[This content appeared as part of Digital Marketer's blog post 5 Killer Traffic Campaigns to Swipe and Deploy in Your Business]

I’ve always been blown away by the scale and return on investment (ROI) potential inherent in YouTube ads, and last year, I stumbled onto a YouTube campaign that increases leads by 33% and sales by 52%.

I call it the “Choose Your Own Adventure” campaign.

Here’s how it works:

This campaign involves creating an in-stream ad (a skippable video ad that runs before the video content on the page).

I’m sure you’ve seen these ads. Here’s an example of one of our old in-stream ads:

Anyone who clicked on the ad was taken to a landing page with a registration form:

This campaign performed well, but we were looking for ways to improve.

And one day I got an idea after seeing this quote:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.”

—Benjamin Franklin

According to good old Ben (who knew he was such a great marketer?), there are three levels of teaching/involvement:

  1. Telling
  2. Teaching
  3. Involving

Thinking about it, I realized the same is true of video ads.

You can, of course, simply tell the visitor about your product or service. And that works to a certain extent.

Better video ads actually teach the visitor a little something, right there in the ad. These ads tend to perform better than those ads that simply tell.

But how could we reach that third level—how could we involve our viewers in our content?

The answer came to me when I stumbled across one of these old books from my childhood:

Those Choose Your Own Adventure books were highly engaging because they actually INVOLVED you in the action. You weren’t just passively absorbing the book…

You were actually deciding how it would unfold.

And I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do the same thing with a YouTube ad?”

As it turns out, we can. And here’s how.

The Choose Your Own Adventure YouTube Campaign

For this campaign, we knew that we tend to have two different kinds of consumers:

  • People who are new to guitar, and
  • People who are in a guitar rut—they’ve been playing for a while, but haven’t seen much improvement lately and want to take their skills to the next level.

We used this information to give the viewer a chance to “choose their own adventure” right in the ad.

Instead of putting one generic call-to-action (CTA) in the ad, we put two CTAs in there—giving the viewer the opportunity to identify which type of guitar player they are.

The result was two clickable CTAs in the ad, which looked like this:

You can actually see the YouTube ad in its entirety here:


We ran this ad and generated over 1.5 million views, using the same targeting options as the original.

And here are the results (along with what we learned):

  • Increased View Rate by 39%. More people stuck around to watch the video.
  • Generated 33% more registrations per view. Of those people who did view the ad, more ended up becoming a lead.
  • Generated 52% more sales. And most importantly, this ad generated more sales. A lot more.

OK, so those results are pretty clear: The “choose your own adventure” style ad is significantly better than the original.

But…why?

What makes this ad so effective?

I’ve identified four things this ad does that explains why those numbers improved so much:

1. It Changes the Question in The Viewer’s Mind

Part of why this ad worked so well is because it creates what I call a “false dichotomy.”

During most ads, the viewer is asking themselves: Should I click or not?

But by giving two options like this, we are changing the question to: Should I click A or B?

It assumes the click and changes the question in the viewer’s mind in a subtle, but powerful way. Just making that little shift helped create a big improvement in our results.

2. It Gets Viewers Engaged with Our Sales Funnel

When the user clicks on one of the two CTA buttons in the ad, they aren’t taken directly to our landing page; instead, they are taken to another YouTube video providing useful content for their particular problem.

Then, the CTA on that second video takes them through to our landing page.

Because the Choose Your Own Adventure ad links keep the user on YouTube, it’s an easier click. There’s less friction than there would be from sending someone directly to a different website.

This is also a form of “microcommitment.”

A microcommitment is just a small step that the viewer takes that gets them more engaged with the ad, and makes them more likely to continue down the funnel.

It’s sort of like leaving a breadcrumb on the ground. By getting the person to stop and pick up that breadcrumb, we are subtly leading them in the direction we want them to go.

This means when the user arrives on the second video, they are a little more engaged than they were with the first video—which makes them more likely to click on that video’s CTA. And when they arrive on your landing page, they are even more engaged—and more likely to register and become a lead.

3. It Lets Us Create Two Custom Landing Pages

Another awesome thing about this ad is that it allows us to tailor our content to the user.

People who clicked on the “new to guitar” CTA landed on a page that focused on the specific challenges that guitar newbies are likely to face. The content is super relevant to them.

People who click on the “stuck in a rut” CTA, on the other hand, landed on a page that is written toward existing guitar players who need help getting out of a rut.

This segmentation improved the conversion rate on our landing pages while also helping us to learn more about customers and identify problems in the funnel.

For example, we learned that guitar players who clicked the “in a rut” CTA were 5x more valuable than the guitar newbies.

So, we used this information to run some tests on the newbie funnel that helped us to improve the results from those visitors, without sacrificing any of our results with the “in a rut” visitors.

We could never have learned this stuff from a standard ad with one CTA.

4. It Allows Us to Remarket More Effectively

Finally, this strategy helps us to get even more targeted and specific in our remarketing.

Instead of one general remarketing list for all guitar players, now we can segment our remarketing to focus one campaign on guitar players in a rut and another campaign to focus on guitar newbies.

(We do this by building a remarketing audience based on anybody who has viewed the “In A Rut” or “Fairly New” videos.)

We can also remarket more aggressively to players in a rut since they are more valuable to the business.

This allows us to spend our money more wisely using this method of advertising.

How Can You Use This in Your Own Campaigns?

A Choose Your Own Adventure ad campaign works best when you can segment your users based on one of two things:

  1. The visitor’s identity (guitar noobs vs guitar players stuck in a rut)
  2. The visitor’s intent (do you want more leads or more sales?)

And in case you’re not sure HOW to set it up, it’s pretty simple: Just use YouTube’s new “End Screens” to create your different CTA links at the end of your video.

You can add up to four links, and you can specify when you want them to appear near the end of the video.

The best part about End Screens is that, unlike annotations, they work on mobile. (This is really important.)

Choose Your Own Adventure YouTube ads are going to be a BIG focus for us in 2017, so definitely give this YouTube ad strategy a try in your business!