Create Video Ads for Social Media, that People will ACTUALLY Watch

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Want to create video ads for social media that really work?

You have to tell a story. But not yesterday's stories.

Your audience no longer wants to hear long, drawn out dramas.

Video ads that used to go viral on social media, like Dollar Shave Club and Chatbooks, (which are great videos) just don’t work as well for video marketing anymore.

Video storytelling in 2020 is very different than it was just a few years ago because your audience has changed.

So how do you tell a story in your video ads, for a mobile-first, news feed scrolling generation that isn’t watching for more than 3 seconds anyway?

Follow the CATT formula:





Stories are what connects us to each other. We process information through storytelling.

It’s how we take big, confusing concepts like “love” and “death” and break them down into bite sized bits of information that we can comprehend.

But, when we use the term "storytelling” in video marketing, we don’t mean a write a story like “once upon a time Sivan made herself a cup of coffee,” we mean filming a series of events or moments that

  • Capture your audiences' attention ⚠

  • Gets them emotionally connected to the process 😂

  • Helps your customer see themselves & their problems in a new light 💡

PRO TIP: Emotions are the Key to Storytelling

And the key to fostering emotions in others is through the journey of a main CHARACTER (often called the HERO) as he or she moves from failure to success.

So the very first and most important part of your social media video ad is that it needs one main CHARACTER.

#1 The C of the CATT formula stands for Creating a CHARACTER

A face or a person helps audiences stay focused. That is people are naturally drawn to another's facial movements as we try and discern someone's feelings. Which in videos are written across their very faces.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to write an entire story arc, or even feature the name of the person in your video marketing ad. But it does mean that you need to show a FACE that the viewer connects with.

And it should be in the first 3 seconds.

Another reason starting with a face is a good video marketing technique is because when we’re watching a video on a mobile device, stories need to be SIMPLE- lots of fancy sets or too many characters make for a crowded screen. Keeping things intimate allows for a greater connection.

#2 The A of the CATT formula stands for being AUTHENTIC

Authenticity is an important concept since customers have become more ‘savvy’ when it comes to sniffing out ads.

Now, that doesn't mean you should trick people into making them think it’s not an ad, and then try to sell them something at the end.

On the other hand, highly produced, cinematic videos aren’t necessarily engaging or relevant to your audience on social media, because those kind of videos immediately stand out as ‘different’- and not necessarily in a good way.

In fact, our brains have begun to associate “high quality” footage with ads, with something that is“fake”. So our brains have begun to actually block out videos that are too polished.

Drone footage, or a beautiful montage isn’t going to necessarily interest your audience as much as footage shot from an Iphone and uploaded directly to Facebook or Instagram.

RESOURCE- Check out what Tim Fullerton, Global Head of Social Media and Member Communications at WeWork, has to say about video authenticity.

Of course, people love pretty things. But nowadays we crave authenticity even more.

We’re more attracted to situations, people and products that feel “real” as opposed to products that are highly produced and edited.

Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about spending 100k on one video ad for social media. Chances are, that ONE video will not get as much engagement as one that looks a little more ‘real’ and relevant on people’s news feeds.

And considering that the one and done concept in video marketing is not going to work in 2020, it's better to find the real look your customers are searching for.

#3 The T of the CATT formula stands for using TEXT

There are 2 important statistics you need to know when creating your social media video marketing plan.

85% of videos are watched without sound on social media
80% of people say that it annoys them when videos auto play with sound.

What this means is that as a global audience we have all replaced audio with text. Thus your videos need to tell the same story your audio WOULD tell, but in text form by adding captions to your video.

Since you can’t rely on voice over or music to set the tone and relay information to your audience, you need SUBTITLES.

RESOURCE - Want the full tutorial on how to create subtitles using FREE APPS - Click here.

#4 The second T of the CATT formula stands for TIMING

Let’s be real. No one on social media is watching for more than a couple of seconds. If you’re lucky, you might get your target audience to stick around for 5 seconds before they swipe, scroll or just move on.

So, a 5 minute ad...even a 2 minute ad… not so relevant.

It also means that you need to pack the most punch, give the most value or just cut to the chase in the first 3 seconds.

Avoid wasting time on a build up or ‘taking people on a journey.’

Don’t share ALL the benefits of your company or product ate very turn. You won't be able to tell us EVERYTHING that we need to know in one video marketing ad.


What’s happening in this video? What is ONE THING you want your audience to know?

The more you just focus on one concept, the more likely your audience will be to stick around.

Look, the bottom line, most people don’t LIKE watching video ADS.

Sure, they’re useful sometimes, and occasionally you can come across one that makes you laugh.

But in general, as social media animals we are all inundated with millions of ads, every single day, and most of us don’t have time to eat lunch, let alone sit through a 2 minute video ad.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use video ads on social media to grow brand awareness, drive traffic or sell products.

You just need to do it the right way.

Following old “video storytelling’ techniques aren’t going to be much help, since video marketing for 2020 is not the same animal.

But with the CATT Formula that helps you create engaging social media video ads and this handy social media video optimization checklist, you at least have a fighting chance to create social media videos that people will actually watch.

RESOURCES: Check out this excellent EXAMPLE of an ad that really rocked.
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