, affinity (interest), and in-market targeting would work best.

The Purchase Funnel on YouTube

Make Masterful Content

One key feature of successful video ads? They make sure to charm their audience quickly. Rather than repurposing a TV ad, advertisers need to understand how their messaging performs differently in a digital environment. Users are in a space where they have more control of the content they are consuming, therefore relevance is key. Relevance can be created by blurring the line between content and advertising to bring value to the user. This means you shouldn’t be heavy-handed with branding; let your story highlight your best side.

Harry Luck Gossage

During the YouTube Guru workshop, it was recommended to “teach, entertain, and/or inspire” your audience with your creative. Because of the limited time nature of video ads, we recommend engaging your audience — hooking them with your best content — within the first five seconds of the ad, then taking your time to explain the selling points in a compelling way once you’ve gained their attention.

Rules of Content Creation on YouTube
Once the ad creative is ready to be executed, ensure your content is shareable to increase engagement and maximize exposure. Imagine what users will say about your content when they post the link – is the title, description, and cover image unique enough to inspire sharing? Are there clear calls-to-action utilized?

Spread the Word to All

Although content may be king, the Gurus know distribution is a separate and almighty force. When executing video campaigns, advertisers need to choose the right channels and targeting tactics, while also optimizing to best performing creative.

Think back to your campaign goals and key performance metrics when choosing a channel. Understand what each video ad network offers, including their online reach, targeting capabilities, and available video ad formats. YouTube, for example, reaches 77% of the online Canadian audience and provides users with control through their skippable TrueView ad formats.

YouTube Stats

In terms of targeting, no matter which video channel or network you choose, it’s best to start off by casting a wide net when delivering your ad (broad targeting) and then narrowing down to a defined audience. The audience you initially define can change through insights you gain from a broad targeting strategy. In addition, within auction-based environments such as programmatic buying and YouTube, starting off with a granular audience will lead to high cost per views. This is because it is harder to win bids where there is high competition.

Finally, if possible, use multiple versions of creative to optimize for best conversion rates. This includes making alterations to the ad length (:15 sec versus :30 sec), messaging, and call-to-action. Like they say, variety is the spice of life (and it can provide you with valuable insights as to which of your content resonates the best!).

Pre-roll ads typically run 10, 15 or even 30 seconds and usually give viewers the opportunity to skip past the ad to the actual video they want to see. Geico Insurance’s clever ad, “Family,” can’t be skipped on YouTube, but technically, the ad is only 5 seconds long.

Some Last Teachings

When we called video marketing an ancient art, we were joking — it’s a rapidly-changing, ever-evolving tool, meaning it’s important for brands and agencies to stay on top of all new developments. Becoming thought leaders in this area (through partnerships such as the YouTube Guru program) is the best way to leverage new video opportunities and stay ahead of the game. Here’s how video has currently evolved:

Video Viewing Habits are Changing

Currently, one-third of Canadians are now watching TV online, according to the CRTC. This relates to the “cord cutting” trend, where users are moving away from cable television and towards accessing video content on online platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, BrightRoll, and other networks. This trend in fragmentation (viewing content on multiple platforms) provides users with more choice and control in their viewing habits, making them harder to reach. Presence on online video platforms provides a way for advertisers to reach this audience in a measurable fashion.

eMarketer study on digital video viewership

Video Advertising Spend is Growing

Not only is overall digital ad spend increasing each year, but eMarketer predicts that advertisers in Canada will spend close to $289 million on digital video buys by the end of 2015 (24.5% more than last year). With video’s storytelling nature, high engagement, and measurability, it’s not surprising that advertising dollars are shifting to this medium. This highlights the need for advertisers to be present in the video advertising space to bypass their main competitors.

Mobile Video Advertising is Booming

By the end of 2015, mobile ad spending is expected to increase by 65% in Canada (eMarketer, 2015). At the same time, comScore shows that the number of Canadians watching videos on smartphones has more than doubled in the past year. With users increasingly accessing video content on their phones, it is important for advertisers to understand how to successfully deliver their message on mobile. For example, an April 2015 study by TubeMogul showed that shorter (:15 sec) ad creative on mobile led to better performance in terms of video completion rates.

Completion Rates By Device

Participating in the YouTube Guru program was an enlightening experience, and I hope our findings were useful for you. Have a question? Leave a comment and some Guru wisdom will be imported over to you in no time.

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