It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re trying to generate traffic from your YouTube video ads, especially when you’re not seeing the results that you want. If you’ve spent a considerable amount of money on the campaign, it’s not only frustrating, but it’s not cost effective. 

While there may be many reasons why your video isn’t performing as it should, one thing is certain: You need to capture attention and capture it quickly. The “five-second rule” doesn’t just relate to food. You should also apply it to your video marketing ads. 

Research shows that the average human attention span is falling. Infographics from Wyzowl show that with the emergence of mobile devices our attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. That’s one second less than a goldfish – pretty shocking, yeah? 

We all have access to devices and on-the-go entertainment. Whether we’re on a train or sitting on our sofas at home, we have the latest content at our fingertips. 

When it comes to video ads, it’s easy to skip the ad or switch to a different channel if they don’t grab our attention. If you’re using channels like YouTube for your marketing ads, you’ve got to hook viewers in from the start. 

But don’t get disheartened. The good news is that there are several methods you can use to get that all-important five-second “wow” factor. 

Test a few of these methods, and you should see an improvement in your YouTube ROI

Use Storytelling Techniques 

Storytelling offers something different than just another commercial message of “buy more.” It invests viewers with an emotional connection and draws them into the video. 

Stories help your audience understand complex information and build your brand image. For example, through their videos, Red Bull doesn’t just sell you an energy drink. Instead, they draw their viewers into a world of extreme sports and rock star lifestyles. 

Telling stories helps you relate to your viewers on a human level. It promotes a common bond and instills a feeling of connection. Using your customers as part of your video strategy is a great way to gain trust and earn credibility. 

Use sequential storytelling as a teaser before a product or service launches. Give your viewers snippets of a story, almost like a film trailer or a brief overview of the good stuff that’s still to come. 

Video ad sequencing updates the traditional model, allowing you to serve up a planned sequence of ads that tell a story to customers across their purchase journey. What’s more,  74% of YouTube users claim to remember video ad sequencing better than standard 30-second ad videos.

Use Emotion In Your Video Ads

Tapping into a person’s emotions within five seconds of watching an online advertisement can make all the difference with their retention rate.

Think about it. Which would you rather watch? An ad that just explains what a product does or an ad that makes you smile or laugh? You’re more likely to remember the ad that captured your emotion. 

Equally, gut instinct has the potential to influence whether a consumer buys or not. Yes, we use rational thought when buying, but a lot comes down to emotion. Scientists and psychologists have shown that emotion plays a role in purchasing decisions

It’s a win-win situation. Use emotion in the first five to 10 seconds of your ad, and you’ll grab attention, possibly influence your viewer’s decision, and increase the likelihood of your audience sharing the video to spread joy. 

Introduce New Products Through Nostalgia

We all have fond memories of “the good old days.” Nostalgia is a powerful tool. It takes us back to the times when life felt simpler and fills us with feelings of security, comfort, and engagement. 

Nostalgia helps viewers tap into “feel-good emotions.” Want a potential customer to feel that way about your brand? Try nostalgia marketing. 

A good way to create feelings of nostalgia is through the music used in your video. Music can invoke explicit memories, taking us back to the times we first heard the track. 

We’ve already discovered that humans remember stories rather than facts. Using nostalgia helps viewers reflect on their own stories – a great way to help them resonate with your brand. 

Link the “new” of your product and promote the benefits through linking it with the happy days of yesteryear. Know your customer personas and use that research to tap into nostalgia that resonates with them.

Inspire And Motivate Action From Your Audience

The end goal of any marketing video is to inspire your audience to take action. Whether it’s interacting with the content or clicking a link, every video needs a goal. 

When planning your video, keep your goal in mind. Try to focus on introducing an aspect of this goal into the first five to 10 seconds. 

Another great way to inspire and motivate your audience is to highlight how your product helps others. You can do this using customer testimonials as part of your video. Reviews show how your product solved the customer’s problems and improved their lives as a result. 

If you can use customers on screen within your video, that’s even better. It makes your marketing authentic. As humans, we’re all nosey and enjoy listening to the stories and experiences of others. 

If your business supports a charity, use this in your video marketing. It’s a great idea to create videos highlighting the work achieved by the charity and how your business is supporting the good cause. Motivate and inspire the viewer by reminding them that they’re also contributing to the charity’s work every time they buy from your company. 

By highlighting charity work, you’ll encourage the “feel-good factor” in your audience. Consumers want to feel like they’re part of something good. And remember what we discussed earlier – tapping into emotion grabs attention. 

Keep Your Audience Curious

Building curiosity is a traditional marketing method. The information gap theory of curiosity creates a need in your viewers to find out more. If there’s missing information between what they know and what they want to know, you can use that in video marketing to keep their eyes on the screen

As a starting point, use a curiosity-evoking question in the thumbnail and title of your video. By doing this, you can attract the viewer’s interest and entice them to click to play. The next step is to keep the answer to the question hidden until near the end of the video. By building up to the answer, it keeps viewers engaged and interested in your video content. 

Sequential storytelling also helps create curiosity. Drip feeding information and using teaser snapshot videos encourages your viewers to come back for more. It’s ok to be a little vague but include just enough detail to pique curiosity and entice your audience to learn the rest. 

Start With Motion That Catches The Eye

The first few seconds of your video should be active viewing. The visuals should jump out from the screen to get your viewer to stop scrolling and focus on the video.

Use movement, vivid colors, smiles, close-ups, and human emotions – anything that will grab your audience’s attention. Having a striking cover image will also boost clicks. 

Bright, bold text for subtitles and captions also helps your video stand out and retains interest from the audience.

Avoid Using Custom Intros 

Some brands use a custom intro for the first few seconds of their videos. Although this seems like a great idea, it’s not advisable. 


Brand intros repeat the same visuals, music, and information at the start of every video, much like television series. Have you ever used the “skip intro” option when you watch a Netflix series? It’s the same thing.

Having to watch the same intro repeatedly to get to the main video is mind-numbing and dull. Viewers switch off before getting to your exciting content. Either that or they skip the intro, which affects your audience retention analytics. 

A better way to introduce your brand is through a channel intro. A channel video runs for two minutes and it’s featured on a channel page encouraging viewers to subscribe. Your audience only needs to watch it once. 

To grab attention in the first 5 seconds, skip the brand intro and get straight to the interesting stuff. Your brand values should be visible in your video content anyway, especially if they’re well planned as part of an overall content strategy

Create Native Ads

There’s nothing more annoying than watching a video and having it interrupted every few minutes for an ad. Or having to wait to hit the “skip ad” button. 

For video marketers, a way to prevent this viewer frustration is to make ads look native. 

According to Outbrain, native advertising is “any paid content that is in-feed and inherently non-disruptive.” As a result, it blends in with the other content on the platform. 

Native video ads on YouTube tend to be more educational and entertainment-based rather than purely promotional. This helps the videos slot into other YouTube videos more easily, as they’re in a similar format. 

Better still, native video ads don’t disrupt viewing because the audience can choose to scroll by without watching. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it’s actually beneficial. Native video ads on YouTube can show up as “Recommended Videos.” The upside of this is that users are more likely to watch the video since they’re more in control of their viewing options. Native ads cause minimum frustration, which prevents you from losing potential customers. 

Experiment With Your Video Marketing And Find The Best Content For Your Audience

There’s no better way to find out what videos work than by experimenting and testing. This will allow you the opportunity to fine-tune your campaign strategy, which ultimately leads toward more successful results in marketing with video content. 

YouTube offers a host of analytical data to its business users. Use this data to find out which content works best for your audience on this platform. Track your insights, like play rates and watch times, as well as audience retention and sharing. In addition, YouTube analytics has features that let you check which type of video resonates with your audience the most. 

Finally, try out the strategies above. With time and experience, you’ll soon find a way to hook attention within the first five seconds of your YouTube video. 

This is a guest post written by Torrey Tayenaka

Torrey Tayenaka is the co-founder and CEO at Sparkhouse, an Orange County based corporate marketing production agency. He is often asked to contribute expertise in publications like Entrepreneur, Single Grain, and Forbes. Sparkhouse is known for transforming video marketing and advertising into real conversations. Rather than hitting the consumer over the head with blatant ads, Sparkhouse creates interesting, entertaining, and useful videos that enrich the lives of his clients’ customers. In addition to Sparkhouse, Torrey has also founded the companies Eva Smart Shower, Litehouse & Forge54.

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