YouTube As a Demand Generation Network
Historically, YouTube has been seen almost exclusively as a demand generation platform (demand generation is defined as the focus of targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services). Essentially meaning that when advertising on YouTube, we should not expect to generate leads or sales directly as a result. Rather, we leverage YouTube advertising as an awareness tactic in the same way we’d leverage a TV commercial (forgive the obvious comparison).
Of course we have much, much more control over who views our video ads via Adwords’ targeting, but in essence getting someone to view a video as an ad on the YouTube network, click through to the website, and complete a transaction is a dubious proposition at best (to loosely quote Christopher Waltz in Django Unchained).
The Need for Google to Push for More Conversion in YT
Adwords has established itself for a long time as a performance marketing platform (performance marketing is defined as online marketing and advertising programs in which advertisers and marketing companies are paid when a specific action is completed; such as a sale, lead or click) and that inherently presents a problem for Google when they try to shift expectations to ‘brand awareness’ from ‘conversion focused’.
Not to date myself here, but I was actually managing paid search accounts via Adwords during the time when Google rolled out YouTube advertising. If you ask me, they did a horrible job of appropriately setting expectations for this new ad format. During their pitch to my agency at the time, they all but guaranteed a fresh new source of conversion volume via paid advertising online (mind you this was in our San Francisco office and we had very close contact with Google reps from their HQ in the city).
The problem then became: “why the hell are my ads not converting?!” and for years there hasn’t been much of an answer from Google that speaks to that problem.
For us as marketers, we (and our clients) were so used to seeing direct sales and leads as a result of paid ads online. Now we were throwing thousands of ad dollars into YouTube advertising with little to no direct revenue. This became a problem very, very quickly. One retort Google had was “this is helping grow your remarketing audiences”. That retort, quite frankly, is bulls@#t. Sure we’re growing our video watchers list, but that those lists are notoriously useless 70% of the time, and considering most of the engagements with the ads are ‘views’ and not ‘clicks’, no one is actually navigating to the desired website after viewing a video ad, hence not contributing to a remarketing pool.
So in conclusion, YouTube ads come up short for the following reasons:
- Not a performance marketing ad type
- Won’t grow your websites remarketing pools
- Without setting the right expectations, these ads will seem like a colossal disappointment
That being said, there is the “invisible hand” effect that could drive sales/leads in the same way traditional advertising does. The importance of growing the top of the funnel cannot be understated, and YouTube ads can certainly help in growing that area. This is the value of YouTube advertising, not direct sales or conversion metrics.
However, Google wanted to make video ads as direct response focused as possible to try and change that (an effort to adhere to their performance-first ideology), which is why they created YouTube for action.
YouTube For Action vs. YouTube Shopping (Same But Different)
There are essentially now two direct response YouTube ad types now; YouTube for action and YouTube for shopping. As you might have guessed, one is focused on e-Comm and the other is geared towards lead gen.
These ad type will resolve on desktop’s but they were mostly designed to resolve on mobile. These are very simple to set up. For-action campaigns are set up with simple ad text creation with a small image asset. For-shopping campaigns, all you have to do is sync your merchant center account when prompted to do so in the campaign setup.
In the grand scheme of things, YouTube for action probably isn’t going to net you a positive return. Unless you’re using a highly, highly targeting remarketing audience, you’re essentially showing a video asset in conjunction with a clickable link just as normal YouTube ads operate. The difference is the clickable component stands out a little more (especially with shopping).
So, is this even worth a test? Absolutely. I have transitioned all of my standard YouTube campaigns to the YouTube for shopping settings. Reason being is that we can essentially get the brand/product exposure that these ads provide in conjunction with significantly increased CTA space. So really, using them is a no-brainer.
However, if you’re using these campaigns with the expectation to drive huge amounts of sales or leads, you may want to adjust your goals or look at different campaign types such as search ads or product listing ads.