Video Marketing

ABCD: YouTube's Formula for Effective Video Ads

Megan O'Neill


We’ve recently taken a deep dive into YouTube advertising, including a look at YouTube for action, understanding YouTube audience targeting, and YouTube ad setup. Now we’re looking at how to create YouTube video ads that perform.


The team at YouTube has a four-step formula for effective creative. They share more details as part of their YouTube playbook on Think with Google:

“What makes certain ads perform better than others? While there are no guarantees—and no magic recipe for content that wins 100% of the time—YouTube guidelines can be broken down into a set of recommendations called ABCD. Think of it as a framework to guide your concepting, and to ensure your ad is set up for success.”

In this article, we’ll take a look at the four recommendations in YouTube’s ABCD framework:

  1. Attract
  2. Brand
  3. Connect
  4. Direct

YouTube’s ABCDs of Effective Ad Creative


The A in the ABCD framework stands for Attract. With this recommendation, YouTube emphasizes the importance of drawing attention from the beginning.

Remember that viewers on YouTube are seeing your ad while waiting to watch a video that they actually want to see. Your goal is to grab their attention and keep them from skipping. You can only do this through grabbing attention or providing value right away, in the first 5 seconds before they’ve got the opportunity to skip.


The B in ABCD stands for Brand. YouTube suggests integrating your brand in a natural and meaningful way.

While attracting attention is key, you also want to make sure that your brand gets the recognition it deserves. After all, for your ad to be effective, people will have to know who you are!

YouTube recommends integrating your brand within the first five seconds to optimize for ad recall. If you’re optimizing for awareness and consideration, connect with the viewer and then tout your brand.

Showing off your brand or product in natural usage also has a higher association with brand recall, according to Google Internal Data. You can see that in action in our series of YouTube ad video templates, where the SmartStop Self Storage brand is represented through the logo on the boxes in the background.


The C in ABCD stands for Connect. Connecting with viewers through storytelling and emotion is another one of YouTube’s recommendations for effective ads.

How do you connect? One way is to break the fourth wall and talk directly to your audience. But that’s not all, YouTube also suggests creating an emotional connection. According to Google Internal Data, "Humor and suspense are associated with higher ad recall. Humor can also be associated with higher brand awareness and viewership."

It’s also important to remember than 95% of ads on YouTube are watched with sound. Share your message with both audio and visuals for an increase in brand awareness and consideration.


Last but not least, the D in ABCD stands for Direct. Direct refers to clearly stating what action you’d like the viewer to take next.

Make sure your call to action (CTA) is clear. Do you want people to go to your website? Do you want them to subscribe to your channel? Make sure it’s obvious. YouTube also provides a variety of interactive features, including end screens and CTA overlays, to help you.

Learn more about YouTube advertising

Now that you’re armed with some tips for your ad creative, check out some of our other blog posts to get yourself up to speed on YouTube advertising. Click through the links below:

Have you run YouTube ads for your business already? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience! What worked? What didn’t? Let us know in the comments below.