5 Steps to a Great YouTube Ad Campaign

Jun 22, 2023 | Multimedia

YouTube advertising is a powerful, cost-effective way to add video to your digital marketing mix. Our media and creative experts share their tips for building your best YT campaign yet.

A female vlogger making a YouTube ad

Summer is the season for video, and the Media team here at Informatics has been busy storyboarding and shooting for clients around the country. That includes making a lot of YouTube ads.

YouTube is a great platform for businesses looking to harness the power of video marketing without a big investment or learning curve. Much like Google Ads, you can target viewers’ specific interests, demographics or topics with clickable video ads that actually drive sales. And with more viewers watching YouTube on TV (now almost half of all YT viewers), you can get in front of customers at home without the high price tag of other streaming options.

Of course, before any of that can happen, you need an ad to run. Google’s new AI tools are making it easier than ever to assemble video ads, although the most successful ads are still those with a clear audience and unique creative direction. That’s what our media and creative experts specialize in, and why we’ve asked them for their best tips for creating a successful YouTube ad. Here’s what they had to say:

5 Steps to a Great YouTube Ad

1. Have a clear goal and purpose

Sure, it’s marketing 101, but this is a foundational step so many people skip in the rush to start creating. We know brainstorming and building graphics is more fun than analyzing audiences and writing campaign KPIs (at least for some of us here), but you won’t be able to evaluate the success of your campaign without them.

When it comes to your new YouTube ad campaign, do you want to build brand awareness, drive conversions or promote a specific product or service? Do you want to run a skippable, non-skippable or bumper ad? Each one will demand a different approach, from setup and the creative concept to targeting.

If you can’t specify the main goal of your proposed ad, work with the campaign stakeholders until it’s clear. If you know what you want to accomplish, use that information as a filter for all the other decisions you need to make downstream.

2. Refine your audiences and targeting

One of YouTube’s biggest advantages is its powerful targeting and remarketing capabilities. It includes Google’s powerful demographic, geographic and interest-based targeting capabilities, and adds targeting by video watch history, channel subscriptions, likes and shares. And if someone watches one of your videos, you can show them more tailored, bottom of the funnel messaging designed to move them toward a conversion.

That means you can get your message directly in front of the viewers who are most interested in your vertical and product, and save money on potential viewers who aren’t. If you don’t have buyer personas or at least a picture of your target customer—where they live, what they do, what they like to watch—now is a good time to figure that out. You should use that information to design your initial targeting approach, and use it to refine your campaigns as they evolve.

3. Develop unique creative that starts strong

As much as we’d all like to believe our YouTube ads are must-see video, the reality is that roughly 60% of (U.S.) viewers will hit the “skip” button as soon as it’s available (within five seconds).

That means you’ve got to grab your audience quickly and pique their interest so they watch past that button and possibly even click your ad.

The best way to do that is with snappy creative that’s memorable, vibrant or humorous. Human-centered content seems to do very well, since we’re wired to connect with faces, but you could also try eye-catching graphics or a bold voice-over that commands your attention, like this YouTube ad with a magical gifting unicorn we created for Second Story Promotions:

For our own Informatics YouTube ad, we wanted to show off the unique and dynamic visuals possible with our new indoor drone. We eventually created the following video, which was designed to grab and keep viewers through the entire minute-plus run and build awareness of our many services through on-screen text.

Whatever your creative approach, make sure you’re getting your brand and/or value proposition out there within those first five seconds, so you have a chance of resonating with viewers and spurring them to watch more or click.

4. Tell a story to build connection

This is related to the last point about unique creative, but is more focused on the content of your ad. We make sense of our world and connect with others through stories, which is why you would do well to incorporate at least a little bit of story or narrative in your ad concept.

Storytelling is so important because the human brain is primed to prefer stories. So much of what we think about ourselves, our world and the brands we love is built on stories—and those have a real influence on our consideration and purchasing decisions. The same study from MAGNA found that customers who saw a story-focused ad (as opposed to a product-focused ad) graded it as more emotional, more original and of higher quality.

Story takes a condensed format on YouTube, where most ads are either 15 or 30 seconds long, but it doesn’t take a lot to make an impact. For our client Cedar Point Capital Partners, for example, we created this recent ad focused on telling the story of the firm’s local roots and how they’ve influenced their approach. It uses local imagery that will be recognizable for viewers in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor (their target geography), and an authentic voiceover that tells the story of their founding.

5. Craft an effective CTA and make it count

Traditional ads end with a strong call to action (CTA), and your YouTube ads should too, but it’s not just about putting your URL on a static screen. Your CTA needs to match the overall goal of your ad. If that’s brand awareness, invite them to learn more and consider sending them to more of your videos or content. If conversions are the goal, use direct messaging and optimized landing pages to keep moving viewers through the funnel.

This ad, for executive recruiting firm HGI, ends with a personal and dynamic CTA from the firm’s founder that invites jobseekers to reach out for an interview. It reflects the firm’s unique brand of confidence and efficiency, while also setting up deeper-dive interviews with current employees as part of a full-funnel recruitment campaign.

Considering that only a fraction of viewers will make it to the end of your ad, you may want to also experiment with placing CTAs in the middle, or even those crucial first few seconds before the skip button arrives. Create multiple versions of your ad and test them to see what kind of CTA and messaging resonates best with your audience. The key is staying true to your brand's values and voice while finding innovative ways to engage and captivate your audience.

It doesn’t take a huge budget or studio-grade equipment to make a great YouTube ad. You just need some basic gear, time and creativity—or the Informatics Media team. Either way, great video advertising is just a few steps away.

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