What Brands Can Learn From India on Personalized Storytelling

Kanika Jain, Abhinav Chetan Mar 2018 Video, India
  • More than 225M people watch YouTube on mobile in India and 93% of online viewers pay attention when they watch YouTube
  • Contextual video advertising is critical for brands that are trying to reach the right audience at the right time
  • Average ad recall increased by 2X in verticals such as FMCG and Auto when using contextual ads
  • Video customization tool Director Mix can now be used to turn a set of creative assets (base video, images, copy, layout) into hundreds of contextually relevant messages at scale

Storytelling has always been at the heart of brand messaging. From the earliest newspaper print ads to modern digital media, the story makes the connection―and the connection makes the sale.

Yet telling the right story to today's consumers is proving to be a new kind of challenge. With the advent of smartphones and data access, consumers today are always connected, and they have attention spans that keep shortening and heightened expectations when it comes to personalization. The question that keeps advertisers up at night has gone from “What’s a good story to tell?” to “What's the right story for the right person at the right time?”

From one comes many

To address this challenge, advertisers can use YouTube’s Director Mix to create custom video ads at scale. It helps brands turn a limited set of creative assets (such as images, voiceovers, texts, fonts, or colors) into multiple unique messages that cater to different audiences in a contextual manner. Simply put:


As Director Mix creates different versions of a core creative, it automatically uploads them to the advertiser's YouTube channel and delivers them based on various targeting options. Take, for instance, a person who has recently searched for "How to get fit?,” has downloaded a fitness app, and then used Google Maps to find local gyms—that person is clearly interested in fitness and diet. Now imagine being able to deliver an ad for a sports drink at the very moment they’re watching workout routines on YouTube. Spot on.

As shown below, the right contextual ads can turn attention into action. When we analyzed Google TrueView brand lift data from Q1 2016 across nine advertiser verticals, the right ads shown to users consuming related content (for example, car ads shown before a car video, CPG/personal care ads before beauty and fitness videos) enjoyed higher brand lift compared with ads shown to users consuming unmatched content (random ads before content from a particular vertical). In fact, in verticals such as CPG (home), Auto, and Travel, average ad recall more than doubled when ads were matched to the related content vertical.1


Success stories: Uber and Vivo

To urge audience groups across 30 cities in India to take more rides, Uber used a blend of still images, captions, and animation.

Uber wanted to understand what its customers enjoyed, so it scoured YouTube to figure out which were the most popular interest categories and videos in India. It identified 100 key moments when commuters were most likely to book a ride and, with the help of Director Mix, created 85 variations of the six-second bumper ads to capture those moments.


The result? Uber saw 63% more first-time riders through YouTube immediately after the launch of the campaign. It also found a 20% to 37% lift in ad recall across categories like music and movies. In the end, this successful test run has become an ongoing, always-on campaign.

Another success story comes from leading global smartphone brand Vivo, whose innovative campaign starred flamboyant Bollywood celebrity, Ranveer Singh.


At the end of the campaign, not only did Vivo enjoy a 76% view rate and a purchase intent uplift of 8.5%, it also noticed that better context helps tell the story faster―in this case, in eight seconds or less.

Immense opportunity

As Uber and Vivo have shown, it is now possible for brands to create hundreds of personally relevant video ads quickly, easily, and with fewer resources than ever before, and then target these ads to relevant audiences through YouTube’s Director Mix.   

In India alone, there are now nearly a quarter billion users watching YouTube on their mobiles,2 and at any given moment, 93% percent of YouTube viewers are paying attention.3 Every brand is constantly vying for consumers’ attention, but with the right tools, the task doesn’t need to be overwhelming. The opportunity is immense—if done right. And while there are no single right ways to do marketing, some tools can help make it a whole lot easier.

The Definition of Relevance Has Changed. Here’s How to Address It