How to Create YouTube Video Ads That Convert in 2021

YouTube Video Ads

Want to advertise on YouTube? Wondering how to create YouTube ads that work?

To explore how to create YouTube ads that convert, I interview Tom Breeze on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Tom is a YouTube ads expert and CEO of Viewability, a YouTube ads agency that helps direct response B2C companies scale their businesses. He’s also founder of The Ad Buyers Club, a done-with-you model designed to help marketers succeed with YouTube video ads.

You’ll learn what types of YouTube ad formats marketers should consider and find a framework to create successful YouTube video ads on your own.

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Why Should Marketers Focus on YouTube Video Ads?

For eight years, Tom has been saying that YouTube is a blue ocean that no one is exploring.

Over the last year, however, his conversation has shifted because people are starting to experience a bit more uncertainty and frustration with using Facebook ads. People’s accounts are getting banned and ad fatigue is setting in quickly.

YouTube, though, is seeing user growth. The platform has generally held a large, younger audience and now, due to pandemic conditions, even more people are watching video there. The fastest-growing demographic on YouTube is now viewers in the range of 45–65+ years of age.

The beauty of this growth is that everyone who watches video on YouTube is very familiar with advertising in the content, and in the same way they view a business advertising on television as successful, they’re likely to class a business that’s advertising on YouTube as successful. That viewer mentality means that you can advertise on YouTube with a budget of $5 per day and still have a credible impact.

In addition, YouTube is a great branding tool. It lets people see and get to know who you are as a brand. As the recognition deepens, everything you do will often see a lift in performance.

YouTube In-Stream Ads vs. YouTube Discovery Ads

The two main YouTube ad types for marketers to explore right now are in-stream ads and discovery ads.

In-stream ads, which a lot of people call pre-roll ads, are an interruption-style ad type that plays right before a video you’ve clicked on to watch. A key attribute of these ads is they allow the viewer to press the Skip Ad button after the ad has played for 5 seconds but the video ad itself can be any length.

As the advertiser, you pay when someone clicks through to your website or when someone watches 30 seconds or more of your ad. If your ad is less than 30 seconds long, you pay when someone watches to the end of your ad. You’re basically paying for engagement.

If you’re getting started with YouTube ads, Tom recommends mastering the in-stream ad first. Once you know what you’re doing with in-stream ads, it’s easy to scale because there’s so much inventory. Your ad plays in front of other videos people are already watching and those videos are increasing every single day.

Discovery ads are served in two places and based on something the viewer has searched for and/or are watching. The first placement is at the top of YouTube search results for a keyword or phrase the viewer has typed into the YouTube search bar. The second placement is at the top of the videos in the right-hand column on a video view page.

As the advertiser, you pay when someone clicks to watch your video. You’re basically paying to amplify selected videos and draw people to your content and ultimately, your channel.

A good strategy for discovery ads is to use them to promote a video currently performing well and converting for you. When you amplify that video and it accrues more watch time, you’ll find that it also gets more organic reach via natural placement in search and in the related/suggested videos section.

Tom has used this tactic to kickstart new content by releasing the video as a discovery ad, letting it get 10,000 views or so, and then paring back on the advertising to let the organic life of that video continue to grow.

For the most part, though, Tom uses discovery ads for remarketing so anyone who has been to his website or watched a certain video will keep seeing his thumbnails and brand on YouTube.

Then you can choose the content you want in front of people based on their actions. If they’ve been to your checkout page, maybe you’ll show them testimonial videos of happy customers. Or if they’ve been to your registration page and didn’t sign up, for instance, you might serve them a more opportunity-based video.

How to Create a Successful YouTube In-Stream Ad

To understand what makes a good YouTube ad, Tom relied on his background in psychology; he has a Masters in psychology and also studied neuromarketing and behavioral economics.

He first needed to clearly describe the basic principle of advertising: You want people to make a decision. On YouTube, you’re interrupting a viewer’s experience with an ad so you need to say things or show things to present an experience that makes people decide to visit your website to continue the journey.

Things got really interesting when he looked at the psychology of the decision-making process because he realized that decisions are made solely by the conscious part of the brain.

The conscious part of your mind is logical and can hold onto about seven things at any one time.

Underneath that, though, is your unconscious mind where your emotions, identity, experiences, memories—everything that makes up who you are—are housed. And all decision-making starts in your unconscious mind when you choose based on your desires.

As an advertiser, you first have to engage people’s unconscious minds. You do that by understanding what your customers’ deepest desires are and what drives them, and then tap into that to position your product. Once you’ve got that, they’re going to be activated and ready to listen to what you have to say.

Then the conscious brain kicks in and logic comes into play. The conscious brain starts looking for evidence and information to justify and support the decision the unconscious brain has already made.

As an advertiser, you need to engage the conscious mind by tapping into people’s values and what’s important to them so they feel good about making the decision.

To illustrate, if you desire adventure and you see an advertisement that shows a car on an off-road adventure that ends at a secluded beach where you can surf, your unconscious brain wants that car. Then your conscious, logical brain kicks in to make logical justifications as to why you want the car. You’ll come up with things like great gas mileage, improved safety, and so on. Those two things might be important to you but they’re basically an excuse to justify buying the car.

When your unconscious mind decides it wants something, your conscious brain seeks out logical justifications to support that emotional decision. As a psychological process, this made sense to Tom but he hasn’t seen that translated through video ads. For inspiration, he looked to the movie industry to decipher what makes a movie memorable. Today, he uses what he learned to create ads in three acts.

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Act I is when you engage the unconscious brain to make people crave what it is you’re talking about. Act II is when you satiate the conscious brain by presenting value-based evidence to justify the decision you want them to make. Act III is when you build tension that drives people to action.

The optimal length for an in-stream ad is around 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Thirty percent of that time should be dedicated to Act I, 50% to Act II, and 20% to Act III.

Act I: Engaging The Unconscious Mind

Rather than beginning with a script, Tom has found it’s better to focus on the storyboard, visuals, music, sound effects, and other elements first. When those are in place, the script easily follows.

Let’s say you’re selling training that teaches people how to become better marketers and you want to send people to register for a webinar. Start with the offer (not your product, the webinar). If someone registers for the webinar, what are the benefits they’ll gain? Perhaps the benefit is that they’ll acquire more customers at a profitable price.

Now you have two things to do. One is to understand the desire for that benefit and the other is to understand the identity that benefit will give someone.

What’s the desire of someone who wants to become a really good marketer? They want to be perceived as doing a great job and to have certainty in their tactics. They want to achieve a level of confidence and likely a level of recognition.

Next, frame their identity around that benefit to establish who they’ll transform into: An ad-buying pro who’s asked to speak at conferences. Then consider what might happen when they become that person with the new identity. When they became a speaker, they’ll rub elbows with other speakers and enjoy an elevated status in other people’s eyes. They might be invited to exclusive dinners… You get the idea.

With those understandings in place, look for a video clip, setting, or scene that immediately prompts desire in a marketer watching the start of the video. You want them to think, “Wow. I want to be that person doing that thing and feeling that emotion.” You could show a speaker on stage getting a standing ovation or show someone giving a presentation to their team and getting real recognition from their boss, for instance. It could be anything, but it’s like, “Right, we’ve got recognition.”

You’ve essentially set up a storyboard for Act I with three things: The person/identity (a marketer) who’s displaying a behavior/activity (speaking on a stage) and feeling a certain emotion—in this case, recognition.

Now you can script Act I and say something like, “If you want to be a speaker on stage and be recognized…”

In a real-world example, Tom is working with Carmen Morin, a pianist who teaches people how to play the piano. Carmen says her customers’ desire is to “…be in a state of flow when they play the piano so they have complete freedom and creativity just oozing out of them. They just lose themselves in the piano.”

Tom translated that desire to freedom and creativity. When her customers become pianists, they can play freely without thought. To visualize this, Tom shot footage of Carmen playing her piano in the wilderness amid beautiful hills, with evergreen trees and a snow-peaked mountaintop in the background.

Act 2: Satisfying the Conscious Mind

With the unconscious brain on board, the conscious brain will begin asking questions to validate the viewer’s desire, “Okay, I want this thing but who’s this person talking to me? Who’s this brand talking to me? How do I know I can do what they’re asking of me? Do I feel confident that I can do this? Show me how to do this.”

You, as the advertiser, need to think about communicating two things: Your credibility and the action plan you have for customers.

Following on the example above, you could establish your credibility by showing them that you’re a recognized expert who delivers results. Maybe you’ve got loads of accolades and awards, have written a book, or spoken on stage all over the globe. Take 5 seconds to share these things so the viewer thinks, “Okay, cool. I can trust you. It sounds like you know what you’re talking about.”

Next, show your viewer that you have a proprietary action plan or methodology. Hold it up to say, “This is how it works. This is what we’re going to be doing together and it will help you achieve your desire.”

If you’re selling a product, a demonstration will work in place of the action plan but you want the demonstration to constantly remind people of their desire. If your product is a multi-faceted coffeemaker, don’t fall back on, “Oh, you put the cup here and then you press this button and then it makes you a beautiful coffee, job done.”

Instead, as you make the coffee, say something like, “When you have a dinner party for multiple people and most of them want coffee after dinner, here’s how you really impress them. Press this button and you’ll be able to make several different types of coffee based on what each guest wants. When you serve them, do this… and you’ll look amazing.” At this point, the video ad will show a host or hostess taking the coffee back to the table and people being impressed.

You always want to pair the demonstration with the context of the desire.

Act 3: Building Tension and the Call to Action

Rather than delivering a quick 5- to 10-second call to action, Tom uses the last 20% of his ads to show the viewer other people just like them, who started in the position the viewer is currently in, and have now got whatever it is the viewer desires. You want the viewer to see these people and think, “Oh, wow, people just like me are getting these great results and the feelings I want, and are also in that status group that I want to be part of. That’s where I want to be.”

It’s essential to use sound bites from people to establish they’ve achieved the results by using your method. If you can get the testimonial saying the action you want your customer to take gets the customer where they want to go, it does wonders.

While you can’t solicit a testimonial and tell someone exactly what to say, you can guide them toward giving you what you need while remaining truthful and genuine. Ask them to include how they found out about you and what your journey was like for them.

“I found out about this company that would teach me marketing. I saw that ad on YouTube, in fact. I clicked the link, I joined the webinar, I learned this thing, and I took it to my next presentation. I’ll tell you what, I got such rave reviews as a result of just making these slight tweaks this person taught me.”

This is where the tension comes in. You deliver a simple call to action telling the viewer to click to sign up for the webinar and then you allude to the fact that the viewer has a choice to make.

They can begin acting within the identity they want to achieve and become like the people in the testimonials or they can remain as they are and nothing will change for them. The choice presented should be less, “Shall I sign up for this webinar?” and more, “Am I going to decide to be the person I want to be?”

As a final pull on the tension, you can add a countdown timer at the end of the video to let people know they have a limited time to act.

Key Takeaways From This Episode:

  • Learn more about The Ad Buyers Club and the YouTube Ads Master Ad Plan at
  • Check out Viewability.
  • Get your ticket for the Social Media Marketing Workshops at
  • Watch exclusive content and original videos from Social Media Examiner on YouTube.
  • Tune into our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show. Watch live on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on YouTube. Listen to the replay on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

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