You could have the best product in the world, but if your ideal customers don’t know it exists, you’re just spinning your wheels. YouTube ads are a great way to get your video content in front of your audience – but it’s not enough to simply make a video.

Low video engagement is the scourge of many business owners, but it doesn’t have to be. You can increase brand awareness, attract new business, and get the attention of your target market with the right approach to video storytelling.

Here’s how to hook your audience within the first 5 seconds of your ad.

Plan Your Message

Though viewers prefer raw, authentic videos to more polished ads, you can’t exactly wing it. You need a clear, targeted message, or a concept that speaks directly to your target audience.

If you cast your net too widely, you’ll have a wishy-washy message that doesn’t capture the attention of your ideal viewer, or tell them why they should spend a few minutes watching your content. Know your audience and tailor the message to them.

To do that, you have to know what your audience is looking for. Think about:

  • Their pain points
  • Their interests
  • The challenges or stress they experience every day
  • The problems they’re trying to solve
  • The content they enjoy
  • The brand voice and personality they expect

Need a little guidance? Tools like Google Analytics and YouTube’s built-in analytics can offer key insights into your audience and competitors. You can also glean insights from interactions on your social media videos or other marketing content to better understand your audience.

Lead your YouTube Ads with a Catchy Headline

Just like the first line of an article, your headline has to make an impact – especially with YouTube ads. According to research, 8 out 10 people will never make it past the headline, so you have to use those precious view words to capture their attention.

Some tips for an effective video title:

  • Make sure your title matches the content (no clickbait!)
  • Know your audience and speak to them
  • Rely on keyword research
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Provide a compelling hook
  • Keep your title under 60 characters
  • Create listicle-style titles
  • Study your competitors’ videos

This is an example of a good headline from Google Small Business that addresses the audience’s pain points and goals:

Tell a Story with your YouTube Ads

Humans are drawn to stories. Designing your video ad around a narrative will attract the viewer’s attention better than conveying information in a basic way. Your viewers become more immersed in the message and more compelled to take the action you want – signing up, subscribing, or completing a purchase.

How do you turn your content into a story? Think about the essence of what you want to say. Triumph over adversity? The power of community? The pursuit of a dream? Think beyond the direct benefits of your product or service to the larger context.

One of the best examples of storytelling in video ads is Xfinity’s recent ad, “The Aviators.” It tells the story of a clever granddaughter helping her veteran grandfather and his friends fly jets once again with the power of VR and Xfinity Internet.

YouTube Ads for Xfinity presents The Aviators

Don’t Forget the Call to Action (CTA)

A clear and compelling call to action (CTA) is essential to every successful campaign, including YouTube ads. The CTA is how you tell the viewers what action you want them to take, whether it’s subscribing to your channel, checking out your website, or purchasing a product.

Like your headline, your CTA should be persuasive, clear, and concise so you viewers know exactly what you want them to do and how to do it. Your CTA should align with your ad’s message – which should motivate them throughout the content to seal the deal. Include a CTA as on-screen text and narration for more impact.

Keep Your Brand at the Forefront of your YouTube Ads

Video ads from the top brands are instantly recognizable through logo, brand colors, familiar faces, or other details. You should do the same with your brand to boost awareness and ensure you stay top-of-mind for your viewers.

That said, you don’t want to create a video that’s all about your brand with salesy language and a lot of promotional aspects. Try to include your brand as seamlessly as possible without detracting from the story and the message of value you’re offering for your audience.

Keep It Fun

Humor is a powerful tool in advertising and can capture attention and memory more successfully than other tactics, but you have to be careful about it. Humor is highly subjective – what’s hilarious to one person may be offensive to another.

When Peloton took a shot at humor with a holiday ad in 2019 that featured a man giving his wife a Peloton bike as a Christmas gift, the brand was heavily criticized for reinforcing negative body images.

However, the controversy did inspire a spoof ad from Aviation Gin that featured the same actress exchanging her stationary bike for gin martinis, which she drinks with friends. The caption read, “Exercise bike not included.”

One miss, one hit. Be mindful of how you incorporate humor and always aim to be entertaining and memorable, not offensive or controversial (unless that fits your brand).

Experiment and Test

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to better YouTube ad engagement. What connects with one audience may fall flat with another, so you have to experiment a little and determine what speaks to your target viewers.

Try different storytelling techniques, headlines, CTAs, visual styles, multimedia additions, and video marketing SEO tactics to see what works and what doesn’t. Fortunately, YouTube has excellent analytics to track your ad performance and optimize your strategy moving forward.

Hook Your Audience

Creating attention-grabbing YouTube ads can feel like an overwhelming challenge – especially if you’re not getting much engagement with your current strategy. Incorporating some best practices, experimenting, and evaluating your ad performance can help you unlock the key to your audience and create ads that hook them in seconds.

Torrey Tayenaka is the co-founder and CEO at Sparkhouse, an Orange County based commercial video production company.