3 YouTube Ad Lessons from 500k/mo in ad spend

You know what happens when you write, direct, and help produce 20-30 youtube ads per month for 7 1/2 months straight?

You get really fucking good…

Because you fail. A LOT.

VidTao recently broke down our YT ads over at T&F: https://vidtao.com/try-this-lean-approach-to-test-scale-youtube-ad-creatives/

But I wanted to build on top of that from an insiders perspective, because, well, they’re kinda missing some important stuff…

Here’s 3 very clear wins from it all after nearly 4M in ad spend this year.

#1 The first 5s is everything

On YouTube people have the option to skip ads in the first 5s. If they do, you (the advertiser) don’t get charged.

Which means that you need to be”

  1. Polarizing enough to get the non buyers off the page,
  2. But still interesting to keep everyone else watching.

From a copy standpoint, your editing needs to be ruthless. Think direct mail kind of ruthless. No wasted words. No fluff (unlike this rather redundant sentence).

From a production standpoint, there needs to be a lot of pop ups, music, jump cuts etc. to keep people’s ever fleeting attention. Remember, you are interrupting their time to advertise to them. So you better be sharp as fuck.

My rule of thumb: Every 1-2s something needs to change on screen.

Obviously you can watch our ads for examples, but one of the best demonstrations of this is the 2020 parody film on Netflix.

#2 Production quality matters to Google, but not as much to your buyers

This was the weirdest discovery. But it’s important to touch on because this is where VidTao’s information is a bit, well, outdated.

Last year (early 2020) at TF, we were creating white board VSL style ads and putting them into market. Then we took the winners and turned them into a live action variation.

It was a good use of resources, and allowed us to find winners without dumping a bunch of money into production quality.

But that strategy soon went to shit. Fast.

Because the high lords at Google figured it out and changed up the algorithm a bit. Currently (Aug 16, 2021), they reward high value, full scale production ads and films.

So we went back to the drawing board (literally) and created a framework (with Rob Bennett) to minimize the amount of resources used while maximizing ad output (which I’ll share in my next post, maybe 😉 ).

Essentially it consisted of:

  1. A structured ad framework so that we don’t burn through resources. This let us extend the life of one of our ads for 4-5 months.
  2. Specific CTA timing, wording, based on Daddy Google’s algo.
  3. B-roll every 3-5s.
  4. Music, countdown timers, and other stuff
  5. Talent’s face always on camera.
  6. Proper audio
  7. Specific location settings
  8. And some more shit I can’t tell you about

Together, this allowed us to hit our all time best month, just shy of 2M.

But here’s the kicker.

Our very expensive DSLR camera ads DID NOT perform better than iPhone selfie style ads.

In fact, our customers seem to prefer the lower quality iPhone selfie style ads. My hypothesis: it’s more authentic. And in a world of marketing, authenticity wins. Every damn time.

In fact our best of all time (5x ROAS at over 6fig ad spend) was filmed on an iPhone 12 Pro. At a party. While slightly hammered. With no script – just marketing direction.

#3 You only need one winning ad to scale hard

Dan Ferrari talks a lot about the testing “T”.

The premise is simple: you test wide (the top part of the T), then you go deep on the winners (the middle line of the T).

YouTube ads take that concept and put it on steroids.

Because once you find a winning ad, there’s a million different ways to extend the life of it and avoid creative fatigue.

Here’s some of the top of my head that have worked for us:

Change the first line, reshoot the same ad/hook in a new setting, reshoot the same ad/hook in the same setting with new clothing on the guru, reshoot the same ad/hook with new talent, add music, change music, add a countdown timer in the bottom right corner, make the ad selfie style, add more post production edits so there’s something changing every 3s, add a CTA in the middle of the ad…

I could go one for another 1000 words, but the point is this:

We probably spent 90% of the 4M ad budget on 3-4 min of the exact same ad by extending the creative life using all the strategies above.

Which is why I can confidently say: you just need one winning ad to make millions.

Hope that helps…

Hit me with any Q’s you got.


P.s. I’ll be revealing the YT ad $$$ matrix I talk about above, along with the entire testing suite to extend creative life in another post soon, which I’ll link here.