What makes a video ad good? 4 industry leaders share their views

Ryan Strain / December 2020
What makes a video ad good? 4 industry leaders share their views

We’ve all been watching more YouTube this year. In the Netherlands alone, watch time has increased by 21% since March and, among 18-34-year-old Dutchies, YouTube is now the largest broadcaster.1 But it’s not just the hours we spend on the platform that have changed. With viewers as comfortable watching video content on their phones as they are streaming it on TV, the way in which we interact with YouTube has also evolved.

For brands, this behavioural shift offers new opportunities to engage with their audience. But how can they stand out from the crowd? We spoke to four industry leaders to hear what draws their attention on YouTube — and how they think advertisers can tap into that.

Be sharp and relevant


I often wish I grew up with YouTube. I had so many questions as a child, so having easy access to a wealth of information would have helped me (and my parents) immensely. Younger generations are really lucky to have that.

For advertisers, the sheer availability of video content has put pressure on the need to be sharp and relevant. If you want me to spend 30 seconds of my time watching your video, convince me that you’ll either entertain, move, or educate me. Finding the sweet spot between what you want to say and what your customers want to hear — that’s what makes a strong ad.

But it’s easier said than done. It requires a good understanding of the type of content your audience actually wants to watch or interact with. That’s where data can really make a difference.

Segment your audience


What I watch on YouTube hugely depends on where I am and what I’m doing. On the road I prefer fast, snackable content; at home, I enjoy watching longer, more in-depth videos on TV. Watching YouTube on the big screen has been a real trend this year, proving that our attention spans really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. As long as you’re content is good, people will watch it.

The same goes for ads, although I believe relevance is even more important than quality here. A lot of time goes into the creation of video ads — but if I’m not interested in the product, why would I watch the ad? YouTube has a fantastic reach among all age groups, but advertisers must tailor their messages to different target groups if they really want to be effective.

Make people care


YouTube turned everything on its head. Not only does it reach every target audience in the world, it also reaches them with the exact content they’re looking for. As a creator, I’ve always focused on the content I wanted to make, and over time I’ve managed to build a fan base around that. So I trust that if I like the video, our audience will too.

A good YouTube video needs to be exciting, entertaining, and emotive. Viewers will immediately spot a lack of tension or passion. It’s all about getting people to care. This is true for ads as well: if I’m intrigued, I'll watch to see how it ends. If I’m bored, I’ll skip.

Land the message


It’s hard to imagine a life without YouTube. I would miss being able to watch content from the past if it were to disappear. I’m a huge Bob Ross fan, for example. And I love watching old TV ads like the first Coca-Cola commercial — it’s so beautiful and pure. A more recent ad that really impressed me is the Under Armour commercial with Michael Phelps. You just get sucked into it and feel his emotions.

A good ad makes you empathise with a person and where they are in their lives. It also needs to have a strong message. What do you want the audience to take away from it? It’s table stakes to make that clear from the beginning, before attention wears off.

Hear more from these industry leaders on what YouTube content they laugh at, cry at, or learn from. Plus, discover recent watch trends and tips for building truly engaging video campaigns. Download Viewernomics magazine below.

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