Video is playing a crucial role in our hyper-digital world. Consumer habits and expectations are also shifting, and today’s consumer is more drawn to the digital storefront than ever before. Reaching those consumers, however, can be challenging. That’s where video comes in.
We’ve known for years that video is effective at capturing and holding attention. On digital channels where your product is surrounded by competitors, capturing consumer attention is the critical first step on the journey to conversions and revenue.
Unfortunately, the process of ideating, producing, and distributing a video ad can feel so daunting that many marketers decide not to use this tactic at all. We’ve learned a thing or two about video ad placements over the years, so we’re going to share the strategies and best practices that we use with our own video clients.
How has COVID-19 affected video marketing?
First, we have to talk about the unique video landscape in 2020. According to Forbes, 80% of consumers are watching more content now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that online video adoption is accelerating faster than we expected.
Add to that the fact that consumers are shopping online to avoid crowded stores and shopping malls, and it’s a perfect storm for video marketing success. If you’re still not convinced, Adobe even found that e-commerce spending for April and May of 2020 surpassed 2019’s e-commerce holiday shopping (November-December 2019).
For brands that were already leaning into video marketing, this is great news. But brands that were slow to adopt video marketing are now at a disadvantage, and the trend towards video is unlikely to be reversed or replaced anytime soon.
What does this mean for you? 2021 is the year to invest in video content, whether that means starting a video marketing strategy from scratch, creating new content to supplement existing assets, or simply distributing and promoting the videos you already have.
How do consumers shop online?
Let’s take a deeper look at consumer behavior trends this year.
Online retailers are often mistaken about how consumers engage online. E-commerce on many sites resembles something kind of like window shopping. Rather than the customer knowing exactly what he or she needs, typing it into the search bar, and then checking out, the reality is that most consumers spend time browsing and exploring their options before making a purchase.
What’s more, some of these consumers might not make a purchase at all. Instead, they might browse one day then come back later to make a purchase, or they might even add items to an online cart and then abandon it—every marketer’s worst nightmare.
Understanding these patterns and habits can help you to hone your e-commerce strategy. Because many consumers are browsing and don’t display brand loyalty right away, brands have an opportunity to capture attention with an ad to become the frontrunner in the customer’s mind whenever they do make a purchase.
For smaller brands or newer brands without an established customer base, this is especially valuable. Even without brand recognition, you can win the sale by standing out from competitors on the product search results page.
How can I capture consumer attention online?
Now that you understand the untapped potential of the current e-commerce landscape, it’s time to talk about how you can stand out from the crowd. As you probably know, a product search results page often displays your product among dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of competitors, and the company that gets the sale is often the one that grabs the attention of consumers as they scroll through the page.
Video is your best bet at standing out. It’s dynamic, it allows you to show off your product in action, and it gives you a chance to share more information than you’d be able to get across in a static image or descriptive copy.
Where can I distribute video ads?
More and more platforms currently accommodate video ads, but we’re going to focus on Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ll cover the most popular placements on each platform that allow for video content. Let’s dive in!
Amazon’s platform has two primary options for video ads. While you’re creating video content, though, we’d recommend also creating a longer video that will live on your product detail page. While that placement isn’t technically an ad, it boosts the success of your other efforts because it gives a ton of information to consumers who are considering your product. With that in mind, here are the two video ad placements we’d recommend.
1. Sponsored brand videos
Your first option is a sponsored brand video, which shows up on the search results page. These videos are only for one single product, and they’re typically watched without audio, so it’s important to make sure your message is clear without voiceover. The beauty of these ads is that they’re effective for both conversions and brand awareness.
They’re keyword-targeted and you pay on a cost-per-click basis, so you have a tremendous opportunity to reach your target audience with a message that will compel them to purchase. Alternatively, you don’t have to pay for the effect on consumers who scroll past your video without clicking, meaning that you’re getting a brand lift effect for free. Although these consumers might not be actively engaging with your ad, they may be noticing your product or company in a way that makes them more likely to engage in the future.
If you have a limited budget for Amazon ads, this is a great option to start with.
2. Amazon OTT ad
Amazon OTT ads are comparable to linear TV ads, but they offer access to Amazon’s first-party data for targeting that’s more granular than linear TV. These ads are great for awareness and reach, but the sponsored brand video placement above is more likely to deliver with ROI. When making videos for Amazon OTT, consider thinking through your targeting strategy first and using those audience parameters to help guide the video content itself.
Amazon ad best practices:
- Keep your video short and focused.
- Include a simple background.
- Vary your product angles.
- Include the product name and relevant dimensions.
- Optimize for mobile.
Here’s an example of a great ad for Amazon.
Next, let’s talk about YouTube. As one of the most popular search engines behind Google, YouTube is an invaluable place to market your products. YouTube has several ad formats, but the ones that are compatible with video are skippable video ads, non-skippable video ads, bumper ads, and discovery ads.
One unique feature for YouTube is that the audiences are even more detailed than those offered on Google Search, which is interesting because the two brands are part of the same parent company. In any case, YouTube includes unique targeting options like Life Event audiences, which it describes as “reaching users when they are in the midst of important life milestones.”
With those targeting practices in mind, here’s how you might approach YouTube’s various ad placements.
1. Skippable ads
Skippable ads show up in-stream (within the video you chose to watch). The first five seconds of the ad must be watched, and the remainder of the ad can be skipped. These ads are great for delivering a detailed brand message. While there’s no upper limit for how long the ad can be, we’d recommend keeping it around the 30-second mark. In most cases, 30 seconds is plenty of time to convey your key messaging, and you avoid the risk of frustrating viewers who realize that they have to go out of their way to skip a minutes-long ad.
Because these videos are skippable after five seconds, it’s essential that you make those first five seconds count. Front-load your product visuals and your key messaging so that even if viewers skip at the first available moment, they’ve still been exposed to the most important part of the ad. The pricing structure for these ads is such that you don’t get charged unless a viewer watches the full ad, so those five seconds are giving you brand visibility that you aren’t even directly paying for.
Lastly, given that these ads play before other video content, it’s very likely that users are watching with sound enabled. However, adding subtitles is always a good idea to ensure that your content is accessible to all viewers. Here are some general video accessibility tips to keep in mind when you create content.
2. Non-skippable ads
Non-skippable ads are exactly as they sound—ads that viewers are not able to skip at any time. In most cases, non-skippable ads are just going to frustrate your audience, so we wouldn’t recommend them above the other options on this list. The only cases where non-skippable ads might make sense are for content like brand apologies or PSAs that require viewers to hear your full message at once. Otherwise, you’re likely better off with skippable ads or bumper ads.
3. Bumper ads
Bumper ads are six seconds long, and they show up before you watch a video. They aren’t skippable, but the six-second time frame is fixed, so you don’t have much time to make your case.
The good news about these ads is that six seconds is actually plenty of time when you have a high-quality video designed with this placement in mind. When you make sure every second is engaging and focuses on a single clear, core message, you’d be surprised at how effective six-second ads can be.
Because these ads are so quick, they work better for brand awareness and reach than they do for conversion. When you’re planning for these videos, remember to keep everything as simple as possible so that your main point really stands out.
These placements are typically less effective than skippable ads (because skippable ads are typically longer for viewers that choose not to skip), but there’s more inventory and less competition, meaning that these are typically cheaper placements. If you can distill your message to the short space, bumper ads are a great option.
4. Discovery ads
Finally, we have discovery ads. Discovery ads are unique because they show up in category pages or video sidebars, but the ad itself isn’t the content you’re trying to promote. Instead, the ad takes you to a video on your YouTube channel itself, where viewers can then subscribe and engage with your content directly.
These ads are great for brand engagement and audience growth, but your strategy should differ from the other three placements above. Rather than targeting by keyword, you’ll target based on a topic and the audience. The content is designed to be educational and informative, so this is typically not the place for commercial-style videos.
Finally, because the ad takes viewers to your YouTube channel, there’s a slightly higher barrier to entry here because you have to have a channel set up—ideally with several informative videos that viewers can browse after they land there. They work best if your industry/product lends itself to subject matter expertise and you have informative assets already created and ready to put on YouTube.
YouTube ad best practices:
- Captivate your audience immediately.
- Keep an eye on your success metrics.
- Include an engaging thumbnail.
- Upload high-quality videos.
- Direct viewers to your site.
For a YouTube example, let’s take a look at a video for our client Elephant in a Box.
Facebook has five options for video ad placements: in-stream ads, feed ads, story ads, marketplace ads, and video feed ads. Although Facebook’s growth has slowed down since its peak, it’s still a steadily growing platform and its ad placements deserve consideration in your overall strategy. After all, Facebook has shared that video ad content across both Facebook and Instagram earns 5x the engagement time of static content. Let’s dive into each of the options.
1. In-stream ads
In-stream ads pop up when you’re watching another video, either pre-roll (before the video starts) or mid-stream (in the middle of the video). They play for 15 seconds, and then you have the option to either skip the rest of the ad or let it play before your video starts. While you can technically make these ads longer than 15 seconds, we’d recommend sticking within that time frame. Why? If you go beyond 15 seconds, your ad gets broken into parts, which can affect viewership and the way audiences internalize your message.
These ads work well for a variety of video goals, and you can test audiences, interests, and calls to action (among other things) to focus on various parts of the buyer’s journey. In a nutshell, these ads are versatile and worth including in your strategy.
2. Feed ads
Feed ads will look like native posts in your Facebook feed, and you can scroll through them or stop and watch them the same way you would for any other video that was posted on Facebook. These ads are less useful for conversion, but they can work well for brand awareness. Because of the way they’re placed within the feed, assume that most viewers will be watching without sound enabled, so plan your video and captions/on-screen text accordingly.
3. Story ads
Story ads play in between stories from different users. These ads are 15 seconds long, but they have a slightly different feel than the other options on the list. Because users who are engaging with stories are looking to quickly connect with friends and loved ones, this isn’t typically the place to put a hard-hitting commercial-style video.
Instead, focus on a positive, genuine message that matches the tone of the story viewing experience overall. These ads can be great for driving awareness, but in most cases, the first two options on the list are a higher priority if you have a limited budget.
4. Marketplace ads
Marketplace ads appear while you’re scrolling through listings on Facebook Marketplace. As a marketer, capitalizing on this experience is challenging because consumers on Marketplace are typically looking for used products or cheap deals, so your full-priced product is likely to feel out-of-place or expensive by comparison.
On the plus side, these ads can drive conversions because viewers are more likely to have existing purchase intent. Overall, we’d recommend testing marketplace ads only if you’ve exhausted your budget elsewhere first.
5. Video feed ads
Finally, video feed ads play after other video content. When your chosen video ends, Facebook starts recommending other content by auto-playing video feed ads. This is a great place to try sharing a novel or fun video, but be aware that this audience is more passive than some of the other options. They’re less likely to actively engage with your ad or your product offering because they weren’t paying close attention to their original content in the first place.
Facebook ad best practices:
- Use close-ups of products and people.
- Include subtitles.
- Incorporate brand colors and logo.
- Use concise storytelling.
- Follow Facebook user guidelines.
Check out this example that we made for Versed.
Because Facebook and Instagram use the same ad platform, many of the options are similar. However, because Instagram is a more visually-dominant platform than Facebook, it’s a good idea for your content here to be brighter and more focused on compelling visual imagery. Here are your five video-supporting ad options on Instagram.
1. Video ads
Video ads are sponsored ads that show up in users’ main feeds while they scroll. These ads can be successful for awareness and reach, and they have a manageable CPM because there’s such a large inventory available; this is Instagram’s most common ad type.
When creating these types of ads, double down on the bright colors and visually-engaging material to compete with all the other images and videos that show up in feeds.
2. Carousel ads
Carousel ads are similar to feed ads, but they allow users to swipe through a series of videos and images. You can include up to three different video components, which allows you to craft a storyline that builds as users swipe through the cards. It’s a good idea to make three bite-sized videos that either build on each other or tell different elements of the same story (like focusing on three different product features, for example).
Because there’s less inventory available for carousel ads, these are more expensive than video ads, but they’re also effective for engagement and awareness. If you include carousel ads in your strategy, it’s a good idea to test different structures for how your story progresses as users swipe.
3. Collection ads
Collection ads allow you to showcase a whole collection of images/videos, like a product line or multiple options of a similar offering. This is great for offering options to your consumers without driving them to your competitors because they can find the product they want within your brand’s collection. You can group items based on the targeting settings you choose and show various options that are likely to resonate with those audiences. Ultimately, this option is great for driving engagement and encouraging viewers to explore your brand and its products.
4. Story ads
Because Facebook and Instagram are linked, story ads on Instagram are virtually identical to story ads on Facebook. The premise is the same: don’t go over 15 seconds, create a positive and genuine tone, and focus on driving awareness. Like Facebook, users here are likely to be watching with their sound on, but they’re likely passively watching story content rather than engaging the way they might on feed posts.
5. Explore ads
Finally, explore ads show up on the Instagram explore page as video thumbnails. These ads can work for brand discovery, but the competition is fierce and it can be difficult to compete with the organic content on the explore page with only a video thumbnail. This might be an interesting option to test if you’ve maxed out your other options first, but for most brands, this shouldn’t be your first choice.
Source: Search Nurture
Instagram ad best practices:
- Use bright, dynamic visuals.
- Include a CTA button or product tag(s).
- Provide value – educate and/or entertain.
- Utilize user-generated content.
This Instagram ad for Cubcoats is a great example.
There you have it! We covered 16 total placement options across Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to break down all your video strategy considerations. If you need more guidance, consider working with us at Lemonlight or our friends at Search Nurture to create video content and kick off an ad strategy!