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Facebook Video Ads on a Budget: From Planning to Final Edit

Written by: Shane O'Neill, Director of Content

A quick scroll through any Facebook newsfeed and it’s easy to see why ecommerce and gaming brands are producing video ads. Personally, at least half the Facebook ads on my feed use video — either animated gifs, cinemagraphs, or full-motion content, with or without sound.

That’s just me, but the hard data speaks to this surge in video ads. eMarketer forecasted for 2018 that online video ad spending in the U.S. will be $27.8 billion, which represents 25% of all digital advertising for the year and is a 30% increase from 2017.

Of that $27.8 billion, $6.8 billion will go to Facebook and Instagram. eMarketer also forecasts that Facebook video ad revenue will enjoy “double-digit growth through 2020.”

Related post: Instagram Stories: Ad Creative Can Make or Break Your Success

The demand is clearly there, but marketing directors tasked with producing ad creative know that it’s expensive and time consuming just to have basic image-based assets on-hand; adding the complexity of video ads can cost more time and money.

But given the rise of consumer-level video capture and editing software, producing video ads has gotten far more affordable. And, with a little artistic vision, hard work, and ingenuity, producing high quality video content shouldn’t have to break the bank.

First things first: Decide on in-house vs. outsource

Producing video ads in-house will give a brand more control of the content and will be cheaper to produce. Using a creative agency will be more costly, but chances are the agency will use the best equipment and editing tools and the finished product will be more polished.

If you’re on a budget, using an agency is probably not in the cards. For the purposes of this blog post, the tips are for brands that have decided that in-house production is their best option. Because most marketers doing DIY video production get stuck on the question, “how do I start?”, being diligent with planning will make the rest of the process much more manageable.

Pre-Production

This is the most important stage, as the plans and decisions here will inform the rest of production. “Pre-pro” is where you build your roadmap and plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios.

Brainstorm meeting

Step one in producing any video ad is a meeting with a small in-house team — usually just a marketing director/producer, a writer and two production people to discuss ideas for the ad.

The finished piece should simply be the storyboard come to life. If it doesn’t look like what you saw in your head during brainstorming then you need to figure out what changed and why.

You should come out of brainstorm meetings with a series of concepts about how to tell your brand’s story in a concise way. And because breaking that concept out into a video ad can lead to a lot of dead ends, it’s best to leave this meeting with more than one good concept: maybe one “great” one and a few backups with room to be fleshed out.

Script

The concept stage should lead to writing a script for the video — which includes the spoken text, and also precise instructions about what will happen on the screen as the voiceover or talent speaks those words. Or, if there aren’t any words, there’s a description of the music you’re looking to use, which can go a long way in conveying the ad’s tone. Once the script is polished, refined, and approved, now it’s time to for a scene-by-scene layout of the video itself: the storyboard.

Storyboard

Because these are 15 second videos, the storyboard may just be one page. But even if the ad is as simple as a hand stirring mashed potatoes or a cat scratching a wall (see the Home Depot ad below), the storyboard should contain a detailed shotlist, lighting instructions, what the talent will be wearing, dialogue (if any), and text that will appear on screen (if any).

 

One caveat: Over-architecting the storyboard before you’ve shot a frame may lead to an over-produced final product. Remember, your video should stick to those tried-and-true best practices (clear, short, to-the-point), so avoid adding any detail that takes away from those core truths.

Talent

Given budget constraints, the video talent obviously won’t be The Rock or Reese Witherspoon. An alternative is local talent who come cheap. Perhaps a charismatic employee could step up as the on-camera talent. We’ve seen this approach work for Dollar Shave Club, Gillette, J. Crew and Sephora, among others. If the talent is an animal or a child, try using the pet or child of an employee.

Related post: FBI Ad Practices Probe Yet Another Reason to Take Advertising In-house

Figure out at the pre-production stage who the talent will be, either through discussions or auditioning — and how much, if any, you’re going to pay them. Always have backup talent in case the person gets sick or is unavailable on production day. Also, always have a backup animal because animals are unpredictable.

Make sure talent is rehearsed and prepared for production day.

Equipment

Does this ad need to be shot with a sophisticated digital camera or will an iPhone be good enough? If you’re using a digital camera, it’s wise to rent one if you can’t borrow one. Buying a digital camera may be wasteful given professional-grade digital video cameras cost roughly $1,000. The same approach goes for microphones, lights, tripods, and camera stabilizers. It’s convenient and affordable to rent equipment if you don’t own it in-house.

“Perhaps a charismatic employee could step up as the on-camera talent for the ad. We’ve seen this approach work for Dollar Shave Club, Gillette, J. Crew and Sephora, among others.”

And don’t discount the gear your fellow employees may have at home. Amateur videographers with high-end digital SLR cameras may not realize that the Canon or Nikon in their weekend bag can shoot 1080p HD video — which is well-suited to this task.

Location

Renting a studio if you don’t have one in-house is preferable, though studio fees can add up fast. A better option is to do the shoot in an employee’s living room or find a quiet corner of a park or a city street (see the Bonobos soccer ball ad below). The key to location shoots going smoothly is preparation in the pre-production stage. Scout the location first, and have a plan B if circumstances go awry — unexpected noise, rain, and wind if it’s outdoors. If it’s an indoor shoot in someone’s house, have a backup location just in case.

Production

If you’ve done a thorough job in pre-production, production day should go smoothly. However, rarely do shoots go exactly as planned, so some things to remember:

  • Stay on schedule: Be precise about call times and wrap times. Provide transportation for kids and animals if possible.
  • If circumstances work against you, abandon ship quickly and move on to Plan B — a backup location, a backup cat.
  • Understand that working with kids or animals requires more time and patience — there will be more takes and longer takes.
  • Make sure there’s food — breakfast, lunch and dinner (if needed). People (and animals) lose focus and energy when they’re hungry.

 

Post-Production

For editing, you won’t necessarily need Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro (but of course use them if you own them). Apple’s iMovie may be enough depending on the scope of the ad. Remember, when creating 15-second newsfeed video ads, the ethos is “less is more.” So basic non-linear editing software should be sufficient.

There are quality free video editing software options including: VSDC Free Video Editor, Lightworks, and Shotcut, to name a few. If your ad is planning to show off a software product or website content, Camtasia is an easy-to-use and affordable option.

The most important thing to keep in mind during editing is to stay true to the original concept/storyboard. The finished piece should simply be the storyboard come to life. If it doesn’t look like what you saw in your head during brainstorming then you need to figure out what changed and why.

And of course “always know your audience.” Does the ad speak to your target users? Will it grab their attention? Will it make them laugh, feel an emotion, realize a certain need?

If you’ve done your job in pre-production and production, editing should be the easiest part of producing a successful Facebook video ad.

Did the Ad Perform?

Once the video ad is live on Facebook, get it into some ad campaigns and start tracking performance. You’ll want to pay attention to key engagement metrics such as Video Views and Average Time Watched. This data can help you make adjustments to the future creative based on raw numbers, social context (likes, comments, shares) and downstream performance.

Related post: The Four Types of Facebook Advertisers [Infographic]

The old adage “the first time is the hardest” is certainly true with the technical aspects of video production. But making follow-up videos can be just as difficult as the first ones if you’re not careful. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to build repeatable processes and establish a feedback loop to help create your next great video ad.

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