Video Marketing

How to make a video ad people want to watch?

by Jessica Lurel

A video ad helps you explain, drive traffic and convert.

It gives you the opportunity to showcase your brand and your product through a multi-sensory experience.

Through this experience you become more memorable. It helps you build your brand.

According to a survey, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.

And 68% of consumers prefer watching videos to learn about new products or services, as compared to articles, infographics, ebooks, and presentations.

Video is how the majority of your audience prefers to consume information. So why not give people what they want.

Making a video ad takes careful consideration. It’s not just about having an idea and throwing a couple of visuals together.

In this article we’ll talk about how to structure your video ad so you grab your prospects’ attention and keep them engaged throughout.

1. Start your video ad strong: the power of the hook

At the beginning there was the hook. It’s how you decide to open your video ad. Hooks are what inspire people to watch your videos, spark their interest, or pique their curiosity.

A hook is not supposed to be misleading or clickbait. It’s not, if you deliver what you promised.

I’ve watched too many video ads take their sweet time to get to the point. And by the time they get to the core of their message, I’ve already scrolled, skipped or lost attention. I’ve moved on without remembering the company’s name or offer. I’m sure the same thing has happened to you?

The job of the hook is to avoid being boring and forgettable.

Here are four ideas to help you hook your audience.

The unexpected hook

This hook intrigues viewers. They're interested in finding out what's going on, so they keep watching the video.

The other day as I was deep into the Youtube rabbit hole, I found myself intrigued by an ad.

I didn’t rush to press the skip button. I kept watching. I wanted to know what was that weird hairy thing with long limbs, about.

The ad promoted MailChimp’s services. It got my attention and reinforced MailChimp’s positioning in my mind.

I’m still wondering what I was looking at. The unexpected weirdness keeps me wondering and makes the message memorable.

An investment company uses this tactic as well. The video starts with a man rushing to the bathroom scared. Soon enough he reveals his purple puppet hands!! It grabbed my attention and surprised me.

It's still a message that stays with me to this day, and I am not even interested in their products... yet. I might even recommend them to someone who needs their services.

The hook has accomplished its job. In my mind, it established the company and made it memorable.

These companies didn’t simply talk about what they do. They found an unconventional way to introduce their brand to the viewer.

In which unexpected way could you start your video?

The funny hook

Videos with witty humour spread faster on social media than butter on a hot piece of toast.

People want to make other people laugh. That's why they share funny video ads. When you make people laugh, you have more chances of remaining memorable.

Recently I laughed out loud watching a Snickers video ad. Two couples are having a good time playing a board game. When one of the women asks if they want to swap, misunderstanding and embarrassment ensue. It lasts only 15 seconds but it’s burned in my mind.

Humour can be created from embarrassing and cringe-worthy situations.

However, use humour carefully. Is humour part of your brand’s personality and tone of voice?

Your videos have to fit your brand and not blindly follow rules and trends to go viral.

The empathy hook

Telling a story, whatever the format, is about empathy. Empathy is a deep form of understanding. It’s how you show your audience that you get them and know how they feel.

The empathy hook is about opening your video with a situation that is familiar to what your viewers are living through.

For example the video ad, I made for VRBO’s #FOMO campaign starts with a situation viewers can see themselves in.

Gemma, the young woman is on the couch, scrolling through her Instagram feed. She compares her life to her friends’. She feels like she is missing out on life, missing out on the fun. She’s tired of her uneventful life.

That’s a situation a lot of people can see themselves in. It establishes a connection. Viewers are drawn in and want to see how the main character handles the situation.

So ask yourself, what common scenario does your audience go through? What emotions does it trigger in them?

Get inspiration from what your audience is experiencing. Authentic scenarios with no bells and whistles can capture your viewers’ attention.

At this point you have your viewers’ attention. Now you have to keep their attention.

2. Don’t lose your audience: keep them engaged in the middle part

The middle part of a video ad or a film for that matter is a dangerous zone. It’s tricky to keep the audience captivated. It’s almost like trying to fight the afternoon slump.

How can you keep their interest throughout?

Punch your audience in the gut

I don’t mean physically, obviously.

It’s a visual or emotional punch.

“Every five to ten pages, I want a big fist to come out of the screenplay and punch the reader in the gut.” Allan Durand

In order to keep your audience on their toes, something needs to happen every 4/5 seconds in your video.

Their attention is drawn to a narrative that tells a story about a character facing a problem and trying to resolve it.

The Squarespace campaign “Make your next move” featuring John Malkovich and his journey to become a designer does that.

The video ad shows the obstacles he has to overcome to be taken seriously.

Throughout the commercial, the audience wonders if he will succeed. The struggles of John Malkovich, the main character, are what keep the viewer captivated.

The middle part is the part where you address your prospects’ pain points and what they are doing to overcome them.

As the audience relates to the characters' struggles, they will continue to watch.

Keep it visually engaging

Editing is not just about putting one video clip after another. It plays a crucial part in keeping your audience engaged.

Just like in music, it’s not the notes alone that make a melody. It’s about finding the beat, the speed, the pause and the rhythm, to make that melody.

For example some ads are fast-paced and change camera angles every 2 seconds. Other ads tell the story in one single shot.

Similarly, you have to find a rhythm that suits your brand and tone of voice.

You have to find your own melody. You can’t borrow someone else’s.

Don’t overlook editing. Use it to find a rhythm that fits your brand’s message and keeps your audience interested.

N.B: Depending on the length of your ad you might not have the time for the middle part. 6 second ads, for example, do not have a middle. They’re all about grabbing the audience’s attention and bringing awareness to your message.

3. How to finish your video ad

It’s the finish line. Ask yourself:

- Why did you make that video?

- What’s the final emotion you want to leave the audience with?

- What message do you want the audience to remember two days after watching the video?

Airbnb finishes their ad “Strangers” with a brilliant twist. It’s like that twist at the end of the movie “The Sixth Sense” by M. Night Shyamalan, where everything makes sense in retrospect.

It begins with a family of three creatures that look like Big Foot wandering through a house. They make themselves comfortable. They make tea, look through the vinyl collection, take a hot bath. When the family leaves we see them transform into the humans they also were. We understand what they were doing in the house. The ad finishes with the line: “Strangers aren’t that strange”.

What surprises can you keep for the end?

4. When creating your video ad, sweat the small stuffs

Details are what create an engaging video ad in which your viewer can be immersed.

Sound design, music and colour correction are all elements that help you tell the story and communicate your message on different levels.

They each help to create the right atmosphere and a video that draws in your prospects.

Use music and sound design to create drama or excitement. Look at how Ember uses sound design to draw the viewer in.

In many cases, I kept watching an ad for the music. Other times I was drawn by the visuals. Look at the travel industry. The photography is mesmerising enough to engage viewers.

To recap:

  • Find a great hook to capture your audience’s attention
  • Create confrontation and tension to maintain their interest
  • Pay-off: what message should they remember

Look at what catch your attention when you watch an ad. What hook works on you, why do you keep watching and what element of the video makes it memorable? Memorable enough to remember it and talk about it with your friends. You’ll find inspiration and it will help you understand how you can catch your audience’s attention and keep it throughout your video ad.


Bring your brand stories to life

Bring your brand stories to life