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What we learned from a year of monthly video ads

Our plan for 2021 was to release a new video ad for Umault every month. We met the goal, but how did our campaign do?

In short, spectacularly.

In this episode of the podcast, Hope and Guy discuss our 5 key takeaways from a year of monthly video ads:

  • Don’t make ads focusing on your competitors. Focus on your client’s competitors.
  • Plan for the year of video ads upfront, but leave room to improvise.
  • We saw no correlation between production cost and effectiveness.
  • Distribution plans are everything.
  • You can make effective ads that don’t hit on your RTBs (reasons-to-believe).

Here are some of the video ads we released this year:

Episode transcript

Hope: Our best performers of the year were pieces that we made a whole playbook of how this is going to get distributed out.

Guy: And we have found a direct correlation between how planned out we are in the launch and how many people see our ads and how effective they are.

Hope: Hello, and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for how to make video ads your prospects actually want to watch. I'm Hope Morley.

Guy: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope: Guy, today, we are kind of wrapping up the year in today's episode. We are at the end of 2021, and we wanted to share with our listeners a big project that we worked on this year and the things that we learned from it and what we did as an agency for Umault in 2021, is that we set ourselves a goal that we would release a monthly video ad for ourselves on social mostly, for us through LinkedIn and YouTube. So we wanted to share the top things that we learned from putting out these monthly ads for ourselves. And Guy, do you want to talk about why we decided to do this, this year?

Guy: Yeah. So in 2020, we did maybe four video ads for our agency and we saw really good results. Couple of them got in ads of the world. One of them went pretty... Well, actually two of them went viral. One of them went viral on Reddit. One of them went viral in the marketing community. And so we said, "Well, what if we just did one a month? We target it that way." And yeah, so we did 12 ads over the course of 2021, and we have takeaways.

Hope: And I'll start before we get into the takeaways by saying that it was successful, again. The takeaways are not that it didn't work. A couple of the key things that came out of this in addition to just getting leads and more branding for our agency, but we got a lot more followers on social than we had before, lots of YouTube subscribers, lot more LinkedIn followers and just building an audience for ourselves that we didn't have before.

Guy: Okay. So you want me to take number one?

Hope: Yeah. Share number one.

Guy: Okay. So number one that we found is we had one ad that I thought was going to be really awesome, where we're making fun of other agencies and how they stink. And that was the worst performer of the whole year, I thought it would be kick ass. I thought it would do very well. And it turns out, I think, when you make fun of your competition, your audience is actually just your own industry or your competition. I think it's we always warn clients against the curse of knowledge and we have the curse of knowledge in this case. We know the competition intimately and our clients don't. So I think our spot making fun of the competition came off as us as being angry. And then also, irrelevant kind of, I don't think that our clients who are B2B marketers, really think that much about the ills of other marketing agencies.

Guy: I just don't think it's not what they think of at night. They think about themselves. So the flip of that is that pointing out where your audience is going wrong or issues your audience has, totally works. So all the spots where we, and even where I wouldn't say we never insulted our audience, but we did point out errors they're making. And they worked really well. Anywhere where we were poking inside of our client's mind, it really worked. So don't worry about the competition or anything that's not in your... I think you really have to ask yourself, does our client think of this at night? Does it keep them up? I don't think our competition keeps our clients up at night. It's it keeps us up at night.

Hope: Exactly. It's what keeps us up at night. So we made this spot because it's what we had on our mind and what we are thinking about, and we didn't properly think through whether our audience would really care.

Guy: Yep. So don't make fun of the competition, but do point out where your clients are going wrong. That's take away number one. Hope, how about you? Take away number two.

Hope: Takeaway number two. Takeaway number two is if you're going to be doing something regularly throughout the year, if you're doing monthly or quarterly, make a plan for the year upfront, as early as possible. Set your strategy and try to consolidate production as you can. We talk about this a lot on the show, but there's a lot of economies of scale in video production, especially, that if there's any ways that you can do as much production at the same time, you are going to save yourself some money, ultimately, then if you want to do say quarterly ads. If you shoot every quarter, you're going to spend more money than if you try to do one or two throughout the year.

Hope: But that said, make that plan, try to consolidate, try to be efficient, but also leave room to improvise. We found throughout the year, first of all, one of our second best performer, our best organic performer was shot on an iPhone and kind of recorded just, we were inspired by an article that we saw, Guy wrote up a little script and shot his kids out playing in the snow on his phone, that one was shot on your iPhone?

Guy: Yep.

Hope: That wasn't in the plan. That was not scoped out as some, that we would do something like that, but it ended up, we had the inspiration, we were playing off an article and it did really well. And on the flip side, there was one video that we had one additional ad that we had shot, that once we had released the series that we had done in this one week of production, we found that this one ad was just a little redundant with the other ones in the series. It didn't really say anything new. We weren't really sure it was worth releasing. So we just sat on it. We ended up not releasing it. So having that flexibility to improvise and taking the time throughout the year to evaluate what's working, what's not working, don't be so attached to the plan, but, have one.

Guy: Yeah. And there was another spot, so we did about five spots in a day. We actually only ended up using three of them. There was the one redundant one. And then there's one that we did. And then we made it and we're like, "Oh no, this would insult and, not good. Not good." So we shelved that one too. So it gave us flexibility-

Hope: But yeah, you're right, we shelved two. All right, Guy, what's takeaway number three?

Guy: Takeaway number three is we saw no correlation between production value and results. We saw no correlation between the amount of money spent on production and results. And I would say zero correlation, zero, because the best organic performer was shot on an iPhone. And I would say the best paid performer was shot on a red, a really nice camera, but didn't have a lot of crew and was shot all in a day. What I would say that is the correlation though, between the top performers, is quality of script and quality of idea [crosstalk 00:08:00].

Guy: And so that's the correlation, not the production. I think we did a good job too, of matching production value with the idea. So not every idea needs to have crazy production value, but some ideas do need the crazy production value. So I think that's other thing is that there's no one size fits all. The takeaway here isn't, "Oh, so we should shoot everything on an iPhone." I don't think it's that, I think it's match the production value to your idea. But what I would say the big takeaway is, you have to pay attention to the script, the idea. That's where 99% of the value is made.

Hope: Yeah. If you have a great idea for something, someone on your team is inspired, it doesn't hurt to try shooting it yourself. And we're saying this as a company that makes professionally produced video ads. And if our clients don't look at things that are kind of user generated or "lower production quality," and it doesn't make them think less of us. And so if people who our job is to make video ads, and if people aren't looking at those spots and thinking, "Ooh, this was a really great idea, but it looks like they didn't have enough lighting. This wasn't done in a studio." No one is looking at your content if it's user generated, or if you saved a little bit of money, but you have a really great idea and you're sharing something that's valuable or entertaining, it's going to work for you. Yeah.

Guy: Yeah. The other thing too is, maybe do it on an iPhone, prove the concept, and then you can spend money on a polished spot. I do see the value in polish. There's a lot in the subtext when something is done with polish. Polish shows that you mean for this, you really put chips in and you mean for this to mean something. And you're building it with a sense of permanence. It's not a TikTok video where it's the same person doing all the characters and stuff.

Hope: Yeah. There's a lifespan argument to be made. If it's something that you want to be it lasting for two years and really building a lot of views, then invest in it. But if we're talking about social media, it's meant to have a shorter lifespan.

Guy: Yep. All right. Hope number four.

Hope: Number four is distribution plans are everything. I think we as creatives, probably even more so than a lot of our clients, we have this vision that if something is good, then it will just magically do well. Once you put it out in the world, people will watch it and they'll love it and they'll share it. And that's true to an extent, we get organic shares and plenty of organic views on our work. But you do have to put in a conscious effort, to distribute things that you put out into the world, especially videos or social content. Our best performers of the year were pieces that we made a whole playbook of how this is going to get distributed out.

Guy: And we have found a direct correlation between how planned out we are in the launch and how many people see our ads and how effective they are. All right. Number five, is our greatest performer of the year, has no RTBs and doesn't even say what we do. And it's within the first week of launching it, we got five or six leads. How does that even make sense? It doesn't say what we do. It doesn't have RTBs.

Hope: We had a URL that was [crosstalk 00:12:04]

Guy: We had a URL, but that still doesn't-

Hope: That doesn't tell you anything.

Guy: Right. So I don't know what the takeaway here is just stop being so RTB and being so on the nose of and thinking that you have to check all these boxes of why you're the best and all that stuff. Our top performer has no RTBs and doesn't even say what we do.

Hope: And I will say, that this is another point in the box that I say this all the time of, that nobody is watching ads completely free of context in the digital marketing world, especially in B2B, if you're not doing TV ads that are a little bit more free of context, but if someone is watching a video from a sponsored LinkedIn post, for example, they see your logo, they see all your LinkedIn stuff. They see the caption, most importantly, you have that copy that will be appearing with the spot. And then once they go to your website, they go to your LinkedIn profile and there's the information of who you are and what you do.

Guy: Yeah. But I think that the takeaway here is you have to deliver value in the ad itself. The value isn't you saying what you do, the value is the actual ad. Does it make someone just kind of chuckle or make them sad or cry or make them realize how beautiful the world is, blah, blah, blah. You must entertain. That's it, right?

Hope: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And we can say, when you have something that's a winner like that spot that was our greatest performer, those five or six leads that came in, in the first week, they cited it. They cited that ad. They said, "I saw this and now I'm reaching out to you." So, there's no attribution question. We're not talking about people who may have seen it and reached out, and it just happened to be the same week. We are talking about people who very clearly said in their initial outreach, "We saw this thing and it is great."

Guy: It's so weird. And we're so surprised like, "Oh, wow. It works." We shouldn't be, but it's been a lot of fun. So the hard thing though, is now we have to come up with 12 more and I don't know how we're going to to do it. I know we're going to, but I just, I don't know. Yeah. Now

Hope: Yeah, no, we're going to do it again for 2022.

Guy: No pressure. I know.

Hope: So for anyone who isn't following Umault on LinkedIn or YouTube, if you want to check out the videos, all the ads that we've done this year, I'll put links in the show notes to some of our top performers and some of the spots that we specifically talked about today. But yeah, check us out and give us a follow, if you want to see what our monthly ads are going to be in 2022, and then put pressure on Guy to come up with a really good plan for all of those.

Guy: But you have to write the distribution for the book, for each one.

Hope: It's a team effort.

Guy: Cool. All right. Well thank you, Hope. Happy New Year.

Hope: Yeah. It's been a wild ride for 2021. What year was it? 2021. So thank you all listeners who stuck with us through this year, we hope you found the podcast helpful. We're going to be taking a little break at the beginning of 2022, but then we will be back. So thanks for listening. You can keep in touch with us across all the social channels at Umault, that's U-M-A-U-L-T. And you can also visit our website at umault.com and always email the show at hello@umault.com.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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