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How video ads work via STEPP Digital

 How video ads work?

While video has already surpassed most forms of advertising becoming a global phenomenon,  it’s hardly a magic silver bullet to every marketing challenge. It needs to tell the brand story well & the story needs to be CREDIBLE.

Let’s look for a moment at what all brands are looking to achieve most often. By far the brands that do best are focusing on two main areas: long-term brand building and short-term sales uplift. A key characteristic of video content therefore is its flexibility: video is excellent at motivating behaviour in both of these areas.

The key ingredient to a long-term brand building campaign using video stems from emotion while the short-term campaign, often referred to performance-based product advertising have at their foundation no other than logic or facts: product descriptions, unique selling points (USPs), competitive advantages (CAs), social endorsements (user ratings) etc – more about the 2 scenarios below.

‘Emotional campaigns, and in particular those that are highly creative.. Produce considerably more powerful long-term business effects than rational persuasion campaigns.’ Le Binet & Peter Field summarising the power of emotion in ‘The Long and short of It’

You might be wondering how can this be the case? Effectively, emotional triggers are key to unlocking behavioural changes: if the goal is long-term brand growth forming relationships and connecting emotionally with viewers needs to be a must on any growth marketeer’s check-list.

Meanwhile the best growth effects come from a balance of short-term activation (eg. price promotions) and long-term brand building. By far the best effects come when the two are combined into a single campaign (known as ‘Brand Response Campaigns’).

The IPO data points to a ratio of 60:40 of brand to activation being the most productive:

Below is an example of a duo-based approach: a storytelling video ad our video team has executed for Lumity’s beauty brand (kudos to Nata Munteanu for production contribution and Emma Wilder for copywriting) aiming to increase brand awareness via its product individuality, derived from the use of its ingredients:

1: Long-term brand building: driving emotions with mobile video ads

Question is here: why is video on mobile such a powerful emotional manipulator.

Video is by its nature a storytelling media, and we’re programmed to respond to a story.

Meanwhile consumers are now watching more videos than ever before. It is estimated that the average person will spend 100 minutes every day watching online videos in 2021. This is a 19% increase compared to daily viewing minutes in 2019, which stood at 84.

Here the size of video content becomes a tool of tactic: mobile video is made up of moving images, which our brand engages with more than still images or spoken words. No wonder why short-sized videos are surprisingly effective, have a look at the chart below:


video ad length

Short micro-video ads that run between six and ten seconds in length are a great fit for millennials. For older audiences, however, longer video ads are better. The optimal length for this group tends to fall between 30 and 60 seconds.

Although micro ads may play well with a millennial audience, research has shown that shorter ads work best for established brands and not those who need to build awareness or convey complex messages.

For relatively unknown brands, or new businesses, a video ad should be at least 15 seconds in length to drive any type of measurable action. 

Of course, your next question might be: are 15 sec enough to tell a compelling story? Truth is, telling a story engages a bigger part of our brain than facts and statistics. During the listening to (and telling of) stories, vast amounts of the human brain become active: oxytocin which causes empathy comes from a chemical reaction involving psychological and neurological triggers. That’s exactly when narrative starts to engage the entire human brain:

The Story = when a person tries to pass knowledge, feelings and visions from their own mind into that of someone else. (source: Jon Mowat, Why video marketing works).

You’d be surprised, yet when Google introduced 6-second YouTube bumper ads in 2016, many were skeptical that six seconds could adequately convey a brand, let alone ‘tell’ a compelling story. Fast-forward to 2020, and these creative little blips are still going strong. Perhaps it’s because the average attention span is now shorter than a gold fish, or perhaps it’s because we’re spending more time consuming our information through social media platforms; whatever the reason, these short video ads perform well on most social media platforms, hence a strong reason to look into these, which brings us to our 2nd point:

2. The effectiveness of Short-term performance video ads:

First, let’s have a look at the below Instagram ad from the beauty & wellness brand Rituals:

You’ll notice that the ad targets a clear audience (male A1 achievers) and has an introductory purpose: it generates demand for a given product range hence the CTA is clearly non-transactional: Learn More.

While the 2nd execution is over 1 min in length and is full of descriptive story-lines finishing off with a short yet fairly memorable headline:

Key take-aways: think about the PULL:

While on the topic of video ads we might not have enough pages to write on (it’s that extensive now!) however it’s worth noting that the ideal video content shouldn’t be a reflection of a ‘push’ strategy, rather a ‘pull’-based approach, which bears the below key questions before you’d start thinking about creating a video content of impact:

Who is my audience and what do they want to watch?

How do I get people to come back and watch?

How do I get my programme exciting for my audience?

How do I get people back next week?

How do I influence my audience behaviour so that my message is considered emotional, engaging & memorable?

How do I raise awareness of my brand long-term?

How do I create the appetite for more of my brand’s content? (loyalty effect)

To help with answer some of the above take a look at some practical tips along the way:

View the world through the eyes of your audience and think about what they would watch.

Constantly challenge your team with question – ‘is this actually worth people’s time?’

Don’t waste effort making content that isn’t for the right audience.

Have a skilled editorial resource in your team – someone from a content creation rather than marketing background and empower them to challenge the content you make (he/she will play the role of your end customer/content consumer);

Have a proper content review system in place – an editorial/brainstorm meeting: schedule in release dates of first draft, reviews & amends which will help avoid missing the release dates = effectively having a well-organised content calendar in place.

Set it up: build diversity & engagement via a content hub: you need to create conversational videos.

Programme & activate: think of a multi-platform distribution approach: YouTube, FB, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, etc.

Now time to answer on our Q&A group’s questions:

Please note since our Digital Marketing Q&A Group on Whatsapp is on invite-basis only (not made public) I’m leaving participants’ names undisclosed on privacy protection considerations:

1st Question:

Nadya’s answer: for start-ups and brands testing DYI videos, the below are some of particularly helpful resources containing their own library of assets: gifs, videos & sounds (most coming on free trial while some are FOC) – depending on the type of creative content you’re after:

2nd question:

On this question I’ve described the answer in the earlier note in this article where I’m referring to emotional videos and long vs short-term brand building. Please kindly see above. Worth noting here: for any starting brand a 6-sec is perfect for skippable bumper ads on YouTube while for Facebook 15 sec short videos are perfect for both awareness and joint brand + response DPA ads (dynamic product ads where you can use videos as your intro cards).

Same technique is valid for carousel ads – by which I’d add that both product formats are highly effective when used in combo with catchy videos/gifs. I’m describing this in detail in my earlier post on How Facebook Ads work.

That’s about it for now. Would be good to hear your own thoughts or learnings from past experience?

My next post related to video ads is planned for early July when I’ll explore the topic: How to measure the effectiveness of video ads.

Keep asking great questions!)

Cheers for stopping by!