YouTube ads are still one of the most effective ways to attract leads, establish brand authority, and generate conversions. If you have an ad that’s worth watching, that is.
This is the crucial lesson many businesses get wrong. You can’t just point a camera at your product and have someone say: “Buy this!” while generic music plays in the background – YouTube’s algorithms are very good at determining what the viewers actually like.
In other words, if you want your ad to stand out, you need to put in the effort to make it look good. To show you what we mean, here are 7 YouTube ads that have managed to sway the algorithms and wow the crowd.
We start off with a public service announcement ad with a positive message: make sure your car is safe if you’re traveling with children. The message is simple and straightforward, but the way it’s presented is anything but.
We are presented with a seemingly innocent scene where a father is building a basketball hoop for his kids. He doesn’t seem to be doing a particularly good job, but he keeps shrugging it off, until the hoop comes crashing to the ground. The kids call him out on it, and the wife walks away to call her father to do the job.
The message is clear: don’t do a half-assed job when your kids’ safety is at stake. Compared to other safe driving ads, this one is a bit more light-hearted. But this is exactly why the ad works – the lack of seriousness is there to remind you that you should in fact treat the real matter seriously.
People are always complaining about slow internet speeds, but most of the time this sounds like a first world problem – internet access is faster today than it ever was. But as we saw during the pandemic lock-downs, there is more to this than meets the eye.
The basic premise of the ad is simple: a woman is introducing herself to her sister’s newborn child via video-call. The connection is laggy, so the image freezes a couple of times. Unfortunately, it freezes while the woman is frowning, and we know from science that babies can read faces with stunning accuracy. Cue the commercial for faster internet internet connection.
This ad highlights the fragility of our technologically-mediated interactions. If a dropping a few frames during a video call is enough to leave a lasting impression on child, we should shouldn’t be satisfied with anything but the best possible internet service.
Insurance ads are notoriously vague, which is par for the course when dealing with such a touchy subject. The result is that they usually come of either as too optimistic, or too grim, pleasing no one. This insurance ad is different.
The story here is that a father is running a hardware store, and his daughter is helping to run the place. All is well and good, until a storm sends a tree crashing through the store. Everybody is safe, but the store gets thrashed pretty badly. We then fast-forward to the future, and the father is passing down the store to the daughter. We then see a reversal of roles, where the father is now helping the daughter run the store.
The message is clear: the wise father took out an insurance policy beforehand to secure his family’s future. And it paid off – now he can safely retire and help out in small ways, returning the favor to the daughter.
Here we have another insurance ad, this time with a celebrity guest appearance by Shaquille O’Neal. If the last ad was all about subtlety, this one is direct and to the point. Let’s see why this one works so well.
We see Shaq sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a meal with his son. They’re approached by a pair of businessmen who wish to join the for the meal. But their opening line doesn’t do them any favors – they recall a moment where Shaq recommended an insurance company, and they disagreed with him to the point where they didn’t allow him to join them for a meal. Now they’ve changed their opinion, as Shaq’s recommendation was actually good. That’s too bad, since now Shaq won’t let them join in on the meal.
The key to understanding why this ad works is trust. If someone credible recommends you something, you should take their word for it. The same holds true for insurance companies – it’s not about chasing the best deal, it’s about working with someone with credibility.
Some products instantly click with consumers the moment they see the first ad showcasing it. Case in point, the original iPhone. For other products, it takes a while before customers start seeing the appeal. For example the Amazon Alexa virtual assistant. The latest Alexa ad is set to change this.
This has more resemblance to sci-fi shows like Black Mirror than it does to conventional ads. The story here is that a woman starts identifying her Alexa device with the actor Michael B. Jordan (possibly a jab at how unappealing the device itself looks). As the ad progresses, the woman starts getting increasingly more awkward (and hilarious) situations with “Michael”, culminating in a scene where they take a bath together.
The whole thing is played for laughs, but the message is clear: sometimes we need to project ourselves into the products to start seeing their true utility. A talking ball might not look like much, but if we imagine it was a real person, suddenly we can see it for what it truly is: a helpful companion.
Real estate isn’t the most exciting subject matter on the best of days, but a good ad can make anything sound super exciting. Online real-estate purveyor Zillow shows how it’s done in their latest YouTube ad.
We are dropped into a scene where a woman is attending a board meeting with her various personas. There’s Anti-social Me, Lazy Me, Paranoid Me, and who can forget Gullible Me. The meeting is supposed to decide whether Original Me should sell her home, and buy a new one. Each Me expresses their opinion in a way reminiscent of comedy sitcoms. It is very fun watch, and the actress nails the various personas. But the way the CTA is handled is downright beautiful. After a little back and forth between the personas, Helpful Me comes up with the solution: why not simply use the Zillow app?
Here we see an example where quality video trumps everything else in video marketing. If you have good acting, direction, editing, and jokes, you can sell pretty much anything as exciting.
There is something about car ads that make them a fascinating watch every time. Even if you don’t plan on buying a new car, a good car ad will make you glance awkwardly towards the pile of junk sitting on the side of the of the road which you affectionately call “Da Machine” (terrible name by the way).
Hyundai reaches back into mankind’s history to retell the tale of evolution from the perspective of convenience. The message is clear: the first instance of something is always crude, imperfect, and especially annoying to use. Language first sounded like a bunch of grunts, carriages were a terrible way to travel, maps were laughably imprecise, and so on. That is, until Hyund got it right on the first try with the IONIQ 5 series of electric cars. The presentation is complimented with high production values, as befitting a car that boasts a 300m range AR heads-up display.
Hyundai shows that you can always do something new with car ads. There is just something about shiny boxes with wheels that makes our mammalian brains salivate and lunge for our wallets.
There you have, 7 YouTube ads that prove that video is still the most effective form of marketing. A minute-long clip is enough to keep millions of viewers glued to the screen – all you have to do then is gently nudge them towards your store.