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3Q Growth Sciences Report: Video Ad Sequencing on YouTube

Published: February 3, 2020

Author: Tom Leonard

Hello, digital marketing world. How’s your 2020 going? At 3Q, we’re always pushing the boundaries to find performance and growth opportunities for clients. That’s why, as we announced last week, we’ve created a new part of our organization called “Growth Sciences,” a group of marketers dedicated to bringing test-and-learn insights and recommendations at scale to unlock growth for our clients. 
As part of this initiative, we’re introducing the “3Q Growth Sciences Report”. Enjoy the first edition, in which we’ll review YouTube’s Ad Sequencing campaigns and how they drive major lifts in branding campaigns. 
YouTube advertising
While they were originally introduced in Alpha in 2018, Video Ad Sequences (VAS) on YouTube became much more common in mid-2019. Before VAS, advertisers could build a retargeting list of those users who viewed their skippable ads (full ad or :30 of long form) but could get no more granular than that. The introduction of VAS brought us three unique features:

  1. The ability to serve an ad to someone who had been served one of our ads before, regardless of whether they viewed or skipped
  2. The option to serve different ads based on whether someone viewed or skipped our original ad (as Deadpool so cleverly did)
  3. A single campaign to house the entire sequence

VAS, especially those that incorporate :06 Bumper ads, are important because they don’t seek to replace beautiful, longer-form creative, but rather they seek to amplify creative with the recognition that not everyone served your ad is going to watch it to completion. This means that to fulfill the goal of a piece of creative, we need to prepare for an audience hovering over the skip button and build a story that will even inspire our target users to buy from, visit, or remember our brands, even if they quickly skip ads. 
At 3Q, we’ve seen VAS work incredibly well across a variety of brand metrics from ad recall to consideration. Specifically, we’ve leveraged YouTube’s brand lift studies and Video Experiments to prove the value of sequences compared to their single-ad counterpart. In a recent campaign we sought to amplify a 60-second brand video on YouTube as part of an integrated campaign. The standalone ad drove a strong lift in ad recall, but the VAS more than doubled the lift of that standalone. Additionally, the VAS drove a consideration lift 50% higher than the industry benchmark. Let’s reflect on why this VAS was so successful.
VAS campaigns that incorporate bumpers are successful, first and foremost, because they ensure a user is exposed to branding. Most brands include a branded end card to video ads, a remnant from TV advertising where the assumption is a viewer has no choice but to watch an entire ad. Why waste the opportunity to build attention with branding, right? On TV, maybe. On YouTube with a skip button, though, this is wrong. Especially when there are core brand metrics you’re looking to impact, advertisers need to make sure their brand is present early and often. We’re seeing big TV advertisers take notice. 
This doesn’t mean bombarding viewers with massive logos and audible mentions, but it does mean finding a way to incorporate the brand into the story you’re telling. When it can’t be baked into the core creative, VAS with bumpers are the ideal option. Consider the sequence we used for the aforementioned campaign. Google calls it “Tease-Amplify-Echo”. We built a bumper ad to tease the 60-second ad, then followed up with a closing ad that referenced both the opening :06 and the core :60 and reiterated our value prop. So even if a viewer decided to skip the core asset (as the majority of people will), our message wasn’t lost because we told the bulk of our story with the non-skippable bumpers. Following this approach will help many advertisers find greater success with performance branding campaigns. 
There’s no replacement for creative that is truly built for a specific platform, but VAS can be a great option to amplify the effectiveness of premade creative with only slight tweaks and new creative needed. That said, the most effective ads are rebuilt from the ground up for the platform they’ll ultimately be viewed on. Consider a bumper-only sequence. Or try building a long-form skippable ad with a “bumper-esque” first five seconds so even skippers have seen your main message. Experiment and learn what drives the metrics that matter most to you. 
Growth Sciences Grade: We think VAS should be tested by all advertisers on YouTube, which is why it gets a “B+” rating from the folks at 3Q Digital. The only thing that would make it better would be the ability to leverage TrueView for Action and conversion optimized bidding…which is hopefully right around the corner, so stay tuned! 
Happy testing!

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