Tips and Tricks

YouTube Ad Scripts: What to Say in the First 5 Seconds

Five seconds isn’t a lot of time to make a lasting impression, but that’s precisely the challenge content creators face when crafting video ads for YouTube.

It’s a disheartening but well-documented fact that some 65-84% of YouTube watchers skip skippable pre-roll ads. Even more troubling is the fact that most will have already made up their minds to bypass a given ad almost as soon as it appears. That means you and your production team realistically have even less time to grab their attention than what’s displayed on the little black button in the corner of the screen.

How, then, does one do the grabbing?

Effective advertising is more of an art than a science. That said, Google’s pivotal 2015 TrueView ad study, which gathered and dissected thousands of YouTube video adverts from over a dozen countries, suggests that there are better and worse approaches. Here are a few of the valuable insights yielded by that eye-opening bit of research that are still relevant today in 2022.

Set the Right Tone

Creating a good YouTube ad, like ensuring a successful first date, is all about setting the right tone. And Google’s painstaking meta-analysis clearly shows that when it comes to tone, humor is the hands-down crowd favorite.

Kicking off your ad in a comical, zany, or irreverent way shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Many consumers who are jaded and see through traditional advertising strategies rather appreciate this kind of approach. It also conditions the viewer to associate your brand with positive emotions like fun and levity. As a result, they’re much more likely to associate what you’re selling with these same feelings.

If you don’t think humor is an appropriate way to advertise your product or service, your next best strategy is to create a sense of drama, suspense, or emotional resonance—something that will be evocative to the viewer on a deeper level.

Lead Them On

Forget about shoving your brand’s logo in the viewer’s face right out of the gate to make it stick in their mind. Today’s research highlights the important distinction between awareness and engagement, two key concepts that can be—and often are—mutually exclusive.

According to the TrueView study, opening with a logo or similar branding elements promotes brand recall, but causes engagement to suffer. The majority of analytics experts would probably agree that there’s no point in getting people to remember the name of your brand or product if they’re not interested enough to find out more about what it can do for them.

An advantageous alternative approach is to incorporate your logo organically into an overarching micro-narrative (think of the kind of sketch-comedy-esque ads that have put brands like Skittles and Old Spice on the map). This narrative will entice the viewer to stick around and see where your advert is going.

Put on a Happy Face

It probably won’t come as a mind-blowing revelation that one of the visual subjects that’s most appealing to people is, well, other people. By some estimates, ads that prominently feature human faces are roughly 11 times more likely to win viewers’ ever-dwindling attention.

Here’s another—perhaps more surprising—discovery: it isn’t just what that face is doing or saying that matters, but how it’s doing or saying it. As it happens, viewers are universally less inclined to skip ads that feature smiling characters or spokespeople (all the better if the individual doing the smiling is a celebrity or well-known influencer).

The same can be said for voice over! If people naturally gravitate towards positive facial expression, they also prefer to listen to a lively, enthusiastic narrator over a dull, monotonous one.

Cue the Music (at the Opportune Time)

Another somewhat unexpected finding of the Google study is that music may discourage rather than encourage prolonged engagement, at least when it’s the first thing viewers hear. Overall, ads that didn’t contain music in those all-important initial five seconds performed better than ones that did.

One possible explanation for this is viewers were struck by the conspicuous lack of tunes in the music-less ads, which prompted them to keep watching. Another is that it took them longer to realize that what they were hearing was indeed an ad. Either way, it would seem that saving the music for the moment when it promises to have the biggest impact could maximize the impact of your pre-roll promotions.

In fairness, this trend was observed less consistently than others. As such, it may be worth it to play around with different musical arrangements to see which ones produce the desired effect. Do your own experiments!

Pique the Viewer’s Interest

You’ve nailed down your tone, conceived an intriguing narrative, and opted for a fun, upbeat presentation style to ensure a positive viewer experience. So far, so good. Only one question remains: what do you want to say?

Here’s where those ingenious script writing skills of yours come into play. Whether you plan on starring in the ad yourself or you’re working with a hired actor or voice over professional, strong openers like those in the following examples will improve your chances of getting through to your audience before they hit the “Skip Ad” button.

Ask a Question

Anytime you ask someone a question, viewers reflexively begin formulating a response in their head. Take advantage of this tendency by using the opening seconds of your ad to pose captivating questions, such as:

  • Did you know…?
  • Do you often find yourself thinking…?
  • Have you always wanted to…?
  • Have you ever wondered…?
  • When was the last time…?

Spark Curiosity

It’s a common misconception that people don’t want to be made to think while enjoying entertainment, but the reality is that a well-crafted hook can be enough to persuade your viewers to keep watching. Get them curious enough to stay onboard until your CTA (call to action) with lead-ins like:

  • Have you heard about the amazing/weird/new…?
  • If you’ve always thought…
  • Most people are shocked to learn that…
  • Think you know everything there is to know about _____? Think again.
  • You may not know it, but…

Exhibit Empathy

Empathy is one of the most powerful faculties humans possess, and it can make an equally potent advertising tool when employed deftly. Try building an empathetic connection with your target audience using one of these relatable phrases:

  • If you’re looking to _____, we can help.
  • Struggling with _____ is a challenge, but you’re not alone.
  • Tired of feeling like…?
  • We understand how important it is to…
  • You aren’t the only one who…

Making high performing video ads in 2022 is tougher than ever. These ideas and trends found in Google’s past research can be interpreted and adapted to your YouTube ad strategy in the years to come. 

Need voice over for your YouTube ads? Sign up to hire voice actors for your job today.

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