Video Marketing Lab by
Handbook Chapter 7

Creating a direct response video campaign


When you want clicks to your website, blog, lead-gen list, or anywhere else, you need a direct response campaign.

To get direct response video campaigns working for you, you need a solid understanding of all the moving parts.

In this chapter, we’ll explain the ins and outs and share a little-known hack for boosting their performance.

What is direct response?

Direct response has one thing on its mind. You. Or to be exact, you clicking on that CTA button.

The direct response marketing model doesn’t suggest a click from a customer, it demands it. These classic advertising tactics dig deep into the human psyche. They use our basic fears (Last chance offer! Never to be repeated prices!) and desires (Look 10kg lighter in minutes! Yes, please rush me my portable walrus polishing kit!) to get us to click that button.

Direct response is compelling, measurable, and very specific about who it’s speaking to. It also delivers a single call to action that can’t be ignored.

Once you have your target demographic dialed in, these ads can be highly effective in getting your customers to take immediate action. The alluring promise of a fitter, richer, happier version of themselves lies a mere click away on the other side of the CTA button.

Direct response on Facebook

Direct response is a high-performance style of advertising. Used in the context of a Facebook video marketing campaign, it can generate excellent results for your business.

In the Facebook marketing funnel, direct response covers both consideration and conversion campaigns. They work best when your audience knows who you are, such as shoppers with abandoned carts, old customers, or a group you’ve pre-qualified with an awareness campaign.

In order to be successful with a direct response video campaign, you need to know what makes up a winning advertisement. Storytelling, emotion, video footage and the positioning of your offer can make or break your marketing efforts.

You also need to think about which specific Facebook ad units and placements will work best when using a direct response framework.

The best ad placements for direct response

Facebook caters to the needs of direct response advertisers by offering a variety of ad placements that work in conjunction with your video marketing to enable you to create a winning campaign.

In Chapter 5 we broke down all the Facebook ad placements for you. Now we’ll dive into which we recommend for direct response campaigns.

News Feed

The best-performing Facebook ad unit for direct response videos is in the News Feed of Facebook and Instagram. This is the most likely time someone will voluntarily leave the app to follow an outside link with the intent to learn more about an offer or make a purchase.

It’s critical that a customer understands the value of your video within the first few seconds, so a News Feed placement is the perfect positioning for your direct response campaign. Every part of a video view, from an initial impression to a complete view, creates a lift in brand awareness and increases the likelihood of a viewer taking action on your ad.

Think of Facebook as the newspaper and Instagram as the magazine of the internet. It makes a lot of sense to capture your target customers where they’re spending time flicking through the pages, ready to learn, and willing to buy. The News Feed is typically a place where users have the most intention to click out of the app, so it’s perfectly suited for ads with conversions in mind.

Instant Experience

This ad unit is another solid performer in direct response video marketing. If you want to take advantage of an ad unit that people don’t typically see on a daily basis, this is an avenue worth exploring.

Essentially a mini landing page, it enables you to keep a viewer on Facebook while they watch your ad and get accustomed to your brand and messaging.

We’ll expand more on Instant Experience ads later in this chapter.


Our third pick for effective direct response placements is in-stream ads.

Whenever you’re rudely interrupted in the middle of a gripping, streamed Facebook video by an ad unrelated to what you’re watching (but strangely related to everything you’ve Googled in the last month) that’s your new friend – the in-stream ad.

While it has to be said that this placement can be incredibly annoying for viewers, it’s also a place they are unlikely to click away from because of their commitment to finishing the larger video.

This can make it a huge win for your Facebook marketing, as there’s a good chance viewers will watch your entire ad and not leave mid-roll.

Other ad units

In terms of direct response campaigns, other ad placements don’t perform to the standard of the top three.

Facebook and Instagram stories shouldn’t be focused on too much. Users go here to interact with friends, family, and their favorite brands. Typically, viewers using Stories feeds want to stay within these platforms and interact with your business in that space. They’re not likely to click away and visit a landing page to check out your offer.

Facebook Live is useful for other ad styles, but in terms of direct response it can feel too long and complex to clearly deliver your call to action to viewers.

Gerard tip
Choosing the right ad placement

Dual objectives of click and completion

In terms of objectives, a direct response campaign with video is a strange beast. The very definition of ‘direct response’ is an ad having one objective. A direct response video marketing campaign, however, has two objectives. The first is to get the user to complete your video, and the other is to get them to click out to get your offer. Ideally, they will do both – watch the whole ad and then take action.

Despite being at odds with itself, the direct response ad model can perform extremely well in a video environment. It delivers all the value of Facebook video marketing and combines it with the punch of classic advertising psychology to work twice as hard at promoting your offer.

Copy and creative

Your ad has to hold its own weight. You need to think about the video itself, plus the supporting headline and body of the ad post.

The first 2-3 seconds of video are the most important to get results in your campaign. In this tiny space of time, you need to deliver an outstanding message to your viewers. It needs to hook them in, and it needs to give them a sense of your brand and what to expect from the rest of your video.

Your video must be able to stand alone, outside of any headline text. If someone sees the video with no explainer text, your message should still be clear. It should get the viewer to understand your offer, where they will end up if they click (your landing page), and exactly what to expect when they get there.

Likewise, if someone were to read your headline and ad post without watching the video, they should end up with a clear expectation of what your video is about and be able to then watch the video/click to your landing page where they will find a matching message.

Don’t over-deliver with the text, though. Referencing the video a lot isn’t a good use of the small amount of available text space and you could be wasting your messaging on people that haven’t watched the full video.

Out of the two goals in your direct response ad, getting the click is the higher priority. Don’t be discouraged if your clicks and views are out of balance. The amount of video viewed by users doesn’t necessarily correlate with your click-through rate. It isn’t a reason to think your video isn’t performing well. It could simply mean that users enjoyed the video with no intent to buy. It could also mean they’re not ready to buy right at that moment. Or it could mean they skipped the video altogether and went straight to converting through your CTA (hurrah!)

Rena tip
Don't forget a call-to-action

Test your content

The most important factor in the success of your direct response video campaign is testing. In the wise words of David Ogilvy, the godfather of advertising, “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

A/B testing is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your ads are running at peak performance. Test everything you can think of, even if it feels like you’re testing small, pointless changes. The one certainty about testing is that you can never be sure what will work for a particular ad and what won’t. The results might surprise you.

It’s important to have a mix of advertising. Don’t go all-in on video – this will give you other ads to test against. Test your video out against static images. Test against all your other creatives. Test against everything you can think of in order to keep learning and improving.

Statistically, video ads are proven to get higher click-through rates than static ads. If you dissect your test results and see your video is falling behind, it might be time to examine the moving pieces to figure out what you can do better.

A closer inspection might reveal your video isn’t delivering your message clearly enough. Is there something in the static image that gets your call to action across better than the moving footage? Is your script not strong enough? Is your audio putting people off?

There could be any number of reasons why your ad isn’t running at full throttle. Our number one piece of advice is to test, test, test.

What types of video to use

The most effective content to use in your direct response marketing videos will vary depending on your business and industry. The key element you need to factor in is emotion.

Emotional content is critical in any direct response campaign. Your video must be empathetic to your target audience and show them how your company is addressing their specific needs.

Focus on what makes you different as a company. What stands out and gives you a competitive edge against the hundreds of other businesses vying for your customers’ attention? What’s your X-factor?

As you think about creating your direct response campaign it’s easy to get stuck in a ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ mindset without showcasing how you’re solving a specific problem for your customers.

Be a salesperson. Connect to the audience’s needs and show them how you can solve their problems with your products and services. It’s important to get in front of the people you know are going to convert. These could be people targeted by self-identification, from a lookalike audience generated by Facebook that’s based on the interests of your current customers or from retargeting.

Pinpoint first what your audience is looking for or if there is a trend people are interested in. Keep in mind that you should always be thinking about a way to fill the needs of your target customers when you create your video content. This is the key to high-performing direct response videos.

Pro tip

Timely ads

If you sell a consumable that you know runs out every 30 days then it’s a perfect opportunity to run an ad 25 days after purchase reminding your customers to stock up.

It could be a 30-day vitamin capsule supply or a cosmetic you know lasts a month. Adjust your ads to suit the product purchased and its expected lifetime. Be creative with your copy, like ‘Don’t be caught short, stock up now!’

The fictional example of Thor Protein

Let’s say you have an amazing new company called Thor Protein. It gives you all the muscular powers you would expect as a Viking god and is targeting people who want that 6-pack they always dreamed of.

You know the fitness market is competitive and getting more saturated by the day, so your main goal is to figure out how to set yourself apart. What’s your x-factor?

Your product is solid. It’s good-quality protein, low in sugar, and it’s cheap. The downsides are that it’s not a top-quality protein and doesn’t contain fancy sports ingredients like BCAAs. In the back of your mind, you might be a bit worried that your protein can only give your customers a 4-pack.

The key is to draw attention away from the weaknesses of your product. The fact that your protein is half the price of the other, similar protein powders on the market is your biggest advantage, so you know your target audience should be people who want to reach their muscle-building goals but are also price-conscious.

When you talk to this specific audience in your campaigns, it’s important that you focus on promoting your product as the most cost-effective solution on the market.

You could pitch it something like this: ‘We know working out is tough. We know getting your body the supplements it needs is even tougher. So we made it easy for you by creating our protein subscription service that saves you a whopping 50% every month. Build god-like muscle and save a fortune by joining our subscription plan today!’

Your target customer can see you’re addressing their specific goals (building muscle) and financial barriers (50% off) in your video. It speaks to them on a very personal level and addresses their pricing objections.

By showcasing your product in this way you can gain more leverage than a generic ‘Hey, we have this cool protein powder and you can save 50% a month if you sign up with us’.

It’s the same message at the end of the day, but by positioning it in a more specific way it addresses the struggle of those people who are faced with continuously having to buy expensive protein in order to achieve a desired personal goal.

Empathy with your customers is critical to successful content when it comes to direct response Facebook promotions.

Visual content elements

The best style of video to use for your content depends on the business you have, your style, and (most importantly) your resources. The key factor is making sure it’s edited to clearly display your brand, tone, and message to the audience.

If you’re working with a small team and a modest budget, your dream video featuring beautiful people filmed across five continents might not be in your ballpark. So let’s look at some other options.

For software and technology companies, animated content works well. Your product is digital and lives in an online environment, so this style of footage resonates well with your target audience.

Say you’re a personal trainer or plumber. You work out there in the ‘real’ world so animation might feel a little ‘off’ for the majority of your customers. They’ll be wanting to see real-world footage and be presented with the benefits and results of your service that they would expect if they decide to work with you.

Show those happy, toned customers. Show that shiny, non-leaky toilet. Okay, maybe not the toilet, but you get the drift.

If you’re promoting your e-commerce business, you might want to show your products in action. Clothing, accessories, sports equipment, or whatever else you’re selling can be shown being worn or used by people to put it into a realistic context rather than a static flat-lay situation.

Thor Protein could certainly benefit from live video or carefully edited stock footage to show it being used in the context of Asgardian-level gym workouts and heroic post-training cool-downs.

Ken tip
Creative fatigue: Why ads perform best when they're new

Stock footage

If you don’t have the time, equipment, or budget to get live video, stock footage can also be a solid option. By dropping stock video and images into a video editor, you can add narration, text, and branding to personalize it to your business. The most important thing to remember with using stock footage is that it should be people-focused and feel genuine. Avoid cheesiness at all times (unless you’re selling cheese).

Involving influencers

Influencers can be a game-changer for many businesses. It’s a matter of careful selection and doing your research to make sure they’re as influential as they appear.

Popular influencers can have hundreds of thousands of followers. With their involvement, your video campaign has the ability to turn into a serious marketing weapon.

A good influencer is a professional. They’ve legitimately built their brand from the ground up. They have a strong style, brand, and follower engagement. Plus, they know how to push all the buttons in their audience to drive engagement.

If your influencer wants to take the video marketing into their own hands, it could be worth your while to let them do so. Good influencers typically have strong networks and many resources that enable them to create high-quality footage. After all, their brand is at stake too, so they need to make it look amazing.

It might be a case where you negotiate to let them dictate the style and direction of the video and you pay the costs to get everything happening. Or you might negotiate a trade for products in exchange for free advertisement.

Whichever angle you take to approach and work with influencers, it could be a marketing goldmine as long as you do your homework and find the right influencer for your business.

Rena tip
Our social proof hack

Hack social proof into your ads

This question has been haunting marketers since the dawn of Facebook. Of course, if you have billions of dollars in advertising spend, it probably doesn’t haunt you at all. But if you’re like most advertisers, every CPC counts towards that looming total ad spend.

Being decent folks, we’re going to let you in on one of our favorite hacks to boost your views, engagements, and clicks. All of this while we keep your marketing budget in check!

As you set up your ad targeting, you’re going to be faced with selecting what you want from your video ad. Since it’s a direct response campaign, your main goal is probably for people to click and buy/sign up/visit your website. Getting those clicks is critical to achieving your end goal.

But what about views and engagement? Aren’t they important too? The answer is yes, and you need to address even the audiences that aren’t likely to buy from you in order to create a successful campaign.

Use one audience to attract another

Facebook users can be separated into two cohorts. The first being the click-happy liker and sharer. The type of person that comments on all manner of things, even sponsored ads. They’re extremely engaged but less likely to take action on your offer.

The second group consists of people who are more likely to click on your ads. These are the people you care about. However, they’re a suspicious bunch and much more discerning about what they give their attention to. Typically, their engagement rate is lower unless they see something that resonates with them. They’re more likely to click out of Facebook to follow links to interesting articles, news, and even ad offers if they’re relevant.

Despite not being part of the ‘like and share’ crowd, this group of users wants to see that other people have engaged with your ad because it shows your business isn’t a scam. If there’s no proof next to your video, you’re in trouble. They can already see it’s sponsored, so the red flags are up while your chances of getting their buy-in is way, way down.

If you’re not targeting for views and engagement there isn’t likely to be that much social proof when they scroll past your ad. So you need to give them that social proof without breaking the bank.

How to
Hack views and engagement into your ads

One last thing

Targeting lowest-cost countries is a great hack, but there is a downside. These countries can make your ads the target for bots and a flood of spam. Any campaigns you set up using this method need to be carefully monitored for spam activity. Delete any spam comments that are ruining your campaign and keep things clean and professional-looking.

Since you’ve opened up your ad to unwanted bot attention, your website might also become a target, so keep in mind to check your pages as well.

So there you have it. An ad that’s designed to attract high rates of engagement, encourage more clicks from your target audience, and keep your CFO happy.

This simple hack is an excellent addition to your direct response strategy and helps you keep your Facebook advertising costs as low as possible.

Instant Experiences for better results

Formerly known as Canvas ads, Instant Experience ads are a little different from the other ad units. They work like a landing page and are a great way to bring your offers to life.

When done well, they outperform simple direct response campaigns. Why? Because they’re far more immersive.

Instant Experience lets you create a user experience that’s personalized to your brand. They function like a landing page, allowing you to go large on messaging and style.

These ads are only visible on mobile phones, so you need to take aspect ratios and mobile viewing habits into account when you’re thinking about creating your campaigns.

How to
Make an instant experience ad

Keep the experience organic

When you’re creating your ad story, make sure it doesn’t detract from the ad itself. Videos should be short, not a two-minute epic that you expect viewers to sit through. Lengthy videos in Instant Experience distract viewers from your direct response goal.

The most important thing to remember with the Instant Experience ad unit as a whole is to embrace a storytelling aspect. Make it feel like you’re taking the user on a journey or learning something by engaging with your brand’s videos.

Ensure your video has a strong call to action and repeat this throughout your Instant Experience. A CTA repeated three or four times reinforces your message and the user’s brand awareness. Users might be scrolling through multiple images of different videos and content, and they need to be reminded of your call to action so they can be driven towards clicking through to your offer.

In the Instant Experience header, make sure your call to action is seen straight away. It should also be placed in the middle of your video where it fits naturally and at the conclusion of the ad.

The view rate for Instant Experience is 70%. This seems high, but in reality, it means many people are only making it through 70% of your video. If you’ve only put the call to action at the end of your advertisement, you’re missing out on capturing a bunch of clicks that may very well have become customers.

Facebook pixel

If you’re using a Facebook pixel, you’ll be pleased to know it’s automatically added to your Instant Experience when you create your ad. This gives you the means to understand a customer’s progression from seeing your ad to taking action on your offer.

And, of course, the handy pixel technology allows you to seamlessly retarget viewers who interacted with your initial ad but didn’t take the action you wanted the first time around.

You can also embed third-party pixels into an Instant Experience. This enables you to track engagement and performance of your Instant Experience ads and compare them to your other mobile campaigns both on and off Facebook.

Put direct response to work for you

Creating a direct response video campaign on Facebook is a powerful way to get your message across to your customers and convince them to take immediate action. Facebook offers a wide selection of creative ad units, with some of these performing particularly well in a direct response situation.

If you have a clear understanding of all the elements that go into creating a high-performing direct response advertisement, your chances of a successful campaign will be much higher.

Focus on creating content that empathizes with your buyers’ struggles and positions you as the business that can solve it. Blend your storytelling with clear calls to action and make sure the style and footage in your video is relevant to both your business and the customers you serve.

Most importantly, don’t forget to keep testing your direct response campaign against your other creatives. Continuous testing leads to continuous improvement and ensures you’re getting you the best bang for your buck with your Facebook marketing.


Clicks first. Direct response campaigns demand instant action — a click. They work best as a follow-up to an awareness campaign, but can also hold their own alone.

Cheaper with video. Video can help drive down the cost of direct response ads when view completion rates are high.

Target the News Feed. The most effective location for ads that drive users off Facebook is the News Feed.

Speak to their needs. Target your message, footage, and video style to convince your audience and meet their needs, not to entertain yourself.

Hack it. Get social proof and engagement first by serving your ad to cheaper markets. After you’ve got enough views, reactions, shares, and comments, target your desired audience with the same ad.