Small tweaks for big impact: How to optimize your video ads to achieve campaign goals

Kristen Shipley / October 2020
A stylized array of video screens in browser windows encircling a smartphone that displays a large red play button.

Most marketers today are all too familiar with the concept of a pivot. As consumer behaviors rapidly change and new business challenges arise, marketers are adapting their campaigns to meet the moment, which makes campaign effectiveness more important than ever.

Along the way, many have also learned that a pivot doesn’t require spending significant money or starting from scratch. Often, slight tweaks to your media mix, audience strategy, or existing video creative is all that’s needed to adapt to change and improve campaign effectiveness.

It all starts with having clear objectives and understanding the solutions that help you optimize for them. Here are three things — proved effective by brands — to consider trying in your next video campaign.

Determine the right video mix for your goal

Ensuring your video mix aligns with your goals is an important way to improve your return on investment. YouTube’s Video experiments is a quick, cost-effective tool to help. It gives you the ability to compare how different versions of video creative perform head to head, and lets you test how one version of creative performs when it runs as different ad formats.

This past spring, when stay-at-home orders went into effect throughout the U.S., consumer electronics retailer B&H began seeing a growing demand for its vast product offering. Almost immediately, laptop sales began to climb and search queries for “how to start a podcast” spiked, signaling heightened interest in podcasting equipment according to Google Trends.

Ensuring your video mix aligns with your goals is an important way to improve your return on investment.

B&H saw this as an opportunity to highlight relevant at-home products and reiterate the company’s dedication to customer service in a way that authentically reflected its business. As Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Gerstel explained, “We know that people can buy computers anywhere, so it was important for us to communicate our values and the unique expertise of our employees.”

To do so, the team created a scrappy YouTube campaign featuring footage of B&H employees helping customers troubleshoot and make purchase decisions while working from home themselves. From there, they used Video experiments to test and learn which ad formats were best for driving awareness and conversion goals.

While B&H saw a positive return on spend across all four formats it tested, the TrueView for action format, incorporating prominent calls to action (CTA) to encourage conversions, had the highest return. It also delivered above-industry benchmark lifts in brand awareness and ad recall — 67% and 65%, respectively — proving a performance-focused campaign can also have a positive impact on brand metrics.

Find your best customers

Compelling video ads can help set you up for success, but to succeed, your campaigns need to reach the right people. Reevaluating your audience strategy to make sure your campaign leverages audience interests and intent signals can be an easy way to learn more about your customers and improve results.

Early this year, a company called Honey, whose browser extension aggregates and applies online coupons, did some experimenting to gain a better understanding of which potential customers were likely to download its product.

Honey used TrueView for action along with target CPA bidding, an automated bidding solution that helps to find and serve the ad to audiences who are most likely to convert. First the team tested how ads performed across thousands of audience segments related to passion points and popular search topics. Then they built videos with messaging aligned with some of their top performing audiences, like people interested in tech.

“We found that using a variety of concepts and messaging resonates with different people. Some of our most successful audiences are around interests like tech, so we built videos around this theme in order to scale and be more relevant,” said Arielle Jessel, Honey’s director of growth.

The company applied these learnings to the creative strategy for its next video campaign, geared toward helping global expansion. Overall, between April and July, Honey gained nearly 3X the number of net new active users they saw between January and March.

Use creative as a lever for impact

One final campaign optimization approach to consider is experimenting with simple adjustments to video creative. Even subtle changes, such as adding a text overlay or a strong CTA, can help further your goals.

Cosmetics brand Mac has a powerful example of this. Drawing on insights they gathered from YouTube search data, the marketing team developed Mac’s first-ever tutorial-based video campaign to drive purchase intent around featured products. Key to their approach was experimenting with different variations of video creative to determine which had the greatest impact on purchase intent.

3 illustrated browser icons representing the 3 CTA formats that can influence purchase intent: no CTA, e-commerce CTA, and YouTube subscribe CTA

The Mac team created three tutorial-style ads using YouTube’s skippable in-stream format: the first with no CTA, the second with a CTA encouraging viewers to “shop online,” and the third with a CTA to “subscribe” to Mac’s YouTube channel. All three videos were then targeted to the same audience.

As Mac Cosmetics’ global media director Christina McCarthy explained, “Across the marketing funnel, we’ve seen that slight creative tweaks can yield an action. We wanted to test each variable to see what worked best.”

Test results showed that adding a clear, direct CTA could significantly influence purchase intent. The ad with the “shop online” CTA drove a 4.8% lift in purchase intent compared to the version with no CTA. Mac plans to use these learnings to inform future campaigns.

As we continue to navigate change, one thing that remains constant: importance of campaign effectiveness. By determining the most effective format, finding your best customers, and tweaking your creative, your campaign can work harder to achieve your goals.

How to ensure your video creative is driving performance