Talking tech since 2003

Did you know that a whopping 80 percent of users could recall a video ad that they viewed in the past 30 days? But hang on, don’t celebrate yet.

Not all video ads get watched completely. The majority of YouTube audience today just go about skipping your video ads. As for the reasoning behind that? Well, it could either be that your video is not engaging enough or those were simply too long for your audience’s patience.

Just think about it. Almost every company is investing on video ads. In a typical day, your audience is exposed to as many as 5,000 ads. So nobody is actually looking forward to watching a video ad.

Still, amidst all this content chaos, there are some video ads that just manage to grab the eyeballs and make a big bang on the social networks. So what’s the secret behind all those successful adverts that people look for and talk about? Let’s get onto decoding the ABC’s of some of the most popular ads.

A – Ability to engage

Considering the fact that our attention span is merely 8 seconds, instant engagement becomes essential for your video marketing success. You need to grab the viewer’s attention from the very first second and hold it until the end.

Engagement also relies on platform optimization, video content and length. In terms of optimization, subtitles are crucial especially for social platform since many of us tend to play videos on mute. Also, social media encourages a fast-browsing experience. There’s lot to check. So it becomes crucial for you to wrap the ad within a few seconds – ideally 30 seconds for most video ads or 6sec for pre-roll formats (that’s because your users are trained to hit the skip button after 5 seconds). Here’s one pre-roll video ad from Bounce that was a hit with the audience:

Of course, that doesn’t mean 6sec is the holy grail for video ads. The length of your ad can vary depending on the message and the chosen ad format. As long as the video story is engaging, a 2 min video can also do well as an ad. More on that, in the coming section.

B – Brilliant Storytelling

In the previous section, we talked about the ability to engage in terms of video content. This engagement is usually a result of brilliant storytelling. Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, reveals that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives 22 times more than facts alone.

Take, for example, this animated “Dumb Ways to Die” advert by Metro Trains Melbourne. While the ad is around 3 minutes in length, it works well because of that catchy song and the humorous set of characters and visual setup that the story presents. The video has about 168M views till date and has won dozens of awards, including the Grand Prix, Webby and Siren awards.

If you look at some of the most popular ads, you would realize that those brands aren’t selling the product directly but knitting it in a story to help you visualize how the product fits in your life – that’s an essential recipe for video success.

C – Compelling path to purchase

The ultimate goal of any video ad is to get the target audience to heed your call to action or your marketing goal. You might be looking to generate views, new subscriptions, clicks or get the audience to buy your hot product or contact you for your services.

Successful ads focus on creating a compelling conversion path that ultimately guides the user to the intended destination or action. For example, if you are watching a video ad on YouTube, and you click on the video, it will take you to the advertiser’s landing page.

Over at Facebook, sponsored video ads come with a customizable CTA text button. Besides the video ad itself, the caption and copy of the ad should also be persuasive. You can also put your website link or hot deals offer in the caption copy.

If you are putting up your video ad on your website, position the call to action button beneath the video box to improve conversion. Dropbox used this landing page strategy where they had just the explainer video and the “download dropbox” button, which helped them generate over 100 million new users and a revenue of around $48 million.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are lots of video ads that managed to grab the attention and uplift the brand. We have listed out a select few videos that were quite popular, and also decode the ABC’s behind their success:

1) Amazon Alexa Super Bowl Ad

A very recent addition to the most successful ad campaigns, this Super Bowl ad is humor at its best. In this video, Alexa loses her voice and is replaced by celebrities who then answer voice search queries in their own way. Imagine listening to a hip-hop artist when you actually asked Alexa to play country music. Yes, that’s what we are talking about. Well done, Amazon!

It’s no surprise that this video garnered 46 million views.


  • Ability to engage enhanced through influencers and a humorous message delivery
  • Brilliant storytelling technique showing you the world without Alexa
  • Crafts a desire in the audience to buy Amazon Alexa products

2)  Geico Unskippable series

Geico found a way around skippable ads with their unskippable series. Each ad freezes within a few seconds taking a brilliant dig at unskippable ad formats.

Their success can be attributed to their comprehensive understanding of the audience. As Geico puts it rightly, millennials are the only growing demographic and the right way to target them was by creating a campaign that made its mark on pop culture.


  • Ability to engage with crisp “unskippable” length and humorous take
  • Brilliant storytelling done by picking a real-life unskippable scenario and comparing it with unskippable ads
  • Compelling frozen characters in their ad series make brand recall easier and thus made Geico memorable

3) Unsung Hero – Thai Life Insurance Ad

We are subjected to a lot of life insurance ads on a daily basis. And they hardly make a way to our favorites list mostly because they lack the storytelling element and are heavily sales-y. However, one ad that takes us back, again and again, is the “Unsung Hero” advert. The video follows the story of a man for whom the real satisfaction lies in giving. It ends with the question “what do you desire the most?” Now isn’t that brilliant storytelling at its peak?

Through an emotionally compelling tale, this ad got 6 million views in the first week.


  • Ability to engage with resonating characters and strikes an emotional chord
  • Brilliant storytelling that adds humane value to an insurance company
  • Compelling end with the question “what do you desire the most?” designed to build engagement and interactions

4) John Lewis – Christmas ads

Imagine a beer witnessing the grandeur of Christmas for the very first time. That’s exactly what we saw in one of John Lewis’ commercials that gave us all the feels. We have seen more such compelling tales coming from their Pandora’s box during the holiday season. And the best part is that they are etched in our memory in the form of #BusterTheBoxer or #MozTheMonster. Do check out their amazing video advert collection.

Here is a glimpse from one of our favorites:


  • Ability to engage through emotionally appealing content
  • Brilliant storytelling that infuses the spirit of the holiday season, and takes on the unusual character “a bear that usually is hibernating during Christmas” to connect with families who live apart
  • Compelling message in all stories further enhancing the celebration mood. Sales of their twin-bell alarm clocks jumped 55 percent a week after it was featured in one of their ads.

That’s a wrap

Ads come and go, rarely getting noticed. But the ones that really make a lasting impression on us are the ones that get the above ABCs right. Is there any such video ad that stayed with you? Share with us in the comments below.

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