5 tips to make your online video creative stand out this festival season

Guneet Singh / August 2019

Last year, consumers in India spent a record-breaking $4.3 billion online during festival season — up 43% from 2017.1 With the 2019 festival period fast approaching, it’s a crucial time for marketers to reach Indians where they spend ample time: on YouTube. Here, Google’s Global Head of Marketing & Creative Solutions Guneet Singh offers five tips for making the most of your video creative during India’s festival period.

The run up to India’s two major religious festivals, Diwali and Dussehra, is a bustling time for consumers and marketers alike: Last year, 40% of all annual clothing, electronics, automobile, and household item sales happened during the festival months.1 What’s more, last year’s festivities saw a 71% rise in online shoppers.

So, what is it about festival season that causes such a shift in consumer behavior and priorities? First, Indians want to look good as they celebrate each festival. For example, last year saw a 5X increase in searches for “mehndi design” (a form of Indian body art) during Karwa Chauth, a 2X increase in searches for “kurta pyjama” (traditional menswear) during Diwali, and a 2X increase in searches for “anarkali” (a form of women’s dress) during Dussehra.2


The festival season is also an auspicious occasion for large purchases. For example, there was a 2.9X increase last year in spending on jewelry in the week of Diwali.1


Marketers looking to develop impactful campaigns should take this shift in consumer behavior and priorities into account as they prepare for one of India’s busiest ad seasons. With more brands competing for their attention, it’s also important to reach audiences on platforms where they’re actively engaged.

With an estimated 500M users by 2020, India’s online video space is booming. In fact, YouTube has more than 265 million monthly active users in India.3 But it isn’t just a place for passive consumption: 90% of people say they discover new brands or products on YouTube,4 while 80% of viewers take action after watching an ad on the platform.5

For marketers looking to connect with consumers in India, building an effective online video campaign with the right creative is key to driving action. Based on insights from brands that worked with Google’s Ignition Labs to develop successful creative campaigns, here are five tips to help you get the best results on YouTube this festival season.

1. Use multiple formats

Combining short- and long-form ads is a powerful way to tell your brand stories. Within a single campaign, you can rely on one ad or a combination of ads to deliver your message. Deliver insights and storytelling via long-form ads (30s or longer), and use six-second bumper ads to tease, amplify, or echo your longer content. You can even sequence multiple bumper ads one after the other to tell your whole story in six-second parts. Consider using TrueView for action formats to drive leads and conversions by adding prominent calls-to-action (CTAs) like “add to cart” or “download now.”

Pro tip: If you plan ahead, you can make multiple edits of the same creative and save on costs.


For example, when ZEE5 wanted to drum up excitement ahead of the premiere of its show “Rangbaaz,” it launched a multi-phase YouTube campaign to appeal to as many potential subscribers as possible. The team served more than 44 versions of creative featuring characters that appealed to different audiences, which resulted in a 20X rise in daily paid subscription numbers during the campaign period.

2. Keep viewers engaged

The shrinking attention spans of today’s consumers mean it’s more important than ever to frontload your brand naturally and authentically. That doesn’t mean you have to paste your packshot at the beginning of the ad to derive value from skipping viewers. Get over the “skip cliff” by hooking users with stunning, delightful, or unexpected imagery within the first four to six seconds, then holding their attention with an intriguing story arc that re-engages them every seven to nine seconds. You can use dramatic close-ups, expressive emotions, and eye-grabbing beauty to hook and keep viewers coming back for more.

Pro tip: Don’t let sound design be an afterthought. While videos on other digital video platforms are muted by default, 95% of videos watched on YouTube are played with the sound on.6 Keep mobile speaker quality in mind while you develop your audio to capture users’ full attention. Boost awareness and recognition by ensuring your brand name is audible.

For example, ITC redesigned the first 10 seconds of its TV ad for YouTube and mobile users. The humorous edit featured the brand logo up front with attention-grabbing “breaking news” copy. The optimized version drove best-in-class awareness lifts among its core audience and a massive 23.4% lift in consideration.

3. Rethink your creative based on the medium

Whether they’re on their way to work or lying in bed, consumers in India watch an average of more than 36 minutes of video entertainment content per day per user on smartphones.7 That means a large part of your audience might be holding their phones vertically as they watch your ad. Consider creating both vertical and horizontal versions of your ad — and keeping different aspect ratios in mind when you’re shooting your spot. Because smartphones are also much smaller than traditional TV screens, low contrast shots and small copy will be harder to see on mobile.

Pro tip: Include a shot of your talent telling the viewer to take the action you want them to take (e.g., “download our app”).


For example, L’Oreal India used Trueview for action to encourage viewers to purchase its exclusive L'Oreal Paris Sabyasachi Collection of nude lipsticks. In addition to optimizing the creative to appeal to different audiences, the brand served both vertical and horizontal versions of the ad. The campaign drove a 2.6X increase in traffic over previous campaigns, with the vertical video driving relatively higher numbers than the horizontal one. Brand consideration also increased by 6%, and cost per view decreased by 50%.

4. Go beyond the video

Engagement doesn’t start and end with your video ad — the ambient space around the video, including its title, description, thumbnail, and tags, can also drive brand awareness and organic discoverability. Keep viewers informed by surrounding your ad with helpful links that answer popular category questions, or use the “up next” feature to serve users additional videos from your brand. Extend your message to Indians browsing online, checking Gmail, or using mobile devices and apps with display ads that automatically adjust based on audience signals (e.g., dynamic banners that count down to Diwali or a particular sale).

Pro tip: Encourage users to click by prioritizing designing an attractive thumbnail for your video ad.


For example, Amazon redesigned a YouTube Masthead thumbnail for its recent fashion campaign. After adding a brand logo, intriguing copy, and a CTA to the static image, the optimized thumbnail drove a best-in-class click-through rate of 3.3% — 30% higher than industry benchmarks.

5. Drive performance, not just awareness

Online video gives you the ability to boost metrics beyond just brand awareness — it empowers consumers to take action. Savvy marketers can take several approaches to drive e-commerce purchases or store visits, promote their app, or pique consumer interest:

  • End the ad with a clear “what to do next” CTA (e.g., “rent now”).
  • Focus on a product, benefit, or deal.
  • Show a human hand performing important actions within an app, such as browsing or buying.
  • Explore action-driving media buys beyond reach and frequency formats.

Pro tip: Drive brand discoverability by replacing your website address on your ad’s end frame with a search bar.

For example, when RentoMojo applied the CTA from its top-performing search ad to a Trueview for action video, the brand achieved a 10% increase in conversions and a 12% higher view-through rate than industry benchmarks.

Winning India’s festival season

The lead up to Diwali and Dussehra signals a shift in consumer behavior and priorities that occur throughout the festival season. As Indians search and spend online more than ever before, brands will have to compete harder for their attention.

For more festival season best practices, dive into our 2019 APAC Shopping Season Playbook.

Why India’s leading OTT providers are turning to YouTube to engage entertainment lovers