Best Practices in Direct Response Video Ads: Hidden in Plain Sight

A well-executed, targeted video ad campaign can open up new opportunities for a brand in consumer engagement and deep messaging, beyond what had been possible in traditional display. This is especially the case in the transition from desktop to mobile. And yet, those opportunities aren’t always obvious or intuitive.

Video has the potential for communicating more to the consumer, in more compelling ways, than display. An important part of that potential is in direct response: Online video, when managed well, can be uniquely positioned to inspire the consumer to take action and move closer to the point of purchase. In order to unlock that potential, though, a brand needs to think of how direct response video can enhance the messaging brands are already putting forth in other channels, and what this method can communicate in ways other channels and formats can’t.

Direct response video advertising offers distinct opportunities in digital, but only when brands come to understand what makes those opportunities distinct and how to act on them. Here are some best practices to remember in creating and running a direct response video ad campaign.

Have a clear and dynamic call to action (CTA)

The CTA in a video ad can be much livelier and more eye-catching than in traditional display — so don’t waste it. Fine-tune the CTA before going live, and be diligent about A/B testing the creative. Make sure the CTA doesn’t get lost in the video. Also, be sure the creative in general, and the CTA specifically, is right for each platform where you’re running the campaign and each audience you’re trying to reach. For example: If your creative features one of your higher-end products, does it attract your target audience in social? How about on mobile? Does your audience respond better to the sight of a budget-priced product on one platform? Let the creative that moves your target audience inform your CTA.

The goal of any ad campaign is to have an engaging touchpoint. The touchpoint in video is of a different nature than a banner ad. Video creates an exceptional opportunity for drawing in the consumer, which is one of the reasons why it’s so appealing to digitally-savvy brands. While it may seem self-evident, not all brands and all advertisers remember that a video campaign needs to be clear about its CTA: If you do x, y will happen.

Be careful about ad placements and context.

Test your creative to understand which products perform well in which outlets and publications, but also consider the tools you use to target your audience. Geotargeting, for example, can work very well for a clothing brand, because it allows the brand to show the user certain garments appropriate to the climate and conditions. That can help a brand eliminate wasted spend from communicating the wrong message — for example, it might be fine to run an ad featuring winter coats to consumers in New York in January, but you probably don’t want to run that ad at the same time in L.A.

Go beyond repurposing video from TV or another source.

One place where brands often miss opportunities in digital video is by treating it not just as a mere extension of display, but as a complete afterthought to TV. In a lot of cases, you see brands using digital video for soft marketing purposes, or running variations of ads they might air on platforms where the viewer’s role is inherently more passive than digital. By treating digital video this way, brands are missing out on the format’s natural interactivity. Digital video has its own distinct applications. That entails the compelling CTAs we discussed earlier, but it also can mean original video content. Regardless of the cost of producing new video just for digital, it’s important for a brand that its messaging fits each platform.

Go beyond the desktop, and consider the consumer’s shift to mobile.

This is perhaps the biggest behavioral shift we’re seeing in ecommerce right now, and a direct response video campaign should act accordingly, bringing the brand’s messages closer to its target audience’s point of conversion. Video is very personal in mobile, and it affords brands a great opportunity for one-on-one interaction. This is helpful for ecommerce in general, and not just advertising, because it removes one friction point. Serve the consumer the same ad across all platforms, including on the mobile web and in apps. This gives the user more chances to interact with the ad, and to do so in a very targeted, personalized way.

Direct response digital video is not like every other advertising format. To get the most out of it, it’s important to understand and act on its strong suits. For brands, that means giving it the attention and imagination it needs to intimately reach and impact consumers.