4 ways brands are turning video views into real results

Debbie Weinstein, Mark Wheeler / March 2021

Last year marked an inflection point for video viewership. More than ever, people around the world relied on streaming platforms as their primary way to watch video. While we may be eager to put much of 2020 in the rear view, some trends are here to stay — and we must be ready.

Not sure where to start? Much can be learned from how brands have transformed their approach to video in response to shifts in viewership. To help, here are four ways advertisers are adapting to drive results.

1. Embrace the move to e-commerce

In response to dramatic changes to shopping behaviour, brands have made quick shifts to reach and engage potential customers online across the purchase journey. And around the world, online video is proving to be a powerful performance driver. Google and Ipsos research found that more than half of shoppers globally say online video has helped them decide which specific brand or product to buy.1 More and more advertisers are seeing results from videos with action-oriented formats, collectively driving nearly 1 billion conversions in a year.2

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to gym closures worldwide, New Zealand-based global fitness brand Les Mills shifted its focus to helping people stay fit at home. Encouraged by the 45% of users who said YouTube helped them work towards and achieve their goals,3 Les Mills brought in online video to do some heavy lifting.

The brand launched a TrueView for action campaign in more than 40 countries to capture surging demand for at-home workout content, showcase its cinematically filmed videos to high-intent audiences, and increase paid subscriptions for its on-demand platform.

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Les Mills quickly and efficiently increased its number of new users by 570% year over year — 25% of which was driven by Google channels, including YouTube. The campaign also led to a 30% lift in awareness and an 80% boost in branded search terms. “In such uncertain times, it’s even more important to balance what’s working well with exploring new opportunities,” said Kim Walbridge, Les Mills’ global marketing director.

2. Combine creative fundamentals with innovative formats

In the early days of the pandemic, brands had a lot of questions about how to build the most relevant, effective creative for this unprecedented time. What we learned: Pushing the boundaries of creative storytelling catches people’s attention.

While brands didn’t necessarily have to make coronavirus ads to drive results, most recognised the need for agility and adapted creative to be relevant to people’s needs and mindsets. Online food ordering company Menulog gave viewers a much-needed smile with a handful of video ads featuring Snoop Dogg, using a memorable jingle and strategic execution on YouTube and Vevo to reach its core audience. “YouTube was key to connecting with younger Aussies who don’t typically consume a lot of traditional media,” said Simon Cheng, the brand’s marketing director.

Menulog reeled in viewers with a catchy, lighthearted spot featuring Snoop Dogg.

Whether by sequencing stories based on engagement, personalising at scale with Director Mix, or experimenting with helpful creative that responds to intent, brands that drove impact used innovative creative approaches and relevant ad formats to respond and get closer to customers. “Combining Brand Lift measurement with A/B testing has given us the ability to pinpoint our strongest creative with more accuracy,” said Sam Kerr, account director at NMPI Digital, the media agency for Les Mills. “We consistently rely on data from our video experiments to determine how we should engage our audience and improve campaign results.”

3. Double down on brand building

Too often, longer-term brand-building investments are cut first during a crisis, when they’re critical to business growth. In a study by Analytics Partners combining recent insights from Australia and historical data from more than 22,000 global case studies, brand-led messaging outperformed product or promotional messaging 80% of the time.4

The study also found that existing creative and brand messaging can still be effective when they’re focused on channels that clearly deliver long-term return on investment (ROI): TV and online video.5 “Moving pictures have consistently been shown to deliver strong results, regardless of the screen,” said Paul Sinkinson, Analytics Partners’ managing director.

“Connecting emotionally is the proven way to build brands and businesses, and video is the most powerful medium to make people feel something.” — Ross Berthinussen, Head of Strategy, 72andSunny Sydney

Online video is proving to be a powerful medium for brand building, capable of reaching a wide audience while also emphasising specific products and ROI-focused conversions. “Connecting emotionally is the proven way to build brands and businesses, and video is the most powerful medium to make people feel something," said Ross Berthinussen, head of strategy at 72andSunny Sydney. “With the range of video formats available, the opportunity to think creatively about how we connect emotionally at scale has never been greater.”

4. Evolve your measurement to drive results

Whether your objective is short-term sales or brand building, measurement has never been more critical. One size does not fit all, especially in a year of change and uncertainty that has affected every market differently. But marketers are getting better at evaluating what's working and quicker at optimising on the fly. Maintaining a healthy appetite for test-and-learn experiments is key.

In 2019, iconic Aussie brand MILO embraced an opportunity to rethink its approach to reach active, health-conscious mums. After creating a new reduced-sugar version of its core product, the brand made online video the main ingredient in its marketing mix, using TrueView and bumper ads to connect with audiences that TV was missing. Then it used market mix modelling (MMM) to get a channel-by-channel breakdown and to learn whether the new strategy was more effective.

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YouTube not only helped MILO reach a wider audience but also was nearly 2X as effective as TV. The brand ran with a new YouTube-led media strategy, and started experimenting with discovery ads and unskippable creative to personalise its messaging based on people’s evolving tastes and behaviours.

Being eager to experiment also helped Johnson & Johnson uncover which specific channels and formats were driving sales for Neutrogena. “Just like people’s skincare regimens change with their life stage, we need to be agile and experiment within an ever-changing landscape,” said Sara Donato, Johnson & Johnson’s head of insights and planning. The brand worked with a team of Google specialists to conduct an MMM and outline a MixLab — comprehensive and actionable recommendations for Neutrogena's future media strategy — based on the results. “MixLabs allowed us to unpack learnings, optimise our approach, and ultimately drive stronger connections with our consumers,” Donato concluded.

Trending on YouTube: How people are using the platform to learn at home