The Creative Blueprint for DTC Brands
Are you feeling unsure of what creative to make in order to help drive ad performance? Do you wish you had a format for making ads that convert?
In this article, you’ll learn all about how to make videos that grab attention and get people shopping on your site.
You Need More User-Generated Content
We had a client kickoff call the other day and one of the first questions the client asked was, "what do we need for creative?"
I instantly responded, "you need more user-generated content".
User-generated content (UGC) allows you to create an army of people. This helps you get a variety of content to test with your ads. You want to get a mix of angles, avatars, locations, etc. to test with your ads so you can find out what works.
UGC takes out the guesswork of why people buy from you and what they love about your products. Customers will tell you this in the videos they make for you. It’s a great feedback loop you can use to figure out what you may need to mention more on your site, or in your ad copy.
Another benefit is that UGC looks native to people’s News Feeds and that’s HUGE. Yes, highly branded videos and studio shoots can perform, but those can also be a significant investment and take tons of time and resources. UGC is a shortcut for creating more content, faster, with more variety.
"Don’t make ads, make TikToks" is TikTok’s quote for advertisers and it’s so on point. You want your creative to look native to people’s timelines, and UGC does that perfectly.
🙌 Pro tip: Looking for creators? Go through people who tag your brand on Instagram and other platforms and reach out to them in the DMs to get a relationship started.
Alright, so you know you need UGC, but what exactly is contained in those videos?
What Should People Record For User-Generated Content?
Here are some places to start for UGC videos.
If you have beautiful packaging, you better be showing that in your ads! Get UGC videos of people unboxing their products to show how great the experience is. These types of videos can be perfect for running ads around the holiday season with a gifting angle.
🙌 Pro tip: add an insert or sticker with orders your ship out telling people to tag your brand (and to use a branded hashtag if you have one). It never hurts to encourage people!
Reviews are one of the more common types of UGC you see. Honest reviews from customers who have bought from you can work incredibly well. Have your customers talk about:
Why they bought from you (their use case)
What life was like before and after the product
What they love about the product
If they had any hesitations or were skeptical to buy, and what made them get over those hesitations (maybe a guarantee or nice return policy if you have one)
If they would recommend your product to a friend.
Reviews are simple and powerful. Make sure these are authentic and genuine as possible. (I’ve literally shed tears seeing ads where influencers turn the can to read the label to say their "favorite" flavor.)
Reaction videos can work tremendously for ads. These videos are perfect if your product is personalized or gifted often. These types of videos can work well because they show the value of gifting your product and they have the emotion added with their reaction, which can work wonders for ad performance.
Check out this perfect ad example from Pet Portrait Print, which shows people’s reactions to their custom pet portraits.
Before & Afters
Have your customers create content about what life was like before your product and then what it was like after. Does your product help people live better lives somehow? If it does, have people demonstrate how their lives have changed.
If your product needs some explaining, have your customers demonstrate how they use the product.
Getting product demonstrations from a variety of people can be great because people may be buying your product for different reasons. This adds more variety when you get multiple product demo videos from different people. Likewise, if people use your product in different locations (a park, at home, the beach, etc) or for different occasions, show that as well.
You may find one use case/scenario works 5x better than the others. The key is to have more variety, so you can learn more when testing.
After you’ve gathered a nice collection of videos, you can then create compilation videos of various pieces of content. Here’s a nice UGC compilation ad example from Grill Rescue that includes product demonstrations.
Now that we are getting those brain juices flowing a bit, let’s dive into how to get people to pay attention to your videos.
Facebook Ads Are Not The Movies
There’s a difference between making a "good-looking" ad and making an ad that converts. Let me explain… Ads are not the same as a movie in theaters. When a movie is released, people get in their cars and drive to the movie theater. They purchase a ticket and sit in a seat to watch the movie.
Because they made the effort to see the movie AND purchased a ticket, they are in debt to stick around to watch for a bit. This is why some movies can get away with having slower intros where they show the credits or long leading scenes where they show scenery or other relevant details.
Ads are pretty much the exact opposite of a movie. People aren’t on social media to look at your ads (unless they are freaks like myself, but I can assure you, there are not many of us). In fact, most people want to avoid ads altogether. Because of this, we must treat our creative as such.
So how can we make our ads grab attention from the start?
The "Hook" Of Facebook Ads
The "hook" of a video is the start of it. That first 1-2 seconds that either grabs people’s attention and keeps them watching, or makes them keep scrolling.
Capture attention quickly: Put the most compelling part of your video at the very beginning to grab interest. We suggest you do this within the first 3 seconds. - Facebook
Facebook is talking about the hook of your ad there. When it comes to ads, people judge those books by their covers. People are on their phones scrolling, they have notifications pop up, their dog barking, someone knocking on the door, etc...they aren’t spending a lot of time looking at your ads, so you must grab their attention from all of life’s distractions and keep it.
Below is an example of a video with a poor hook. You can see how many people quickly drop off right at the start. If your videos have great hooks, you’ll see that blue line stays higher for longer and the angle of the line isn’t as sharp of a decline, since your video keeps people watching.
Feature your product or brand message early: Just as you want to capture attention quickly, showcase your brand identity right away so people see and remember it. -Facebook
People will naturally drop off when it comes to watching your videos. So you want to aim to pack the front of the video with everything you can in the hook.
A study from Facebook and Nielsen showed just how much impact loading the first 10 seconds of your video can have:
Here you can see how the cumulative impact of ad recall, brand awareness and purchase intent mostly happens between the 3 to 10-second mark of a video. This is why you want to put a hook, the main message, your product, and your brand identity all at the start.
So what are some ways you can hook a potential customer?
Facebook Ad Hooks To Try
Here’s a list of some of our favorite hooks we like to test.
Side note: I highly recommend getting on TikTok and watching content on there. Most of the top-performing creative you’ll see has a great hook. This is the place to analyze hooks and get inspiration from.
Put them straight into it!
I like to think of movie trailers for this example. Movie trailers usually throw you right into the peak emotion of a movie. They start abruptly and grab your attention from the first second.
Make sure to avoid having a long slow start like movies you may see in theaters. This won’t keep attention for long and will make your ad performance suffer.
If the start of your video is someone talking, I suggest trimming the video, so it starts with them talking right at the start. I’ve seen too many videos have someone start talking 5-10 seconds in, which is way too drawn out to have an effective hook. If the beginning of your video is slow and not engaging, people will leave.
I’ve also seen people make the mistake of showing too much scenery at the start. Maybe the video starts showing the outside of a building and then zooms inside to have someone talking. Instead of a slow start, you could start that same video with the motion of the drone.
Here’s a great example of a video that starts quickly and throws you straight into the brand and product’s unique selling propositions. Notice the organic text overlays, which will blend in nicely in people’s news feeds. They also have a dog in the video too, which is always a nice touch!
Movement definitely can help your ad hook people at the start. This could be motion from the camera, things zooming in/out, people driving into the scene, etc. Think about adding motion to grab attention instead of having a video start without any movement whatsoever.
Ask a question?
"Are you feeling stuck trying to think of creative ideas for your ads?" could be a question I ask at the start of an ad for a download like this. Think about questions you can ask to grab attention, add curiosity, and hook people into watching more of your video.
Call people out
"Shopify Store Owners" (for example). Address your customer and call them out at the start. This can be great for attracting your prospects and repelling the people who aren’t meant for your business.
Your ads should either repel or attract people. Calling out your ideal prospect does that perfectly.
Note: Don’t get too creepy on this one. Call your avatar out, but don’t get too personal where they think you’re stalking them.
We’ve run a few very successful ads with creative hooks at the start. Think of how you may be able to start with an open loop, pattern interrupt or something creative that will get people to stop scrolling.
A great example of some creative we ran before that worked was simply starting the video upside down. This confused people and made them stick around to see what was going on. Other things I’ve seen are people holding signs at the beginning with messages on them, lighting things on fire, and having a unicorn poop rainbow-colored ice cream.
Creativity can go far when it comes to ad performance. What can you do to stand out from all the rest? What can you do to get people to tag their friends, comment and share your ad?
Be unique and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Bold statements can be incredibly good hooks. Say something polarizing at the start of your video. "Your creative sucks." for example, could be a bold statement that grabs attention.
Of course, for all of these examples, we want to make sure we can relate whatever we are doing in our hooks back to our products and the benefit it provides our customers. So yes, you want to try a variety of things and "get weird", but keep in mind we are trying to get sales at the end of the day.
Dr. Squatch has a fantastic bold statement in this ad example. Notice how it grabs your attention and makes you want to listen to more of the ad.
If you do the research upfront, you can determine the main problem(s) your creative solves and the main benefit(s) it provides. These can be great hooks as well.
If you see more people mentioning the problem your product solves than talking about the benefits it provides, you should definitely test creative that mentions the problem people have.
We noticed this when working with a pillow brand... People in reviews often mentioned neck and back pain, so we tested running creative with hooks at the start that showed that pain point.
You’ll see this a lot with commercials on TV where the scene may be in black and white to add to the painful feeling even more. (Sometimes these can definitely be a bit corny and overdramatic and I honestly love it.)
If more people in reviews are mentioning all of the benefits your product provides, try some of those as hooks. Here’s an example ad from Ruggable, which shows the main problem their products solve (not being able to machine wash rugs).
Get very clear and concise on what the actual benefit your product provides people. You could even test a few of these with various ads to see which one people resonate with the most. (Keep in mind different demographics can behave differently as well.)
🙌 Pro tip: show people smiling. A study by Hanna Berg, Magnus Söderlund and Annika Lindström determined, "pictures of smiling models produced more consumer joy and more positive attitudes for the marketing." I’m not going to lie... when your ads are seen by hundreds of millions of people, it feels good at the end of the day putting out videos that make people happier.
Again, the key of a hook is to pack the front of your video with a punch to grab people’s attention and keep them watching.
Now that we have their attention, how do we keep it?
How To Keep Attention With Facebook Ads
To put it simply, don’t bore people. Your ad needs to keep moving from the start all the way to the end. A lot of times people will ask me, "how long should a video ad be?" My answer is always, "as short as you can make it to get your entire message across."
People aren’t on social media to watch your ads. Make your videos clear, concise, and get the point across quickly instead of drawing it out.
You can keep people watching by making things change in the video every 1-2 seconds. You can add energy to a video in a variety of ways, some extremely simple...
A simple way to add movement to your video is to use jump cuts. Jump cuts are when you transition quickly from one scene or part of a video to another. This change keeps people engaged.
Note: Don’t be afraid of making your video seem too fast. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can make things happen in a video that are sometimes even more effective. Sometimes we will even increase the speed of a video (1.2x the normal speed for example) and test how that impacts performance.
Here is a great example of an ad from Bylt that uses quick jump cuts. Notice how quickly the ad moves, which keeps you engaged until the end. They also pair the transitions with the music at times, adding some nice creativity to the video.
Another easy way to keep people engaged is to add text or image overlays on the video.
Design for sound off: People choose to watch videos with sound off in many situations, such as in public places. - Facebook
Since most people watch videos with their phone volume off, adding captions and overlays can help your ad’s message get across more effectively.
🙌 Pro tip: Use organic text overlays! These can make your videos look even more native than adding your own custom text overlays.
You’ll see vloggers use motion a lot for their videos to keep attention. This can be a simple zoom in or out, movement of the camera, movement in the background, or the person moving while talking.
Remember to add some movement every 1-2 seconds in your videos to keep people engaged and watching longer.
Now that we’ve got people to watch to the very end, what comes next?
Call To Action (CTA)
Your ads should always end with a call to action. CTAs guide people to take action and perform the event you want them to. CTAs could be lower intent actions like "learn more", or "sign up" for example. Or your CTA could be more high intent actions like "shop now" or "get the deal".
Let people know what they should do next. Sometimes they just need a little nudge.
Now that we’ve built out the framework, let’s put it all together.
The Anatomy Of A Perfect Video Ad
First, does our ad look native to the platform? Does it look like an organic post instead of a cookie-cutter ad that people will ignore?
The Hook. Did we grab attention within the first 1-2 seconds to keep people watching? Did we pack the start of our video with the punch of a great hook, our product, and brand identity?
Movement. Throughout the video are we keeping things moving along and avoiding longer drawn-out scenes?
CTA. Are we telling people what to do next?
Now that we have the format of an ad ready to test, how do we know if it’s working?
How To Know If Your Video Ad Is Performing: Metrics
There are a few metrics we look at to judge our ad performance.
Thumb Stop Ratio
The thumb stop ratio is a great metric to look at to see if your thumbnail and hook are working well. Note that this is a Custom Metric you can create in your Facebook ad account.
Here’s the formula:
Thumb Stop Ratio = (3 second video views / impressions) * 100
What’s a good thumb stop rate?
Baselines for these metrics can vary between industries, seasons, verticals, etc. But generally, here is how we look at it:
Less than 20% = needs work
20-30% = good
30%+ = great!
Average Watch Time
Average watch time is a great indicator to see how long people are sticking around watching your video. These can obviously vary quite a bit depending on the length of the video, but it’s a great indicator to see how long people are watching.
🙌 Pro tip: Go to your ad in Facebook Ads Manager, click on "View Charts" and then scroll down to video performance. Analyze the retention graph to see if there is a big dip at a certain part of the video. Now you can learn if you said something wrong (or had too long of a scene) and the impact that had on your viewership. Learn from this and create another version of the video that changes at that time.
Clickthrough Rate (Link Clicks)
Clickthrough rate (link clicks) will show you what percentage of people who see your ad click through to go to your landing page.
What’s a good clickthrough rate?
Less than 1% = needs work
1-2% = good
2%+ = great!
Looking at the above metrics is great to get an understanding of if your hook is working, if you’re keeping attention, and if you are driving traffic to your site. Another metric you definitely want to be looking at is ROAS or CPA.
Keep in mind iOS has ruined a lot of on-platform tracking for metrics like ROAS and CPA. Still, you’ll want to know which of your ads are actually driving sales, so you’ll definitely want to look at ROAS or CPA to determine which ad is the most effective in your account.
I’m not going to get into iOS and its impact on metrics in this. We can save that long conversation for another day.
Alright, we know what we need to do and what we need to look at for reporting...how can we come up with more ideas for videos?
Getting Ad Inspiration
There are a few processes and tools I like to use to get ad inspiration and ideas. I’ll mention again that doing research and reading through customer reviews is definitely a great place to start.
How do we see what other people are doing for ads? What ads are your competitors running? We can find out using...
The Facebook Ad Library
Use the Facebook Ad Library to search for various Facebook pages and to see which ads they are running.
🙌 Pro tip: while you can’t see the metrics associated with ads people are running in the Facebook Ad Library, you can see when the ads were launched. Use this to look at the history of how long companies have been running certain ads. They may be running the same ad for quite a long time because it’s performing well.
Your News Feed
I often just scroll through my feed looking for inspiration when I’m online. You can easily save videos you like and put them into folders, send the links to a co-worker or business partner, or copy the links and add them to a swipe file of ads you like. I definitely recommend starting up a library of ads you like for inspiration.
I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s worth noting again. Get on TikTok if you’re not on it! Watch hooks people use and get inspiration from them. You can also search Tiktok for your product name/category and see what sort of videos people post relating to your products. Don’t sleep on TikTok!
An Interactive E-commerce Ad Library for Facebook & Instagram ads - Unicorn Ads. Includes all online ads from the top 1% of Shopify Stores on Facebook & Instagram. You can filter Ads by product category and see what some of the highest growth DTC brands are running for their ads.
Wrapping It All Up
You’ll want to develop a system to create a variety of content consistently. UGC content can really help you source creative quickly and in large amounts, but don’t be afraid to create your own videos as well (founder videos and behind-the-scenes stuff can work really well).
Next, make sure that when you’re running creative that you have someone that’s providing feedback of what’s working and what’s not + why.
As an agency partner to a lot of brands, we often will open up Facebook Ads Manager and walk our partners through the various metrics we are seeing with new creative + add in our two cents about why the videos are performing a certain way. From there we can work with them to plan new creative and tests we want to launch going forward.
Need help coming up with creative ideas? We got you!
Book a free strategy session with us today.
Keep killing it,
Tony from the Brick Team