A guide to video creative excellence with Google

James Haslam

Oct 1, 2019

Video is one of the most effective ad formats available, and you’re missing out if you’re not making the most of them. The IAB, an advertising business organization, found that marketers were spending 25% more on video than a year ago, signaling that industries are turning their eyes to new formats (approachable audiences) for added impact.

Matching ad formats to a receptive audience is a win-win: users find the content engaging, rewarding marketers with down-the-funnel conversions. But creating content that delights audiences is a real challenge. Without a handful of best practices nailed down, you could be working on delivering creatives that don’t resonate — wasting time and precious resources.

We spoke to Miao Xing, Product Manager from Google’s mobile ads team to learn more about Google’s view on video advertising’s best practices. With Miao, we learned about the best formats for apps, and some insider’s tips on how to turn your creatives into successful campaigns.

What makes videos stand out?

Different formats carry their own set of benefits and limitations, from the cost of placement to the price of creation. For example, text-based ads or images let marketers reach an audience at a low cost, though they are less likely to engage overall.

The ubiquity and accessibility of video make it a prized placement. As Miao points out, YouTube has over one billion unique users who watch six billion hours of video monthly. On mobile, this translates to two billion daily views. It’s not difficult to see that video has become a format people respond to, and deeply engage.

One such example of a brand that’s made video pay dividends is ViettelPay, a payments system based in Vietnam. According to Miao, the company leveraged video assets to acquire 25% of total new users with 48% lower CPA than the market average. “And that’s just one of many examples on Google’s platform alone,” Miao said.

But video can be costly - how do teams mitigate that?

“That’s becoming more of an outdated view, I think,” says Miao. Many high-quality videos that involve heavy production, such as made-for-TV spots, are labor-intensive and resource-heavy. But many video advertising, and specifically those for apps, are relatively easy to produce at low cost.

Take, for example, the global phenomenon Minecraft. This simple spot generated with in-game video led to over 20 million views. Though brand and quality products have a lot to do with this ad’s reach, it displays the power of a simple video created at low-cost, based on in-app assets.

An app demo video, such as the one seen in Ada Health’s spot, is also an effective way to control cost and engage app users with the direct app experience. By broadcasting to the right audience, you’re directly showing the capabilities of your app in preview. “Showing the capabilities of your app within five seconds is crucial,” says Miao, “it’s more impactful than building a story with a longer ad or campaign.”

Having some video assets is better than no video assets at all, especially for working with Google App campaigns. “With a few short video assets uploaded to Google App campaigns, app marketers can take advantage of video inventories across Google properties, such as YouTube and Admob,” says Miao, “Overall you should be looking at the ROI for the entire campaign, which includes the cost for creatives. If the extra performance gain can justify the extra cost, then move forward.”

How do creatives work in App campaigns?

Google App Campaigns use machine learning to combine a bid, your budget, and creative assets to create ads. The algorithm decides when, where, and who to serve ads that are most likely to succeed (users who install, make in-app purchases, etc.)

By removing the need to calibrate bids, marketers are free to focus on creating a collection of creative assets for the machine to leverage, such as texts, images, videos, and HTML5. “On the platform, we recommend filling all the text slots and uploading at least two videos (landscape & portrait, 15s-30s) and one landscape image. For optimal results, upload the maximum cap for videos, images, HTML5 with diverse content, length and orientation,” says Miao.

Many of Google’s tools can help manage and optimize creatives. Creative Asset Reporting is one such feature that provides granular asset performance insights and optimization suggestions. Let’s now move on to the tips for creating great videos for app ads.

5 tips to create “unskippable” video creatives

1. Lead with experience over story

As Miao mentioned, modern audiences prefer ads to begin quickly so they can get into the experience of the app as soon as possible (within the first five seconds). For many top-performing ads, the ad is the product. As such, either showing a direct experience of the app, or a quick demo of the app capabilities is enough to pique interest.

Story takes more of a back seat, though for some apps in e-commerce, ride-hail, or finance, it continues to be a necessary focus for communicating more complex experiences.

2. Brand with the app experience

Yes, your brand logo should appear as much as possible — but there’s more to the brand than your logo. The best ads have one of three common approaches when it comes to getting branding right:

  • Brand with app experience: showing the app itself with branding present
  • Brand always: persistent branding, often using vertical video with branding on the sides
  • Brand often: getting to the brand early in the ad with multiple audio and visual cues

3. Go beyond the basics with your call to action

If the aim of an ad is conversion, a call to action (CTA) should be used to direct users to the right place. You can make CTAs throughout the runtime of the ad, or at the beginning and/or end. Replace any broad CTAs such as “Learn More” with customized messages based on your campaign goals and app vertical to maximize conversions. Many advertisers also used provocative CTAs to offer direct challenges to viewers to encourage them to compete.

Other than this, apps generally do not require a wide range of supplemental calls to action (audio calls to download, for example). Given the nature of the experience, people need the motivation to download more than direction on what to do.

4. Video needs to make sense without sound

According to Digiday, 85% of Facebook video is watched without any sound being played, and this also applies across many other inventories. Use engaging visuals to capture users’ attention and consider adding captions to get your message across accessibly.

5. Simplify localization by reducing text

While text and sound enrich the user experience, it could increase the effort and cost for localization. If budget is a constraint, simplify your message in text and audio for initial video campaigns that you want to use everywhere. However, if budget allows, we recommend customizing your video creatives for different regions and demographics to optimize performance.

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