Anatomy of a Winning YouTube Ad

Success with YouTube Ads really comes down to two main factors

  1. The proper campaign structure - A structure that targets the right audience, uses the best bidding strategy for your goals, and utilizes sound conversion tracking.
  2. A strong video ad - One that compels and converts your ideal prospect.

Getting the right campaign structure is critical and there is a decent learning curve for creating and managing YouTube ad campaigns.  Ultimately, you’re only as good as the video ads you’re running. Google says that 70% of your success with YouTube ads comes down to your creative.  I agree.  I’ve seen the same campaign improve by 2 or 3x when the right video ad was implemented – with no additional changes other than the new video ad. 

This post is all about helping you create an ad that reaches your audience and compels them to buy your products.  

One of my favorite pieces of marketing advice I’ve ever heard is to “join the conversation taking place in your customers’ heads.”  To do this, you have to understand your customers.  You need to know the questions, desires, fears, and thoughts that are banging around in the heads of your prospects.  Then you can use elements of that conversation in your video ads.  It’s always best to use the same type of language your customers use and appeal to their beliefs, wants, and desires.

With that quick backdrop, let’s dive into the 7 elements of a winning YouTube ad.   

7 Tips For A Great YouTube Ad Video:

Keep in mind that your video doesn't have to utilize all seven of these tips, but it should have most of them.

Tip #1: Hook ‘Em in the First 5 Seconds

Once your ad begins to play, you've got 5 seconds before the prospect has the opportunity to skip. Usually when your ad first pops up, the prospect isn’t happy.  After all, you’ve just slowed them down from watching the content they came to YouTube to watch. However, you do have 5 seconds to change their mind and make them want to stick around and watch your ad.  

A great example of hooking viewers in the first 5 seconds is the Poopourri commercial, which was a viral success and sold millions of dollars of the bathroom spray Poopourri (written and produced by the Harmon Brothers). This video was effective in part because the opener was so compelling. You don't have to use humor as they did, but humor can be very effective both in getting and keeping attention.  The commercial opens with an adorable, petite British girl in a dress sitting on a public toilet who boldly proclaims, “You would not believe the motherload I just dropped!” It was shocking, funny, and the perfect intro for a product that solves a socially awkward problem.  After the first 5 seconds of this video, it was really hard for most shoppers NOT to watch the rest of the video.  

Tip #2: Lead with the Strongest Benefit

Hooking your prospect is important, but hooking them in the right way, with the right benefit is even more important.  You should lead with the most substantial and most appealing benefit of your product.  To use old advice from the journalism field – don’t bury the lead.  Put the most compelling benefit right up front so that the right shoppers stick around to watch the rest of what you have to say.  How do you know what your most compelling benefit is?  Well, it’s probably already obvious, but if not, run through these questions.  

  • When someone buys your product, what are they really buying?  For example, no one buys a drill because they want a hole.  They want to get stuff done — like hang a picture, or build a treehouse.  
  • What makes your product different or better than the other options? 
  • What question, image, or demonstration can quickly and compellingly get your prospect thinking about your core benefit?

Some excellent examples of leading with the strongest benefit are the Geico commercials talking about how “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” They do a great job of getting that benefit right out there in the open and doing that quickly and in an intriguing way.  Remember that skip button is screaming out and your prospects are likely to click it if they don't have a reason to keep watching.

Our friends at Groove Life, the silicone ring company, take a direct approach as they lean into their strongest benefit.  The video begins with Peter, the owner, running up to the camera and saying, “Hey, have you seen these new silicone rings?” and he kind of squeezes it to show that it's flexible and bendable.  It’s a straightforward approach, but it works.

Tip #3: Tell the Story in a Fresh and Compelling Way

I loved the Ginsu knife infomercials when I was a kid.  In fact, it was maybe the first sign that I was destined for a life in advertising.  I loved seeing the knife going from cutting an aluminum can to slicing through a tomato like it was hot butter. It was fresh, interesting, and different (at the time at least). It showed the product in action, and it was incredibly compelling.

A more recent example is from the company Untuck It. I’m a big fan of this company.  Rather than say they’re another quality dress shirt company, they show how their shirt was designed to be worn untucked. They compare it to the big bulky look of wearing a typical shirt untucked.  They make it clear that there's just no comparison to their product in terms of fit and fashion if you like to wear your dress shirt untucked.

Similarly, Mizzen+Main demonstrates their moisture wicking and machine washable benefits. They show how you can wad up the shirt and stuff it in a bag and then pull it out and it's wrinkle free and looks great again. It's a different story than trying to convince someone it’s just another great dress shirt like all the other shirts available.  

Another tremendous example is from Purple Mattress and the Raw Egg test where they demonstrate in a very powerful fashion (using a test that they created) how their mattress beats every other mattress on the market.

Tip #4: Social Proof 

Every good YouTube ad needs at least some social proof.  One of the easiest and lowest cost to produce ads is a testimonial video using user-generated content. At a minimum, showing images of actual customers using the product can be extremely convincing.  Even social proof like usage stats (1 million happy customers) can be useful in showing people that, “Hey a lot of people are using this product and people love it and it's working for them and maybe that could work for me.” Don’t overlook social proof. You can even open with social proof like this awesome example from our friends at BOOM.  They are a client, so we see behind the scenes for performance and this is a top producing ad for turning cold prospects into paying customers.  

Tip #5: Stack the Value

One of the first places I heard about stacking the value was from a brilliant fellow marketer and friend, Russell Brunson.  He used stacking the value on webinars to show people how much value they were getting in his offer.  By the time Russell finishes with a value stack, you’ll think you’re getting the product or program for next to nothing even if it cost a few thousand dollars.

While a bit over-the-top, I love the Flex Seal commercials like this one. The line, “it’s like a handyman in a can” creates the perception that this $19 product does all the hard work that an expensive handyman would charge hundreds of dollars for.  Plus, when you see it can be used in hundreds of applications, it becomes hard to say no to their offer.   

Stack that value! Make your prospect think, “Man, I'd be silly not to take advantage of this product or this offer.”

Tip #6: Assume the Risk

Back to our friends at Groove Life, they have an incredible No BS 94 Year Unlimited Warranty. If your ring breaks or snaps or whatever, they will replace it, no questions asked.

Think about the risk that your customer is taking. 

What are their fears about the product?  What is keeping them from saying yes right now? 

How can you alleviate that?

A well thought out guarantee may be all it takes to tip your prospect over the edge and make them say yes.

Tip #7: Have a Strong Call to Action

The last thing you want to have happen is for a prospect to see your ad, be inspired or moved by it, but then NOT take action because you didn’t ask them to.  If someone doesn’t know what to do next, they typically won’t do anything.

Make the next steps clear.  Ultimately, that next step is to visit your landing page. 

Usually, the CTA to use would consist of something along the lines of “learn more,” “visit site,” “get offer,” “shop now,” or something similar.  You want the prospect to feel like they are taking the next, low-risk step in the journey.  Usually “buy now” as a call to action isn’t as effective, because it feels like too big of a commitment after just watching a video.  The “buy now” call to action should come on the landing page itself.

In this screenshot, you can see where Grammarly has a button that says “it's free.”   


The OMG Top YouTube Ad Templates & Guide - This outlines our top 9 YouTube ad templates and features a bunch of “winning” YouTube ads.  

The OMG Guide to Authentic Customer Testimonials - This guide shows you how to get more authentic video testimonials from customers.  

5 Ways to Scale Any Business Using YouTube Ads (SMMW presentation on eE podcast)

Keys To Build Your YouTube Content Plan - Think With Google 

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