5 Tips for Making Great (and Cost Effective) Video Ad Creative

shooting a video ad on a phone

In two short words, we can sum up the whole point of this article: video performs. No matter if we’re talking ad performance (like we’ll dig into in this article) or organic engagement, landing page CRO, and beyond, video works. 

Here’s the thing, though, not all video is created equal. As a growth marketing agency, no matter how gorgeous, flashy, or on-brand a piece of creative is, we’ll ditch it any day in favor of creative that converts. 

Like any seasoned growth marketer will tell you: there’s no clear path to growth. An effective strategy leans on fearless testing, thoughtful hypothesizing, and an unshakeable zest for learning from failures. So, over the years we’ve accumulated a list of learnings as a direct result of successes and failures. While these are not complete (and will, frankly, never be because ad platforms are constantly changing), here are some pointers for getting your creative wheels turning:

  • Get to the point QUICKLY. Like within 15 seconds. 
  • Drop in some memorable branded elements (like a subtle logo overlay).
  • Captions are a MUST. About 80% of users watch video on Facebook without sound.
  • Don’t overthink it! Ad creative is ephemeral. It’s more important to get something out there than wait until it feels perfect. 
  • Humor is HARD. Unless you can really do it right, it’s best to steer clear.
  • Constantly search for inspo! Our favorite places to go are Facebook Ads Library, WPromote’s Ad Creative Bank, and PIVADS

Ultimately, when you’re thinking about kickstarting a campaign with video, our greatest pointer: don’t overthink it; just start.

Tip #1: Have Stills? Don’t Count Them Out

If you’re feeling extra tight on budget, short on time, or, you just have a gorgeous collection of stills, simple over-image text animation is an easy way to significantly boost performance. There are two relatively simple ways to go about this:

  1. Hire a freelance designer that can add over-image text in Adobe Illustrator (or some similar program) then migrate it into After Effects to add a little magic of movement. Looking for the perfect fit? Upwork is a great place to start to hire contractors that can jump on it quickly and most often for a super reasonable price. 
  2. Try your own hand! There are tons of drag-and-drop design tools out there to help people without much design experience create something usable in minutes. The reigning champ (in our opinion) is Canva. Pro tip: lean heavily on their templates especially if you don’t have lots of design background.

Animated text inspo roundup: Pilot | DoorDash | Blue Apron

Tip #2: Get Yourself Some UGC

User-generated content is, quite simply, golden. Think about it: how much more likely are you to buy a product like a razor when you see a real, relatable person incorporating it into their everyday life (like billie does) vs. a staged ad that showcases the product in a sterile, overly-glam staged environment (like Gillette does)?

Companies like billie that do UGC remarkably well are likely able to tap a wide range of influencers and probably have a community manager on their team (or partners with a PR firm) who spends most of their week connecting with influencers, managing the creative production, and keeping up with contracts. 

For most smaller businesses looking to get into the UGC game, it can be a challenge to know where to start. That’s why we recommend testing a service like Billo. The interface is super easy to use, the creators are friendly, fun, and super professional, the support is amazing, and it makes getting user-generated content super doable on a tight (financial and time) budget. 

We tested a UGC video from Billo for our partner AKKO — check out the results!

UGC inspo roundup: Shopify | Ritual | Ruggable 

Tip #3: Try Your Own Hand

One of the most experienced Social Ads Experts/Growth Marketers on our team wrote an article awhile back. The title tells you all you need to know about our recommendations for testing video on you ad platforms if you’re not ready to try Canva or UGC: Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad.

The TLDR; “Typically, brands think that developing video assets = 💸💸💸. But that isn’t the case. Shoot the video on your iPhone, edit it together in TikTok, and export it to use on other social channels. Mimic the latest video editing trends on social, and you can get scrappy with creating your own video content — and see great results.”

Tip #4: Build Yourself a Rolodex of Freelancers

There are SO many different ways to infuse movement into your ad creative. And so it naturally follows that there is a seemingly infinite number of creatives to help you make it. If you’ve got a bit of a budget to spend, you’ve got the opportunity to hire creatives ready to bring your ideas to life. 

As we mentioned above, Upwork is where we’ll start if we’ve got no existing connections to leverage for a new creative idea. Here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind when you hire a freelancer to help with video ad creative:

  1. Can they help with illustration/animation? (This is one of the easiest ways to create flexible assets that don’t depend on a costly video shoot).
  2. Do they have experience working with ads? They function quite differently than brand creative.
  3. Do they charge hourly or by project? (For three unique video assets without shooting, earmark anywhere from $1200 – $2000)
  4. How quick is their turnaround?

Once you’ve found a freelancer that meets your criteria, write up a quick document outlining your three unique video ideas, the most important messaging you’d like to convey, any existing branded elements you have, and a full folder of creative assets (like illustrations, photos, video, etc) that the freelancer can use. The more information you can provide (plus examples of what you like), the smoother the process will go.

Illustrated ad inspo roundup: Bench | Hotjar | SEMRush

Tip #5: Test, Test, Test

So, we put our creative through the ringer early and often to check up on four key metrics:

  1. Cost Per Click (CPC): is the creative grabby/interesting enough that it can generate a quick click from our audience?
  2. Click-Through Rate (CTR): another way of looking at CPC and essentially answers the same question. Is it compelling enough that we can get someone to want to learn more?
  3. Time on Site (TOS): does the creative match the site experience? In other words, does your creative provide a smooth transition once your user hits the site?
  4. Leads: Can be swapped for revenue, signups, etc. based on your business. This tells us which creative kickstarted the strongest path towards conversion.

In the chart below, we ran a creative audit for a partner of ours that does bookkeeping for SMBs. We tested a wide variety of creative then pulled the top-performers and bottom-performers to compare metrics and glean insights. Based on what we see here we have a strong idea of what messaging resonates best, what creative led to the most conversions, and which creative just simply flopped. 

CreativeCPCCTRTOSLeads (calls)
[Video] Let’s go Brad$0.514.22%0:00:113
[Video] Stop bookkeeping$1.026.36%0:00:188
[Still] Family time$0.511.97%0:00:100
[Still] Social proof$0.270.22%0:00:020
[Still] Working late$0.431.00%0:00:030
[Still] Meet your bookkeeper$1.072.71%0:00:050

Now, based on what worked and the resources we’ve gleaned along the way, we’re ready to hit the ground with a creative refresh that leans heavier on what worked and ditches what doesn’t.

Ultimately, creative doesn’t have to be a production. While it should take time and consideration, we see too many organizations that shy away from video to their own demise! Looking for help kickstarting your own ad channels or leveling up your creative game? Let’s talk.