The Two Things Your Video Ad Needs to Have in 2021

Great news for brands! Two billion users are viewing 1 billion hours of video each day on YouTube, presenting an enormous opportunity for cost-effective and highly targeted video advertising. In 2020 we had the #1 Top Performing Ad of the Year on YouTube and saw first hand how quickly it can grow brands.

Now, a little bit of… challenging… news.

More video content is uploaded to YouTube in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years; approximately 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute! To say that the platform is oversaturated would be an understatement.

With a sea of content, both user-generated and advertising, constantly flooding the internet, how do you break through the noise? The formula is simpler than you think.

1. Attention: Never Assume It

Without your viewers’ attention, you have nothing. And that attention is earned, not promised. Your video can be majestic, meticulous…even mind-blowingly creative…and still succumb to the “skip” button after five seconds if it doesn’t capture and keep the audience’s attention. Here are a few tips:

  • Follow the 10-Second Rule: Attention is fleeting. Every 10 seconds of it that you gain will buy you another 10. This means you must regain your audience’s attention—whether with humor, surprise, visuals, or new information—multiple times during your video.
  • Move Through Cuts Quickly: Jump out to a fast start with two to three cuts in the first five seconds of your ad to grab attention—and don’t slow down from there. Many viewers will leave if they start to sense a drawn-out scene.
  • Create Visual Impact: Engaging visuals are a must, especially knowing that many viewers are on mobile devices with the sound on mute. You can use captions to an extent, but entertainment happens through the eyes.

2. Connection: You Have to Create It

Your viewers were going about their lives before your ad appeared. Now, they’re watching it casually, with no commitment, ready to move on to whatever they were going to do next. Your mission is to steer their attention toward the action you want them to take. That can be done as gently or abruptly as you decide. But the clearest and strongest call to action on this earth won’t convert without the second essential ingredient in video advertising: connection.

In the book, “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss explains why every decision we make is driven by emotion. Early on, he references a study of people who have damaged the part of the brain that allows them to experience emotion. The research shows that people who aren’t able to feel emotion…aren’t able to make decisions. They can tell you the decision they should logically make, but they can’t actually take the action.

Even when you have succeeded at gaining and keeping someone’s attention, it takes more to get them to physically respond and make a purchase. You need to spark emotion, which, in turn, builds connection and activates the ability to make a buying decision. To do this, use any combination of:

  • Faces: Humans are naturally drawn to faces. We look to faces to express emotions, read those of others, and establish familiarity. Focus primarily on the eyes, although a profile can also be powerful when capturing a reaction to something else on screen.
  • Language: Research shows that roughly half of Americans read at basic literacy or below. Only 2 percent have college-level literacy. While writing a script for a video ad is certainly a creative task, don’t feel the need to impress your audience with big words. Keep your language simple so that you’re able to reach more people. 
  • Symbols: Emojis are sneaky-powerful. Facebook posts with emojis receive 57% more likes and 33% more comments and shares than those without. The rule of thumb—you can probably guess—is not to overuse them. Any emoji placed in a video should be there for a purpose, whether to emphasize your message, simplify your language, or add visual sizzle.
  • Touchpoints: Conversion rates are inherently low in any advertising because you’re asking someone who wasn’t looking for your product or service to all of the sudden decide that they want to buy it. That often takes multiple touchpoints, which is why a video ad campaign is almost always paired with remarketing or retargeting (following people around the internet).

Brand Stories Don’t Sell

It’s easy to get caught up in conveying your brand story in your video ad. While that story is essential to your overall marketing strategy, it’s not always made for advertising in the internet age. Given the power to skip or simply ignore an ad while browsing, users only stop for videos that draw them in.

You don’t necessarily need to resort to slapstick comedy, but you absolutely need to be entertaining. Instead of trying to force your brand story upon people, adapt your brand to the platform and make ads that they truly want to watch, click, and share.