What’s the “secret” to creating YouTube ads that drive results? And once you find a YouTube ad that does work, how can you maintain (or even improve) those results while you scale?

Two words: Feng Shui.

“huh?”

Ok ok, stay with me here… I’ll explain it all in just a moment. 

But trust me, by the end of the article, whenever you see the words “Feng Shui” you’re going to instantly remember:

  1. The #1 ingredient to creating high-performing YouTube ads – and how to apply it to your own ads.
  2. The key to scaling YouTube ads to 7 figures+ per month – and MAINTAINING that scale.

These are two very important lessons we have learned at our YouTube ad agency Inceptly. We specialize in not only creating and profitably scaling YouTube ads (we currently manage over $4 million USD in YouTube ad spend per month) but most importantly, maintaining these results at scale. 

(One example: As I write this, we’ve maintained one client at $40k/day+ ad spend with consistent CPA for over 50 days straight)

I say this not to impress you, but to make sure you understand that what I’m about to share is backed by our own data, month after month, offer after offer. 

So, go ahead – swipe and apply this approach to your own YouTube ads – you won’t be disappointed and nothing would make us happier 🙂

Illustration by Exaggeration

To illustrate these two principles, I’m going to share a product with probably the most ridiculously over-the-top YouTube ads I’ve seen in 2020:

The Feng Shui Bracelet.

Now you’ve probably seen these ads.  (And they are borderline unethical, depending on your opinion).

And maybe you’ve wondered yourself:

How does a company take this “Feng Shui Bracelet” you can buy for $4.66 on Wish.com:

Source: https://www.wish.com/product/5d424d075c74dc1a3a5686c6

Mark it up 500% to $29.95…

Source: https://sale.thebpsclub.com/2610fsob2610pro1b

…And use YouTube ads to sell literally millions of dollars worth of it each and every month?

Hold that thought. 

Because first, let’s eliminate any doubt that may exist about just how well these ads are working.

Check out this VidTao performance estimate of one of their best performing ads. The company behind the Feng Shui bracelet (Buddha Power) spent over $2.5 million USD on a single ad in less than two months:

And that’s just ONE ad. When you look at all the Buddha Power ads we are tracking inside VidTao, you’ll see that they have several ads with tens of millions of views. This means many multiple millions of dollars in profitable spend on these ads:

So, these ads are clearly working – VERY well.

But, of course, you want to know: 

  • WHY are they working so well?
  •  And HOW can you use the principles behind these ads’ success to create and scale high-performing YouTube ads for your own business?

Let’s dive into the first principle that they’re using to drive DESIRE & ACTION for this simple product…

Principle 1: The Power of Storytelling

Source

If there is a “Force” when it comes to selling online, it’s this:

Storytelling.

Storytelling is the most effective way to:

  • Attract the attention of your ideal audience…
  • Engage their emotions…
  • …And get them to take action

Why are stories so powerful?

They tap into one of the key unique characteristics of human beings:

We are the only species who can imagine something outside of our direct experience.

As a result, our evolutionary hardwiring causes us to respond to a story as if we are actually the one experiencing it. 

When you tell stories in your advertising, the right way, you have unmatched power for stirring emotion, driving influence, and triggering action online.

But like any power, storytelling can be used for good… 

…Or for evil.

Source

You might think the way the Feng Shui Bracelet is sold via storytelling is unethical. They use hired actors to tell fictitious, emotionally-charged stories and imply promises based on superstition. 

So, is Buddha Power using the “Dark Side” of the Force?

You be the judge of that. 

But the good news is that if you’re committed to sticking to the “light” side of the force…

…Storytelling is also very useful for folks who are not simply trying to emotionally manipulate people into buying things that they don’t need.

(And I’m going to show you a great example of that in an upcoming post…)

But let’s set moral judgments aside for a moment and look at the actual mechanisms behind these ads’ success. You’re going to find something you can use in your own ads, no matter what you’re selling. 

 

Let’s start by taking a look at one of their best performing ads from September 2020:

So how are they using storytelling to capture attention, create interest, and drive action?

It starts with the first 5 seconds.

1st 5 Seconds: Storytelling Open Loop

We’ve talked at length about how important those first five seconds of your YouTube ad are in our  full guide to YouTube ads

Why so important? It has to do with the YouTube In-Stream ads format. (You know, those annoying ads you see in front of the videos you actually want to watch…)

It’s those first five seconds of your ad that get relevant viewers to stop what they’re doing and get interested enough to NOT click the “Skip Ad” button which pops up five seconds into the ad.

And one of the best ways to beat the “Skip Ad” button? 

Drop viewers right into an open loop, right off the bat.

Let’s take a look at how Buddha Power does this during the first five seconds of this video: 

“When my wife felt that I could no longer provide luxury for her, she left me and it broke my heart.”

See how we are dropped right into the middle of an unresolved, highly emotional situation, right in the first five seconds?

As a viewer, this statement opens a bunch of questions:

  • Who is this guy?
  • Why did he lose all his wealth?
  • How could his wife be so cruel?

The end result is this: we want to stick around to get answers to these questions and resolve the emotions they trigger.

Here’s another one of their best YouTube ads for this same offer, using a different actor but with the same setup (talking head facing camera with a green screen background):

Here are the first five seconds of spoken script from this ad:

“Two years into my marriage, I found out that my husband had a mistress. Whenever I asked him about it, instead of being sorry or explaining himself, he would hit me.”

😳

Pretty extreme, right? 

Again, this open loop evokes a very strong emotional response in the ad’s first five seconds. We get questions but not answers, and we’re left hanging.

…Making it more likely we will stick around to watch more of the ad. 

The open loop has set its hook into us. And the advertiser has effectively stopped us from clicking that “Skip Ad” button, allowing them at least a few more seconds to continue to enchant us and eventually earn our trust & get us to take action.

The Power Behind Open Loops: The Zeigarnik Effect

So, why do open loops like this work so well?

A Soviet scientist named Bluma Zeigarnik discovered the powerful psychological mechanism underlying open loops, something now called the Zeigarnik Effect: 

UNFINISHED thoughts and tasks are highly memorable, addictive and hold tons of ATTENTION until they are successfully ticked off as FINISHED (when they’re chucked into the back of our minds to rot). 

This desire to FINISH puts serious POWER in those who deliver information, stories, and advertisements, because…

…the Zeigarnik Effect pushes audiences to crave completed narratives, resolved problems, answered questions and achieved goals.”
Source: Josh Barney, EinsteinMarketer https://www.einsteinmarketer.com/zeigarnik-strategy-marketing/

There you have it. Drop your viewer into the middle of an emotionally charged, incomplete narrative, and watch how they stick around with the expectation that their unresolved emotions and questions will be answered.

The Story Arc

But what happens after the open loop? That’s where the story arc comes into play.

The open loop in the first five seconds creates enough emotional tension to get viewers to stick around – for a little bit. But that emotion must be nurtured and built even further in order to create enough emotion and interest to drive viewers to actually click through and take action. 

The story arc is a way to visualize how this emotional tension is built up and resolved over the course of a story. 

Here’s how the story arc could look for a movie like “The Hunger Games”:

Source: https://diymfa.com/writing/mapping-out-your-story

See the multiple plots and subplots and how they all intersect? There’s quite a bit going on here in a two-hour movie like this.

And it’s this ongoing rising and falling of tension and resolution – triggering emotion and then resolving it – that keeps us interested enough to pay close attention to a two-hour movie.

However, in the case of our Feng Shui bracelet YouTube ads, the story arc is much simpler. But still, this emotional push/pull, tension/release story arc dynamic takes place.

Here’s how it looks for the “Life of Luxury” ad:

The whole point of this diagram is to show the rising & falling of tension & resolution through the video. 

It’s this rising and falling, tension and resolution, that emotionally engages the viewer and gets them to stick around, watch, and take action.

See how the video starts right in the middle of a highly emotional open loop? Our emotions get triggered right away. Next, there is some resolution – his life improves when he finds the bracelet. 

But tension is immediately introduced again: he loses the bracelet, and his life gets dramatically worse as a result.

Only after finding the bracelet again does the tension resolve, and the rest of the video is spent talking about features, benefits, social proof, and a call to action in the context of his story while in the emotional afterglow of a resolved conflict.

Story Arc Step By Step Walk Thru

Let’s look at the specifics of each section of this story arc in a little more detail and see how they map to key timeframes of YouTube ad format. Seeing the timing of emotional triggers will help you understand exactly how to structure your YouTube ad script for maximum emotional impact and results.

[time 00:00 – 00:05]

  • Open Loop: Money gone, wife left.
    • We are dropped into the narrator’s emotional low point. Open loop created: “How did he wind up there?”
    • Key Point: In the first five seconds, we want to create enough interest to get people to NOT skip the ad, thereby buying a few more precious seconds of attention.

[time 00:05 – 00:34]

  • Origin Story: Finds Feng Shui Bracelet, life improves dramatically.
    • Notice how the idea of a bracelet being the cause of good fortune is introduced at around 00:10 into the video. Plenty of time to disqualify everyone who is skeptical and get them to skip, before 30 seconds into the ad.
    • Key Point: Disqualification <30 sec. For YouTube in-stream ads, you only pay when someone watches 30+ seconds of your video (or clicks through). For this reason, you want to disqualify non-relevant traffic in the first 30 seconds of your ad, which this ad does well.

[time 00:34 – 01:24]

  • New Tension: Loses Feng Shui Bracelet, life gets worse.

[time 01:24 – 03:08]

  • Resolution: Finds Feng Shui Bracelet, life improves, permanently.

[time 03:08 – 04:35]

  • Features/Benefits: The actor talks us through the features and benefits of the bracelet in the context of their story.
    • Example: “By combining the lucky Asian beast Pixi with the natural stone black obsidian, it enhances the flow of positive energy greatly, especially in the area of wealth.”

[time 04:35 – 05:06]

  • Social Proof: The actor narrates success stories that others have had with the product.
    • Example: “the bracelet has been the saving grace for so many people … Another man told me how he overcame depression and regained his self-confidence.”

[time 05:06 – 05:30]

  • Call to Action: The viewer is encouraged to click through and purchase the bracelet.
    • Example: “You can correct imbalances of energy and start to enjoy life when everything just goes your way. It can all be achieved by wearing a simple Feng Shui bracelet, wherever you go. You have nothing to lose except all your bad energy, bad luck and misfortune. Click on the shop now button to get yours and experience a more abundant life today.”

Pretty straightforward, right?

It’s this simple hook + story arc that has led to millions of this simple Feng Shui Bracelet being sold via YouTube ads.

Again and again, ad after ad.

And that leads us to the second principle I wanted to share with you today: scaling YouTube ads.

How to Scale YouTube Ads: Creative Iteration

So, how do you profitably scale your business with YouTube ads from a few hundred dollars per day to $10k/day, $50k/day, and beyond?

It comes down to two key ingredients: 

  • High-Performance Media buying Strategy & Execution
  • High Performing Ad Creatives

This is probably not news to you, but let me explain…

High-performance media buying strategy & execution – specifically daily optimization – is crucial to achieving maximum scale. But that’s beyond the scope of this post, and we’ll cover it in more detail in another post.

Before you can unleash the full power of YouTube as an ad platform, you need to have a good creative

Without good YouTube ad creatives, you can be the most amazing media buying team in the world and you won’t be able to get results. (This is the main reason we’ve invested so much into building a full-scope YouTube ad creative team – so we could remove this as a variable to clients’ success)

But when you do have good YouTube ad creatives, even a basic approach to YouTube ad media buying can bring you good results.

Now here’s the challenge:  

Just one single successful ad won’t cut it if your goal is to run at scale, month after month…

So, what to do?

Creative Burnout: Don’t Be a One Trick Pony

Let’s imagine you’ve followed the YouTube ad pointers from this post and have created an ad that’s doing well out of the gate. 

Now that you’re seeing some success, how do you actually scale?

The first problem you’re going to run into is this: 

Show your ad to enough people, and it’s going to lose its effectiveness.

Your CTR will decrease, your CPM will increase, and overall your profitability will start to get worse.

It’s a phenomenon called “creative burnout”, and to avoid it, you need a steady stream of new, high-performing creatives to continually test.

At our agency, Inceptly, when we have found at least one winning ad and are spending $2k-3k+/day and are looking to reach $10k to $50k/day and beyond (while maintaining solid profitability) here’s how we avoid creative burnout: 

We devote around 20% of our budget to testing new creatives.

Now, most new creatives are NOT going to beat your control. Some will do worse, some will be approximately equal to your control or maybe marginally better.

Approximately 25% of these new creatives will be wildly different approaches/angles to find a new potential “Home Run” ad. (This is why we’ve built out a live-action comedic direct response element to our creative unit, for instance.)

…But more often than not, it pays to be boring. Here’s what I mean:

“If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It”

This YouTube ad follows a very simple story arc. And one of the biggest secrets to the Feng Shui Bracelet’s success has been this:

They are not trying to re-invent the wheel.

They found success with one ad and scaled by consistently rolling out variations using the same, proven framework with the exact same emotional story arc. 

All that changed were the actors they used and some initial story details. Everything else stayed basically the same.

The result? A long-lasting YouTube ad campaign generating millions of dollars.

The format of the video (actor talking in front of a green screen background, product b-roll, etc.), is always the same.

The emotional story arc is always the same:

The details of the story change somewhat, but the timing of the intro five-second hook and the rest of the video’s story arc elements are essentially the same. In some cases, the Features/Benefits–> Social Proof –> Call to Action sections are exactly the same between videos.

And it’s very interesting to see how this process of iteration has played out over the life of this offer since our first record of these ads in December 2019:

Ad #1: “She Changed Her Energy For A Better Life”

  • Ad Launch Date: December 13, 2019 
  • Estimated Adspend: $767k

Ad #2: “He Changed His Life For The Better”

  • Ad Launch Date: March 9, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $203k

Ad #3: “My Grandmother Handed Me A Beautiful Necklace”

  • Ad Launch Date: May 12, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $11k

Ad #4: “Poor Blind Woman”

  • Ad Launch Date: May 22, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $240k

Ad #5: “Minority”

  • Ad Launch Date: June 8, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $665k

Ad #6: “Mysterious Package”

  • Ad Launch Date: July 7, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $2.5 Million 

Ad #7: “Husband Mistress Revenge”

  • Ad Launch Date: July 29, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $306k 

Ad #8: “Life of Luxury”

  • Ad Launch Date: September 30, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $97k 

Ad #9: “Two Breads”

  • Ad Launch Date: October 14, 2020
  • Estimated Adspend: $11k 

Want to see for yourself? 

Go ahead and log in to vidtao.com (it’s free) and search for “Buddha” and you’ll see an updated breakdown of current and past ads.

Here are timestamped scripts of four of their top ads, so you can dive in a bit deeper and see each script & story element for yourself.

Storytelling + Creative Iteration = YouTube Ad Results, At Scale

There you have it! The “Feng Shui Bracelet Secret” to creating and scaling YouTube ads!

Step 1: Use storytelling to ignite emotions and drive action.

Step 2: Once you have an ad that’s working, adjust aspects of the ad (new actor, slightly different story, etc.), to avoid creative burnout and scale, month after month. 

Try this approach for yourself. You’ll find it becomes your “workhorse” approach for sustainably scaling creatives once you’ve found a winner.