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Noël Paasch, creative director at Google’s Creative Works, leads brand and agency partnerships to determine best practices in advertising on YouTube. Here, she shares results from over two years of research to better understand the effectiveness of food, beverage, and restaurant video ads.

Should your opening shot feature a satisfied customer enjoying your product mid-bite? Should it set the scene, steadily leading up to the product reveal?

When it comes to creative decisions for video ads, it can sometimes be challenging to distinguish pure aesthetics from what drives results. Without hard data, it’s impossible to understand the psychology behind viewers’ responses.

Our ABCDs for creative effectiveness are data-informed, tested guidelines that can be applied universally to any video ad. In fact, Nielsen found that food, beverage, and restaurant ads that closely followed the ABCDs saw, on average, 31% higher sales lift.1 Supported by third-party research, our team recently conducted additional analyses to uncover more actionable creative insights around food ads. Here’s what they found.

5 ways to improve your food video ads: 1. Immerse the senses. 2. Show all the nooks and crannies. 3. Present the human side. 4. Brand thoughtfully. 5. It’s food, not science.

1. Immerse the senses

The experience of food is so much more than just its taste. A chocolate chip cookie is just as much its salty-sweet, fresh-from-the-oven smell, iconic craggy texture, and gooey chocolate melting on your fingers as it is its flavor. Our analysis shows that you can engage both sight and sound to make up for the lack of other sensory details.

Take Magnum Ruby’s ad, for example. When the protagonist takes a big bite of the chocolate-coated ice cream, the sound effect of the chocolate layer shattering evokes the experience of biting into a Magnum ice cream. Together, sight and sound are more compelling than either sense would be alone, summoning the memory of smell and taste.

2. Show all the nooks and crannies

It goes without saying that texture plays a big role in the characterization of any food. Would fresh pizza be as appealing without its gooey cheese or soft, bready crust?

The majority of viewers watch ads on their mobile devices, so conveying the full visual through close-up shots of the product is extra important.

Research shows that the majority of viewers watch ads on their mobile devices, so conveying the full visual through close-up shots of the product is extra important. Clear, crisp visuals help to communicate the product benefit quickly. This is generally good advice for any vertical on YouTube, but especially for food, beverage, and restaurant brands.

Côte d'Or used this technique to great effect in their holiday ad. In each shot of the product, the chocolate takes up the full screen. The sheen of its smooth exterior and the grooves of the nut filling are so vivid, the viewer may as well have the product in front of them.

3. Present the human side

Of course, there’s only so much one ad can show of the product itself. With limited time, shorter-form ads are perfect for focusing solely on the product, but studies show that long-form ads are more effective when they incorporate a human story. Introducing a human element adds context and makes it easier for the viewer to relate.

IHop’s “All You Can Eat Pancakes” campaign included both a short-form and long-form video ad. The 6-second ad featured a single shot of the food itself, while the 15-second ad took advantage of those extra seconds by featuring three different people. No character is shown eating; we don’t even get to see their faces. Yet the actors lend a human touch to the ad. Despite the age-old advice that every food ad needs a bite-and-smile moment, our analysis showed that a range of scenarios performed equally well, from ads that put chewing front-and-center to those in which no one actually ate.

Try experimenting with varied ad lengths and creative executions to see what performs best with your brand and audiences.

4. Brand thoughtfully

If you’re looking to increase your sales lift, the memorability of your brand is as important as the food itself. And when it comes to brand expression, you should pull out all the stops.

Make your brand memorable. The more your brand appears in the ad spot, the more likely viewers are to remember it.

Our research shows that relying on a logo endcard might not be doing the most work for you. To make a lasting impression, think about seamlessly incorporating it throughout the ad, complemented by audio mentions, large type supers, and distinctive brand assets like mascots, brand colors, and mnemonics.

This Coca-Cola Vanilla ad does a great job of both subtly and not-so-subtly integrating the brand into all 20 seconds of video. The more your brand appears in the ad spot, the more likely viewers are to remember it.

5. It’s food, not science

Lastly, remember that the average viewer’s brain can only retain so much information from any given ad. So when it comes to copy, our data supports using clear, accessible language.

For example, try describing the benefit rather than the ingredient. BelVita’s breakfast biscuits are “loaded with energy,” while Special K’s cereal is “feeding strength to power your moves.” Special K takes the technique a step further by showing how the product helps active people, such as dancers, in their day-to-day lives.

Armed with these five insights, your team can measurably increase creative effectiveness, making your products and your bottom line even more appetizing. Still, the best way to determine which creative practices support your goals, from awareness to conversion, is to experiment with your own ads and test them yourself.