Video Marketing: Your Guide to Creating High Quality Video Ads
February 28, 2018
- Video Advertising •
Aden Andrus• February 28, 2018
Video marketing has always been an incredibly effective way to promote your business. In the years since Bulova ran the world’s first TV commercial back in 1941, video marketing has become a staple of advertising.
In fact, TV ads have been the most effective form of media advertising for decade. But, when the typical 30-second spot on a nationally televised program can cost upwards of $100,000, all of the benefits of TV advertising have been firmly out of reach for most small-to-medium businesses.
The internet changed all of that.
These days, people consume an enormous amount of online video content. While TV engagement has been declining over the past few years, YouTube viewership has skyrocketed. Every day, the world watches 1 billion hours of YouTube videos. That’s equivalent to 100,000 years…more than all of human history—in a single day!
In addition to YouTube, people watch countless hours of video content on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo and Wistia. Whether it’s a makeup tutorial or a trailer for an upcoming blockbuster, people now engage online with the world—and businesses—through video.
The good news is, now that video content is no longer the exclusive domain of Hollywood and network broadcasting stations, anyone can put the power of video marketing to work for their business. You don’t have to pay for a $4 million spot in the Superbowl—you can get great results for pennies-per-view.
To make things even better, creating video ads has never been easier or more affordable, which means you can get started today using the smartphone you’re probably using to read this article. Let’s dive in!
1) Decide What Kind of Video You Want to Create
Every good video marketing campaign starts with a purpose. You’re about to put a lot of time and effort into creating a compelling audio-visual experience—and a lot of money into promoting it online—what do you want people to do after they see your video?
Here are a few possible options:
- Make a purchase
- Download something
- Contact you
- Remember your business
- Make an association between your business and a positive feeling
- Share your video with others
The response you are looking for will have a huge impact on the type of video you choose to create.
For example, Geico and Ford use very different approaches in their TV commercials because their goals are very different. Geico wants you to call and sign up for insurance, so their commercials are usually focused on how easy it is to get insurance through Geico and save money:
Ford, on the other hand, wants you to buy a vehicle, so they create commercials that are focused on the features of their vehicles and the experience of owning a Ford.
The good news is, once you know what you want people to do after they watch your ad, it’s usually fairly easy to decide what type of ad you need to run. Here are a few different types of video ads to consider:
1) Product Demonstration Videos
The best way to convince someone that you product will solve a problem in their life is to show them how it works. This is why infomercials are so effective, because they are visually heavy on showing how the product is used.
Product demos do really well for physical products and software because of their nature. The promotional video for a Gaff Gun shown above does really well at showing how your life is easier by using it.
2) Consumer Testimonial or Review Videos
Your job in this kind of video is to let your consumers do the talking for you. All you have to do is introduce the topic briefly, let them do that talking and then give a call to action at the end, and you’re golden.
These kinds of videos perform very well because it directly shows the people that are having the experiences with your product or service. There’s very few other ways to show that kind of “real and authentic” experience of the consumer.
For example, check out this video review posted by LifeLock:
In filming testimonial videos, you’ll need to outline the story that you want them to tell in bullet point format and then ask them questions that prompt them to answer with that outlined narrative. If you don’t often you’ll film for hours without any direction hoping that the consumer will give you one liner that you can use.
The other thing that you need to keep in mind when you are getting testimonials is that most people haven’t been on camera before. Non-actors get nervous on camera and a nervous spokesman doesn’t invoke confidence in a viewer. Put the time in to learn how to interview non-actors.
3) Educational or Instructional Videos
Find a problem that your target market is experiencing and educate them about your particular solution. Do this in a synopsis, or highlight reel sort of way. It should add value to the viewers experience without giving away everything that’s in your piece of content. Take our blog summary videos for example, or this highlight video for a course on headshot photography.
The best way to know that you will leave your audience wanting more is to go by the mini skirt rule: your video should be short enough to capture their attention, but long enough that it covers the subject.
Whether it’s an expert interview, an explainer video, a how-to-video or some other instructional content, educational videos can be a great way to provide value without coming off as overly sales-focused. This can be a great way to build positive relationships with your potential customers using video marketing.
4) Behind-the-Scenes Videos
BTS (behind-the-scenes) videos are extremely effective if you have a premium product or a large fan base for your already existing content. It gets the basic consumer to appreciate what you do so much more.
BTS videos do so well because of the visual storytelling that replaces the lame phrase “it’s high quality.” Everyone is skeptical when they hear that phrase. However, it’s hard for people not to make that opinion on their own if they see the detailed process that it takes to make your product.
When you are putting together the BTS promotional video, it’s important to try and piece together a story. It should revolve around why your product was made the way it was and show the details of why that made it better.
Depending on who you’re marketing to and what your business goals are, one or more of the types of videos we’ve discussed here may be worth trying. The trick is figuring out what your potential customers will be most interested and how you can use that to get people to do what you want them to do.
2) Identify Your Target Audience
To create an effective video marketing campaign, you need to understand who you are targeting with your video. Unlike some types of online advertising, video ads are often targeted to fairly large groups of people, but it’s still important to know who your ad is specifically intended for.
Unfortunately, many advertisers say, “I want an ad that will appeal to everyone in my target market.” That may be true, but your ad needs to be selective. Targeting everyone is lazy and a waste of money.
It’s far better to make five ads that are specific to different demographics—even if they are all advertising the same product. You’ll get way more conversions that way. So keep things simple, like this ad.
Everyone can eat Cheerios, so why does this ad target dads if everyone can eat them? Because, in most households, dads are the ones bringing home the bacon (literally). Even if someone else does the shopping, the dad has his input on the shopping list.
Also, a good reason to target dads is that a dad’s ears will perk up when they hear the words “father” being repeated on a screen. They may not perk up as much when they see an ad for kids toys.
Specific targeting is like waving a giant flag in front of your market’s face and screaming “watch this!” The more specific your messaging and target market, the higher your conversion rates will be, which is what we’re all after anyway.
2) Script Out Your Video Marketing Ad
Now that you know what the goal of your video is and who you’re targeting, it’s time to put together the script for your video ad. Your script will be the heart and soul of your video ad, so it pays to take your time and really think through your script.
Let’s take a look at what goes into a great video ad script.
Great Scripts Tell a Story
Good ads tell a story. This is true for any ad, but it’s especially important for video marketing, because the story is what drives viewers to watch more. They want to see how the whole adventure unfolds.
Take this video, for instance.
While watching this ad for Dirt Devil, you genuinely feel tense. There is a demon in this house and it’s not going to go away. This horror story wouldn’t have done nearly as well if they called in a plumber to come get their daughter off the ceiling. There would be no tension to break.
As you begin writing your script, try to come up with interesting characters and a setting that people can get invested in. Do something with the world in your that makes it memorable. Combine worlds that shouldn’t be combined, do the unexpected, or, heck, just tell us a love story.
Even if you are doing an infomercial type commercial where you have a spokesperson that talks to the camera, you can still tell a story. Find a good metaphor for your company’s product and then design a commercial that runs with that metaphor or go the exact opposite of that metaphor.
Take the Squatty Potty commercial, for example. Talking about poop is a faux pax. Squatty Potty flipped this on its head, however, by using unicorn poop to illustrate the benefits of using the Squatty Potty.
In both of these situations, the video ad tells a story. It creates characters that you want to know more about and then unfolds them bit by bit in a hilarious sit-com sort of way.
Great Scripts Address a Central Truth
Many advertisers get so focused on making a “funny” add that they create an ad without a central truth that their target audience can identify with. This is part of the reason why many Skittles commercials are so weird. They completely throw out any or all universal truths.
This commercial is just wrong. Most people are not interested in eating Skittles when they are picked off the face of a pubescent boy. If your imagery is incompatible with the ideals of your target market, they will not have an increased desire to buy your product.
A compelling universal truth can be the difference between a viral video and just an okay performing one.
For instance, if you have an ad that implies that you are buying your child an iPad to shut them up, that won’t sell as many iPads than one that suggests that you should buy an iPad for your child because they deserve the best. The first invokes resentment towards children and the second provokes love.
Nailing your universal truth is important because the internet is brutal. The internet will let you know immediately if the truth that you are trying to use to say that you understand your target market’s feelings is off. And they won’t be nice about it. Take the time to make sure that you understand your target market before you try to identify their sweet spot.
Great Scripts Make People Feel Something
Video marketing is so effective because it’s a multimedia experience. You have moving images, sounds, words and music—all of which are great for evoking emotion from your target audience. Whether you make them laugh, cry or something in between, a good video ad will make people feel something.
If you can evoke emotion in your audience, you will capture their attention and increase the likelihood that they will both remember your business and actually do what you want them to do.
Take this ad, for instance:
This sad lamp ad from IKEA does a great job of telling the story of a lamp that is outdated and is being replaced. You feel bad for the lamp sitting out in the rain, abandoned like a lost puppy looking for a new owner.
What you don’t realize that this entire IKEA ad is designed to help change your feelings of sentiment towards your own furniture. It gets you to experience your own feelings of attachment and then overrides those feelings with humorous logic. Now, you can update your own furniture without feeling bad about it.
Humor is an easy option to use in your video marketing, but you can also use sadness, fear, and discomfort to make your ads memorable and shareable. You can use whatever emotion you want, but make sure the emotion is right for your brand.
Generally speaking, a good guideline to go with when you are writing an ad is to think about what life would be like with or without your product and then explore that world. The emotions should become clear as you explore. If you aren’t sure that you’ll be able to make an ad with a concrete emotion, hire a professional.
Great Scripts Get People to Do Something
Ever watch a video ad and think, “Cool, but now what?” You could spend $100,000 creating a viral ad that gets millions of views, but if your audience doesn’t know what to do at the end of your ad, you just paid for an expensive way to confuse all those viewers. Be clear and concise, and make sure your call to action is at the end of the ad, so that the viewer will remember what to do.
You want your audience to know specifically what they should do and how they can do it right after watching your ad.
It’s as simple as saying “get yours now at such-and-such website.” At the very least, you should let the audience know what the brand is that is sharing the commercial. That way, even if your audience isn’t currently in the market for your product or offer, when they are they will remember your business first.
This commercial does great at delivering a story, provoking an emotion, and entertaining the audience. It doesn’t really need to say “buy a Volkswagon” because just the brand reminder is enough by itself. Their call to action is long term. It needs to last 5-10 years till the next time the viewer is buying a car.
Great Scripts Start with a Hook
When it comes to video marketing, you don’t have long to grab your audience’s attention. YouTube gives you a forced 5 seconds to work with and on social media, you usually have even less time to “hook” your audience.
As a result, a good script needs to start with something that will catch people’s attention and let it lead them into thinking about your product or service. An amazing example of this is BlendTech’s “Will It Blend?” ad campaign.
Wanton destruction of property is something people just love watching. It’s fascinating to watch common objects that you wouldn’t ever expect to see blended get torn apart in a blender. It ups the ante even more when the objects become too expensive for you to ever consider personally blending, like an iPhone.
Is it any wonder that the “Will it blend?” campaign is one of the most successful online viral video ad campaigns of all time?
Having a good hook is almost half the battle. If people aren’t caught from the beginning, they won’t be able to see the rest of your content, even if it is really good.
How exactly you choose to put together your script will depend on your audience and your goals, but a good script will include several of the elements we’ve discussed in this section. Your script will make or break your video, so make sure you take the time to come up with a good one.
3) Create a Storyboard and a Shot List
Unfortunately, as important as your script is, you can’t film from a script. To turn your vision into an actual video ad, you need to figure out how you want you script to be filmed. For that, you’ll need to put together two things: a storyboard and a shot list.
Your script is important, but it’s just words. You’re going to be making a motion picture, so it’s a good idea to think your way through what you want your script to look like on camera. In film, this sort of script visualization is called a “storyboard“.
Storyboarding is an important step because it allows you to double-check your shot list and make sure you’ve accounted for every shot you want in your ad.
Well-drawn storyboards can be really useful to your camera operator because they indicate motion that will happen in that specific shot like so:
If you don’t have any artistic ability and/or don’t have access to anyone with artistic ability, shot lists like this are fine, too:
Having your shot list on post-it notes will let you put your storyboard together according to the script, and then move scenes around. This can help you decide if you need to add or remove shots or tweak elements of your script. Either way, a storyboard will help you fully visualize what you are making before you actually go to shoot it.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Okay, I’ve got a script and a storyboard that I’m happy with, I’m good to start filming, right?”
Well…not quite. When it comes to making video ads, the more time you spend preparing, the smoother your shoot will go and the easier it will be to edit your footage afterwards.
So, before you can start filming that brilliant video ad you’ve envisioned, you need to put together a shot list. Of course, if you’re new to filming, you might be wondering, “What exactly is a shot list?”
When you’re filming, it is everything.
Basically, a shot list is a list of everything you need to get your shooting done, from the order you’ll be filming to any notes you might have.
It will probably look something like this:
Here are the basic things you need to have on your shot list.
- Scene and shot number—shows the order of the video.
- Location—lets you know where you will do your shooting.
- Shot description—tells what will be happening on camera.
- Framing—helps you know what sort of lens you’ll need on the camera.
- Action—accounts for any action required that isn’t shown in the shot description.
- Dialogue—gives cues for where in the script the shot starts and ends
- Actors—tells you which actors you will need there for the shot.
- Props—gives you a list of any items you might need for the shot.
- Notes—gives you space to add in anything important that you want to be part of the shot (whether you want this to be particularly dramatic, quirky, dark, whatever).
You can leave some of these things off to save space—say, you only have one actor—and you can add some in if they’re important (eg, you need special lighting for certain shots but not others). Still, most of that can be added into notes. It really depends on how you like it.
Now, why is a shot list important? Well, without it, post-production (editing and the like) will be horrible.
The scene number and shot number help your editor know the sequence your shots should be in so that what you have recorded matches the script in the end. This is critical because almost no videos are recorded with their shots in the same order they were in the script.
4) Create a Filming Schedule
Guess what? You still aren’t ready to shoot… Now that you have a shot list, you can start making your film schedule.
Unless your script is incredibly simple (ie, it’s just you talking to a camera on a tripod), you’re going to have a lot of things and people to coordinate. For that, you’ll need a solid filming schedule. Here are a few things to consider as you put together your schedule.
1. Account for Fatigue
Your crew will have the most energy in the beginning to the middle of the film day. After lunch you are fighting the ticking clock of wear and tear on energy and mental stability.
If you have shots that are going to take more patience out of the crew make sure to plan them in the first half of the day. Your crew will fight against you the later the day goes. The worst thing they can say to you is “we’ll fix it in post” (aka, “we can fix it during the editing process, right?”).
2. Get it Right on Set
“We’ll fix it in post” is the worst sentence you hear on set. At the time, tweaking things in the editing room sounds easy, but in real life, you generally end up wishing that you had just done one more take slightly differently. Typically, it takes at least four times as much time in post to fix the mistake than would have to just film it another time or two and get it right.
With that in mind, make sure that you have tested out any type of shot that you think you are going to need special effects on. If you are doing a screen replacement, make sure that you do a test shot and try editing it before the shoot. You’ll usually find out that there is something practical that you can do on set that will make editing way easier.
As an added plus, figuring out your tricky shots in advance will also give you a better idea of how much time they will take to film. Sometimes, one particularly difficult shot can take hours and that’s something you can’t afford to discover on set.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Film Out of Order
Actors are odd ducks. They would rather work really hard for one extended burst rather than being called back and forth onto and off of set. It keeps their acting momentum and it keeps up their spirits. A happy crew and actor means a happy director.
To account for this, make sure that you try and group each actor’s scenes together as much as possible. This may mean that you film your script out of order, but that’s okay! Most films are filmed out of order because it saves the production team money. If you film all of one actor’s scenes on one day then you only have to pay them one day rate.
4. Think Through Your Locations
Scheduling filming around locations will save you time and money. If you’re clever about picking the right location, sometimes you can give the impression of multiple locations without having to pack up all your filming equipment and head to a new spot.
Being thoughtful about where and when scenes need to be filmed is important because travel between locations takes time. Be generous with that travel time too, because someone always gets lost, has car trouble, or forgot a piece of equipment back at the last location.
If you are filming different shots in different parts of the same location, it will save you more time if you are filming in a house to go from one room to the next closest room if the script allows for it. The further you have to walk with all your gear from one shot to the next, the longer your shoot takes. Treat your schedule in a single locale like a tour of the facility. Try and make one seamless path that back tracks on itself as little as possible.
5. Time of Day Matters
Sunlight only lasts so long and inconsistent lighting in your shots makes for consistent headaches in editing (and can often result in a low quality finished product). Make sure your lighting between scenes is consistent to the script that you have.
So, while you’re planning your shoot, take the time to Google when sunrise and sunset is before you set your schedule down on paper.
If changing sunlight is going to be an issue for your shoot, you can control your lighting by using blackout curtains and lighting equipment. If you hire a good gaffer, he’ll handle the whole thing for you. Just make sure that he has all of the equipment that he requests.
6. Make Time for Makeup
Makeup can take 10 minutes or 7 hours. Even when you aren’t trying to turn an actor into the Grinch, make sure that your call times give your actors at least 30-60 minutes of leeway for before they are needed on set. There’s nothing worse than having to delay your shoot because makeup is taking too long to apply.
In general, treat makeup like a location. Take a tour with your makeup needs from scene-to-scene from the least complicated to the most complicated.
7. Put the Riskiest Shots at the End
Stunts (or even hazardous shots) complicate any shoot. With that in mind, it’s important to get the right stunt coordinator first so that you can be aware of the safety requirements for each stunt. Then, if you have more than one stunt plan them in order accordingly (just like locations and make up) from the least intensive to the most. Stunts are dangerous, so it’s important that you get the main content for your ad first.
If your actor gets injured to the point that he can’t act anymore then, there goes your entire day if you filmed the riskiest stunts first. It’s easier to schedule a couple hours of pick up shots than an entire day to reshoot the whole commercial if an actor ends up out of commission due to a failed stunt.
8. Find the Right Crew
The size of your crew affects to how fast you can move on set. Big crews move slower between shots. Small crews move faster but may not have enough manpower to do everything that they need to. Make sure that the size of your crew is equal to the task at hand.
If you ever anticipate having to do two jobs on set at the exact same time, then you need more people. Make sure that your crew members know their stuff, though. The better someone knows their craft, the faster they are and the better quality they will produce.
9. Keep an Eye on the Weather
Weather is a beast. You can make tentative plans to film out a month in advance, but unless you know that everything will be indoors you are still gambling with your schedule. You can start looking up the weather for a location on Google up to two weeks in advance.
If the weather is vital to your shoot, then plan out multiple possible shoot dates and go with the one that best fits the weather. Plan them anywhere from a couple of days to a week apart. Just make sure the last day that you could possibly shoot will still give you enough time in post to deliver the video ad on time. Plan on shooting on the first date possible and then move back in order according to how soon the weather lets up.
Once you’ve created a filming schedule that covers all of your bases, you’re just about ready to film! All you need is the right filming equipment.
5) Pick Your Filming Equipment
Great video ads need a great ad idea and great video equipment—if you don’t have the right gear, your ad isn’t going to deliver the value you’re hoping for. Since identifying the right equipment can be a challenge (especially if you don’t have prior experience with film), let me walk you through a few good options to consider
For this article, I’m going to assume that your budget is pretty limited. Don’t worry, you can still make a decent video ad on a budget, it just takes a little more blood, sweat, and tears. Cheaper equipment will require a lot more out of you, but not your wallet.
If you’re looking at doing things for the cheapest price possible, I would recommend using an iPhone 7 Plus. I recommend the 7 Plus because it has different camera aperture sizes, one smaller and one larger, which will enable you to get more variety into your shots (think wide shots as opposed to close-ups).
This video should give you a good idea of what those differences look like (and look to about 38 seconds to 45 seconds for a good close-up to wide shot).
No matter what you’re filming, you’ll want at least a wide and close-up lens option from your camera like the ones included on the iPhone 7 Plus. Don’t just zoom in on your camera please, you probably won’t like the quality of shot you get from it.
That being said, there are external lenses you can buy and attach to your phone to give you different lens options, but I’ve heard it on good authority that those are all pretty much junk. Don’t waste your money on them.
If you already have a phone with a good camera on it, great. Get the right app for it so you can manually adjust your settings, because just filming on your auto settings won’t look anywhere near as good. I would recommend Filmic Pro. It’s only $10 bucks and give you some pretty great control of your camera settings.
Next up, you’ll want to make sure you can get some good audio. You can use either a lavalier mic from Rode ($70+an app) to record from your phone (if budgets are super tight) or you can get a Tascam DR-40 digital recorder for under $150. Remember, what you need will depend on the kind of video you’re doing.
If you will be doing a talking head” sort of video, the Rode mic will work great, but if you want to film other kinds of commercials, you’ll probably want the Tascam. You can put it at the end of a pole and get it close and use it almost like a boom mic, which will give you more versatility with your audio.
Lastly, you will definitely want to invest in some decent lighting equipment. At a minimum, I would suggest a softbox lighting set like this one that will let you do some three point lighting. It’s about $120 and it should get the job done in most cases.
This video has some basic lighting tips, and will show you at the most basic level what bad lighting or good lighting looks like.
How your subjects are lit will be a huge determiner of the end quality of your video, whether you’re filming people or objects.
Remember, you’ll need a way to get power to all of these lights, so you might want to get a cheap power strip and maybe some extension cords to make sure they always have power.
As far as camera, audio and lighting goes, this is about as basic as it gets. However, you’ll probably want some equipment to stabilize your shots like a tripod (which will definitely make your life easier, just find one with a phone attachment) and maybe a 3-axis gimbal ($300) if you’re wanting nice, smooth looking shots (think of it as a tripod you can move around).
In addition, one thing people often forget is that you need somewhere to store your footage. High-quality video footage takes up a ton of space, so you’ll want an external storage drive to keep all of your video footage. For video storage the MyPassport 1TB external hard drive. That should hold you over if you aren’t planning on doing a lot of filming, and it’s only about $60.
Other than that, factor in the price for memory cards, extra batteries (or external batteries) and you’ll be looking at near $1,000 if you already have the camera phone you want.
All of this equipment will help give you a decent quality of video on a pretty low budget. If you want better equipment and have some extra cash around, check out this article for additional recommendations based on your budget.
6) Film Your Ad
If you’ve taken the time to think through everything you’ll need on filming day and create a great script, storyboard/shot list and filming schedule, actually filming your video ad should be the easiest part of the whole process!
Now, don’t get too excited, filming will be a long, arduous process with lots of takes and retakes, adjusting equipment and putting out fires (hopefully not literally), but we’ve already covered most of what you can expect in our planning steps. If you have the right people on your crew, actually executing on your plan should be fairly straightforward, so we’ll move on to the editing process.
7) Editing Your Ad
Once you actually have your footage, it’s time to head to the editing room and cut your video ad together.
There are a variety of free video editing programs you can use to edit your footage, but I personally prefer the power and usability of a program like Adobe Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve. These programs take a little more effort to learn, but they deliver a much more professional result.
As you edit your footage, you’ll want to make sure that the color grading between your shots is consistent. To help you with that, here is a great tutorial on color grading in Premiere Pro:
Most video editing software will come with a variety of color grading presets, so if you’re not particularly artistic, you can always use those presets to ensure that your footage looks consistent (and consistently great). It’s not quite as good as grading it yourself, but it will do the trick.
However, the biggest problem most people who are creating their first video marketing campaign struggle with is actually editing their content to create a compelling commercial. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 3 critical areas you need to pay attention to while editing your video ads.
1. Dialogue Speed Matters
When it comes to video marketing, audiences get bored if there is not enough happening on screen. Most of the time, you either need something really interesting taking place on screen or the dialogue of the actors needs to be compelling. You typically only have around 30 seconds to get your message across (at best!), so don’t waste it.
Quick cuts between lines of dialogue can help get the same amount of content out in a faster time. For example, if you are creating a video ad where two people are talking, you can start the audio for the second person while the video of the first speaker is still ending. That way, people are already engaging with the second person on screen before they even see their face.
Quick cuts allow you to cut out shots of the second person reacting to the first person’s speech while leaving in the first person’s reaction to the second person’s beginnings. It feels unnatural at first, but go watch any television show and you’ll see that they use this trick all the time. TV shows have to keep the momentum going because they only have 22-45 minutes of airtime.
Let’s be real though, you can only work with what you are given. If your actor is talking way too slow while you are shooting the