Building a Video Advertising Strategy From the Ground Up

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  • 3/31/2020
    You know those tea bags with inspirational sayings printed on the tags? Or have you ever cracked open a fortune cookie? Then maybe you’re familiar with the adage, “If you wait for the perfect moment, you will never start.”
    That’s how we feel about video advertising. Video marketing is important and a great way to engage your audience, but the concept of creating, executing and launching video can seem overwhelming. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to invest in video ads, it will never come!
    Video marketing is the kind of project you need to dive into headfirst without overthinking. Don’t get us wrong, a thought-out strategy is important, but set aside a few hours, or take advantage of downtime, and you’ll see how simple getting started with video advertising can be. 

    Things to know before developing a video advertising strategy

    When marketers talk about “video advertising,” they’re generally referring to one of two definitions:
    • The advertising content that plays before, during and after streaming video content.
    • All video advertising, including streaming ads, display ads and native ads.
    YouTube is such a huge streaming platform that shows so many advertisements per day that some marketers consider it to be their primary and only video ad network. For others who make use of social media or programmatic ads, the definition is a bit more broad.
    Bottom line: You’re focused solely on YouTube or you’re focused on multiple channels. Either way your goal is to get promotional video content in front of the right audience at the right time.
    You aren’t alone in choosing a video marketing strategy. In 2018, video ad spend hit $28 billion and it’s expected to surpass $50 billion by 2023.
    One HubSpot survey found that 99 percent of marketers currently using video expect to continue into 2020 and beyond. Of those who were not doing video, 59 percent said they planned to implement video in their marketing in 2020. What we’re trying to say here is that there’s a good chance your competition is already using video in their advertising. It’s time for you to catch up or fall behind! 

    How to get started with video advertising

    Like any strategy, the best way to get started is to know your goals. What exactly is your objective in investing time and money into video? Is it brand awareness? Increased sales? Your goals have a huge impact on your overall approach. 
    It also helps to dig a little deeper into the goals and challenges faced by your target audience. Determine what the audience’s problem is and how you can address or solve it. This will provide a little support for your goals and your overall content and targeting methods.
    Finally, once you know your goals, don’t forget your KPIs! Decide what you will measure in order to determine success. For example, if you’re looking to increase your reach, you will want to measure the ad’s delivery and impressions. If you’re looking to drive engagement, your clickthrough rate is your most important KPI. 

    Setting a budget for video advertising

    While there’s no set number you should plan to budget for video advertising, there are a number of factors you should keep in mind when crunching the numbers.

    Geographical targeting

    How big is the area you plan to target? Are you spreading your ad nationally or sticking to certain cities or DMAs? The smaller your geographic area, the less your ads will cost to distribute and vice versa.

    Audience size

    Are you targeting a niche audience with your ads or are you sending them out on a wide scale to a broad audience? Ads that target a niche segment are typically less costly than those that reach a broad audience.


    Many industries have high competition, meaning several companies are trying to advertise similar products to the same audience. These ads will cost more as you are working against several active competitors. Niche products tend to have small competitive rates and therefore cost less.

    Research your audience (thoroughly!) 

    To better set up your strategy, it’s time to delve back into your personas. Do some research by asking your audience directly or consulting a secondary source and at minimum, find out:

    What devices are they watching on? 

    For many video ad campaigns, you can target your audience based on the device they’re using. If 90% of your audience watches video on their smartphone, you should be targeting mobile users.

    Where are they consuming video content more often?

     Are they most often on Hulu? Watching live TV? Or do they stick to YouTube? This research helps you determine where to place your ads.

    Do they often read articles? 

    If so, look at native targeting. This puts your videos within and around the articles they read.

    Creating a video content strategy

    You know your goals, you know your audience’s challenges and you know your targeting strategies. Now it’s time to create the content that tells your brand’s story, addresses the consumer’s needs and sticks with your audience. Easy peasy.
    Just kidding. That’s a daunting task! To help you out, we suggest using the Hero, Hub, Help video content model. Hero, Hub, Help provides a framework for structuring your video content by classifying your videos under one of three categories:

    1. Hero 

    Your BIG content! This is your best work that you want pushed to a big, broad audience. You should have only a few of these videos per year and they will most likely form the foundation of your advertising content.

    2. Hub

    This content is deployed on a regular schedule and gives a different perspective on your Help content. It includes behind the scenes content, and fun, entertaining videos. 

    3. Help

    What questions does your audience have? What knowledge are they actively seeking? This content encompasses product-related and how-to videos and is generally evergreen.
    Use this framework to determine the type of content you want to promote, then factor in your research from earlier on your audience’s goals and challenges. This will give you a concept for your video content.

    Selecting an advertising network

    We’re getting closer to launch! Next you’ll need to select your preferred video advertising network. 
    Like we said earlier, many marketers opt to use only YouTube, but you have the option of using programmatic video advertising or placing your video on social media like Facebook and Instagram.
    There are pros and cons to each, but you should determine what works best for you by again going back to your audience research. For example, if you want your video to play between paragraphs in the article the user is reading, opt for programmatic. And if you want your content to be featured in between every third post on a user’s feed, focus on Instagram. 

    Selecting your video ad type

    Your next step to launch is determining your ad type. An ad type dictates where, when and on what devices you want your content to appear. There are several factors to consider.


    Will your ad be six seconds, 15 seconds or 30 seconds? Will you create various ads with the same concept, but different lengths? Remember that many longer video ads can be skipped or ignored, but it can be hard to fit your message into a mere six seconds. We suggest running multiple ads (with one concept or different concepts) and testing their lengths based on engagement results.

    Roll placement

    This factor applies to video ads that occur within streaming content. Your ad can be shown before the video (pre-roll), in the middle of it (mid-roll) or at the very end (post-roll). Your ad may be more appropriately placed at a certain time or your budget may only be able to accommodate less expensive, post-roll ads.

    Out-stream vs. In-stream

    This factor applies to programmatic ads. Out-stream video ads are non-intrusive and appear in sidebars and banners. In-stream ads are native, located within the page or text. Is your ad eye-catching from the sidebar or does it need to be placed within the page for a little boost. 

    Developing your audience targeting strategy

    There are several approaches you can take when choosing your ad audience. Whatever you decide should be based on the research you conducted earlier in this process regarding your audience personas and preferences.
    If you have the budget, we suggest developing a comprehensive approach to audience targeting that covers all three sections of the marketing funnel: Awareness, Consideration and Decision. 
    This approach requires having different content on hand that targets audiences in each stage of the buyer’s journey, meaning you may have to revisit your content development. 
    Each video should have messaging that caters to a specific stage of the funnel. For example, decision stage ads should prompt a sale and can include a discount for the user. It wouldn’t make sense for someone who has never heard of your brand and has no idea what you do to be prompted to purchase with a coupon.
    When you do select your targeting, you have several categories within which you can select your targeting preferences. Different options have different effects on your ultimate ad placement.
    • Behavioral targeting: Targeting based on preexisting online user choices and behavior
    • Contextual: Targeting based on site content. (i.e. placing a car ad on an automotive forum site)
    • In-market: Targeting users who have already expressed interest in your product or service market or industry.
    • Remarketing: Meaning the user has visited your site or landing page or has already seen one of your ads. You are now showing that same user a different piece of content.
    There are several targeting options available with programmatic ads only. Private marketplace (PMP) offer higher quality placements by opening the ad space up to an invitation-only bidding system based on budget and content. This option may be more expensive, but can lead to higher-quality placements in premium inventory spots. 
    With programmatic ads, you can also choose between targeting CTV and OTT services. Over-the-top (OTT) television means you are streaming content over the top of your cable provider, like if you have Comcast but subscribe to Hulu. Alternatively, Connected TV (CTV) involves using a physical device to access content, like a Roku remote or Amazon Fire Stick. 
    After you have checked your boxes, crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s, take some time and care to develop video assets based around your strategy. Arm yourself with videos of different lengths and slightly different concepts to test out. Then, we’re ready for liftoff.

    Your video ads strategy launch checklist

    Prior to launch, you should have thought through and developed everything we’ve mentioned above. Here’s a checklist to help you out. 

    Launching your video ads strategy

    It’s time to launch your campaign! 
    Take a brief moment to pop some champagne and take a celebration selfie. Maybe even blow a noisemaker - you earned it! But after your ads have run for about two weeks, it’s right back to business to start optimizing. 
    Revisit your KPIs and run a mini report with these measurements. Then, whether your results are good or bad, think through how you can increase your numbers. Start A/B testing your video ads by changing any of the following elements and reanalyzing performance.


    Analyze where your programmatic ads are being placed. Are the websites all relevant to your audience? Are these placements appropriate for your targeting strategy? If not, you can adjust your placement preferences or add negatives. Negatives allow you to opt out of having your ads shown in certain places by adding the sites to a personal blacklist. With programmatic ads, you can also switch to a PMP system, as mentioned above.

    Ad types

    Are out-stream ads not cutting it for you? Consider moving your programmatic ads in-stream so they show up within article text. Or, try moving your YouTube ad from post-roll to pre-roll.

    Ad length

    Switch up your ad lengths! If your 30-second ad is playing in pre-roll, it may keep getting skipped. Instead, place an unskippable, six-second ad and see if the results on your KPIs improve, especially completion rate.

    Device type

    Run the numbers once again on the device type your customers use the most. Then try mixing up your device targeting to desktop users instead of mobile or vice versa.


    A/B test your ad’s message or concept without changing your targeting settings to see what message better resonates with your audience. This will be extremely helpful in determining future video ad targeting strategies, too.

    Targeting options

    On the other hand, try mixing up your targeting strategy without changing your message to see if the point you’re trying to make resonates better with a secondary audience. 

    Conversion path

    The best optimization strategies may not come from editing the ad itself or its placement, but the actions the user is asked to take after viewing the ad. For example, if clicking on the ad leads to a landing page, be sure to optimize that landing page for higher conversions. 
    The most important thing to remember when A/B testing is that you must have control over the factors you’re changing. More advanced A/B tests are multivariate and involve changing a number of elements. This works quickly, but it’s harder to determine results. We recommend going slow and steady, changing only one element at a time before measuring results.
    From here, rinse and repeat, continuing the neverending process of optimizing your video advertising strategy until you move onto a new campaign and begin the process over again! We call this the world’s most beautiful Groundhog Day scenario. 

    Remarketing pro-tips for the advanced marketer

    After you’ve been around the block a few times, you can stretch your video ad muscles a little further with these advanced remarketing strategies:

    Integrated programmatic ads

    Try combining remarketing and display advertising for an integrated approach to programmatic video ads. Remarket display ads to users who have watched a certain percentage of your video. 
    This strategy leads to increased frequency in users seeing and interacting with your brand. It’s great for brand awareness ads because it implements increased touchpoints with the user.

    Remarketing with YouTube

    If you’re developing an advertising campaign solely designed for YouTube, consider placing your most cost-effective ad to start, like a six-second bumper ad in pre-roll. Then, remarket to the audience you targeted with your cost-effective ad. Show them a 15 or 30-second ad based on their engagement. For example, a user who viewed the ad only gets remarketed to with a 15-second ad while a user who actually clicked the six-second ad gets shown another 30-second ad.
    Who said something this fun would be easy? Video advertising can present a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re new to ad strategizing, but with the overwhelming majority of the population watching some sort of video on a daily basis, can you afford to let this ad opportunity pass your brand by?
    If you’re having trouble getting video ads off the ground or just want to chat about advanced video marketing strategies, you’ve come to the right place. Get in touch and we can grab coffee and geek out about video ads!
    About the author::Lydia is an Optimization Specialist at thunder::tech. She runs client’s PPC and SEO campaigns for clients in addition to assisting with SEO set ups for website projects.  She enjoys skiing, Mexican food and binge watching tv shows on Netflix.
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