According to BI Intelligence, the popularity of online video advertising is growing at a much faster rate than nearly all other advertising formats and mediums. As more and more businesses adopt this method of marketing, YouTube is becoming saturated with AdWords video ads.
So, what can advertisers do to stand out amongst a multitude of videos? The key is to create memorable video ads, the kinds of videos people want to re-watch and share.
Coming up with clever video ideas is challenging—but why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to? I reviewed some of last year’s most popular YouTube ads to scout strategies that producers used to create incredibly memorable content.
Here are five tactics that you can replicate to create unforgettable video ads for YouTube (even if you don’t have a giant marketing budget).
YouTube Ad Tip #1: Include an Element of Surprise
Let’s be honest, most ads are pretty predictable. Think about it—how many grocery store ads have you seen that don’t feature a pretty, young mother wandering down the produce aisle filling her cart with delightfully low-priced items? Have you ever seen a jeweler’s ad that doesn’t end with a newly engaged couple embracing? The problem with these generic ads is that they make little to no impression on the viewer. They’re just noise.
Remarkable ads break the mold. They surprise people when they diverge from the norm and, if executed well, are entirely unforgettable. In fact, some of the most-watched video ads of 2015 leveraged this strategy.
This took the bronze medal, as the third most popular YouTube ad of 2015.
Ad Council, a non-profit organization, nailed this strategy with this hugely popular ad promoting diversity and inclusion. The basis of the ad is simple—it features a crowd watching a couple being affectionate. The catch is—they’re behind a black screen, so you can only see their skeletons. The couple finally comes out from behind the screen and the crowd is both shocked and delighted to see that both skeletons are women. They’re followed by a series of different groups of skeletons dancing and interacting behind the screen, eventually revealing their identities to be inter-racial couples, kids with disabilities and without, gay couples with kids, families of mixed religions. The video closes out with the poignant message, “love has no labels.”
This is the ninth most watched YouTube ad of 2015. Guys, surprise WORKS!
This ad, created by Fanpage.it, seeks to draw awareness to the horrors of domestic abuse in Italy. It features a group of young Italian boys who are asked a series of questions about their future. They’re then introduced to a girl and asked to share what they like about her. Many say sweet things, causing them to blush and become bashful. Then, the narrator makes a horrendous pivot and tells the little boys to slap the girl, shocking both the boys and the audience. Each of the boys stare at the narrator in horror and confusion, all refusing to comply. Their reasoning includes everything from “I don’t want to hurt her” to “Jesus doesn’t want us to hit others” to “girls shouldn’t be hit, not even with a flower.” Not only does this ad shock the viewer by going from cute to horrific in minutes, the young boys surprise you with their clear compassion for others.
Takeaway: Check out what other video advertisers in your industry are doing – then do something totally different.
YouTube Ad Tip #2: Tug At Your Audience’s Heart Strings
Time and time again, we’ve seen that ads that stimulate emotions are highly impactful, and therefore incredibly memorable, to viewers. Sure, it can be tough to incorporate emotional triggers in teensy, tiny text ads or static image ads, but video ads are a different story. With this format, you have the opportunity to tell a story and incorporate both visual and auditory components to reinforce it.
The options here are endless—we humans have quite the range of emotional triggers—all you need to do is pick the one you want to evoke and begin building a story to incorporate it. The German supermarket chain, EDEKA, gave this strategy a whirl earlier this year. Instead of a boring old grocery store ad, this tearjerker that went viral:
Warning: Wipe off all of your mascara and grab a box of tissues before you click play.
In case you don’t have the stamina to watch the ad—here’s a basic rundown. A lonely, elderly man learns from each of his busy, grown-up children that their families won’t be visiting for Christmas this year. The video then cuts to each of the children getting word that their father has passed away. Devastated, they all travel home for the funeral, only to discover that fully lit house with a table set for Christmas dinner. Then they get an even bigger surprise—their father walks out of the kitchen, indeed alive and well, and says “How else could I have brought you all together?” The family then tearily embraces and sits down to enjoy an elaborate meal (no doubt, purchased at EDEKA) together.
How’s that for an emotional rollercoaster? Not only did I sob hysterically as I watched this video, everyone I shared it with had a similar reaction. By developing a story that nearly all viewers could relate to, EDEKA ensured that this video would have an impact on just about anyone who watched it.
Takeaway: Think about what makes you emotional, whether it’s kittens or soldiers returning from war. Can you bring one of those emotion-tugging elements into your brand storytelling?
YouTube Ad Tip #3: Inspire Viewers to Take Action
One of the best ways to create ads that resonate with viewers is to present a serious problem and then show them that, by supporting your business, they can help to turn it around. Start by outlining the problem. Share gripping facts or testimonials, demonstrating the gravity of the issue. Then, pivot to show what your company is doing to eliminate this problem. Showing potential customers that by purchasing your products they are promoting positive initiatives gives them added incentive to make a purchase (and feel good about it).
This was the sixth most popular ad of 2015.
Earlier this year, the feminine product brand Always leveraged this strategy with its #LikeAGirl—Unstoppable campaign, which promotes female empowerment, particularly for teenaged women. In the ad, they bring to light a serious issue—most girls’ self-confidence plummets during puberty. They interview numerous young women, who open up about the insecurities they experienced when they were younger and how they’ve overcome them. The girls write their insecurities on cardboard boxes and are then pictured destroying the boxes.
Now, Always products are nothing special and they’re priced pretty similarly to their competitors. However, I’ll admit that I’ve developed a strong sense of brand loyalty for it. Why? Because, it feels pretty damn good to support their #likeagirl initiative.
Takeaway: If your business has a positive impact on the world – even if it’s just helping small businesses do their jobs better – highlight that in your YouTube ads.
YouTube Ad Tip #4: Leverage Nostalgia
Never underestimate the power of nostalgia in marketing. The truth is, people have an emotional connection to their past and enjoy reminiscing on it. By infusing advertisements with “blasts from the past,” brands can tap into these emotions, causing people to feel more favorably toward their products.
We’ve seen companies successfully utilize this concept of nostalgia to connect with people in many ways. One recent prominent example is the AMC hit Mad Men, a period drama that takes place in the 1960s. While the screenwriting and acting for this program was excellent, the key to its success was that it elicited feelings of nostalgia for many viewers – even people who weren’t alive then!
Advertisers can absolutely employ this strategy in their video ads. Check out how OxiClean cleverly manages to connect with multiple generations in their ad below.
This ad uses a split screen tactic to simultaneously portray scenes of a woman doing housework in the 1960s and her grand-daughter doing the same tasks in modern times. The set of the home in the ‘60s automatically evokes nostalgia for many viewers, as does the woman’s saddle shoes, pearl earrings and rotary telephone. Beyond that, watching her complete tasks like stuffing shoes with potpourri and scrubbing candlesticks with a toothbrush automatically propels you back in time. Even if the viewer wasn’t alive during that time period, these tasks are reminiscent of something their grandmother or mother may have done in their youth. On the right-hand side of the screen, we see the other woman completing the same tasks more quickly and easily, using modern-day products. Through this strategy, OxiClean depicts fond memories of the past whilst also demonstrating how far their products have come along.
Takeaway: Consider your target audience’s demographic – their age, gender, educational level, etc. will help you figure out what decades and cultural trends are most likely to trigger nostalgia.
YouTube Ad Tip #5: Be Quirky
When something’s out of the ordinary, it demands extra attention. Ever seen a David Lynch film? Or Birdman? Or Memento? They all present super weird, convoluted stories that just don’t seem to add up, causing you to walk out of the theater thinking “what the $%*# just happened?!” As a result, these movies stand out in our minds.
You can employ a similar strategy when creating video ads. Now, I’m not advocating that you go full-on, crazy avant-garde with your YouTube ads. Instead, try implementing some unique, quirky aspects that will help these ads stand out to viewers. Check out the GoPro example below. It’s nothing revolutionary—strap a GoPro camera to a skateboarder and check out the sights. However, there’s one wacky caveat—the rider is Didga, a skateboarding cat.
Come on, I know you’re wondering how the heck that cat learned to skateboard…and how he stayed on…yep, you won’t forget this ad for a while.
Takeaway: If your YouTube ad concept seems boring, try adding just one weird twist.
Summing It Up
Sure, all of the videos above are from large companies who, presumably, spent a pretty penny to develop these ads. That said, what makes them stand out isn’t amazing videography or celebrity endorsements. Instead, it’s the stories they tell. Whatever your budget, the best way to make your mark in the YouTube ad game is to create a narrative that truly connects with the audience.
About the Author
Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.