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Videos have become an integral part of our digital culture not just as a communication medium, but also as an advertising tool.

Video ads on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online channels form a key part of the advertising landscape in 2015. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 74 percent of marketers in North America are using videos as part of their content marketing strategies.

Facebook and Twitter have experienced success with autoplay ads within their respective newsfeed streams and user timelines. In its fourth-quarter earnings report last year, Facebook announced that three billion videos are viewed on its site each day. Video ads have been evolving ever since the social media giant introduced them in 2014. An Advertising Age report from earlier this year indicates that nine percent of U.S. marketing professionals are already running autoplay ads on Facebook, while 54 percent expressed a likelihood of using them this year.

Search engines are now indexing video ads as part of their search results, giving rise to the potential for increased traffic to the websites of businesses. Google began testing the addition of promoted video ads to search results in August in an effort to broaden its ad capabilities by incorporating multimedia rather than just text links, according to industry sources. Bing and Yahoo are already showing sponsored video ads directly within search results, which require viewer-initiated action in order to be played.

Not much has been revealed yet about the direction Google plans to take. However, it is projected to surpass competitors despite a late start, thanks to its ownership of YouTube, on which more than six billion hours of video are viewed each month. Google has a pre-roll ad platform on YouTube that forces viewers to watch an ad before their actual video.

Online video advertising is emerging as a powerful marketing tool that provides the opportunity to connect with thousands of potential clients at a fraction of the cost of traditional television advertising. Many leading brands and marketers, however, are still struggling to understand how they can maximize the video advertising platform.

There are many ways in which attorneys can leverage video ads to grow their law firm, attract more clients and distinguish themselves from competitors. As part of a broader marketing strategy, video ads can help build trust and authority in your practice area, as well as inform potential clients about your brand and the legal services you offer. Attorneys can use video ads to persuade a potential client to recognize you have the solution to their legal problem. Just like with any other form of advertising, planning a strategy with goals and objectives is essential to creating an effective video ad. Determine what the purpose of your video ad will be and what message you would like it to deliver.

Understanding that law firms are social is also critical to marketing success. Attorneys form professional relationships with their clients and other legal professionals in the community. The inherently social nature of law firms works well with online video, a medium that is regularly viewed, shared and commented upon across social networks. Many law firms already use videos on their websites. However, video ads differ from the typical format of attorney ads in several key ways such as cost, length and objective. Ads distributed through platforms such as Facebook can cost more than conventional lawyer videos, which can be shared for free across the firm’s website, YouTube and other platforms. Such videos are around two to five minutes in length on average. They are created to highlight the attorney and provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise. In contrast, video ads are much shorter and often last only a few seconds. Their goal is to capture the viewer’s attention, with an emphasis on brevity.

When it comes to video advertising, it is important to customize your content for the channel from which it will be disseminated, whether it is on social media or a search engine results page. For example, if you are going to insert your brand into a user’s Facebook feed, consider how your video ad can blend with their overall social media experience. Pre-roll, in-text and in-banner video ad placements can all contribute to achieving the goal of an ad campaign, but different placements are likely to perform optimally depending on the length of the ad. When creating and marketing a video ad, make sure to:

Always provide value. Potential clients will take the time to watch your video if it contains the information they are searching for rather than legal jargon that they do not understand. The key is to craft content that people are actually interested in watching. Today’s prevalent social media mindset means abandoning everything that marketers know about the traditional broadcasting format. With television advertising, viewers are conditioned to be interrupted by commercials at regular intervals. However, if you create an online video ad that fails to focus on what your viewer cares about, they will easily scroll on to something else.

The video ads that resonate the most are the ones that prioritize storytelling and user engagement. The stronger the connection, the more successful your ad is likely to be. Rather than sharing your law firm’s history, consider answering the frequently asked questions of your clients.

Be visually appealing. Videos deliver a story through the combination of eye-catching visuals and sound. However, it is essential for brands to ensure that their content is engaging even when it is silent or does not have a voiceover. For example, Facebook’s autoplay feature starts playing each video without sound as a person scrolls through their feed. Additionally, some devices may not be equipped to play audio. Therefore, it is the visuals that ultimately capture the viewer’s attention.

Consider length. On the Facebook feed, each video ad starts autoplaying and stops as soon as people scroll past it. With so much content competing for attention, a brand must catch a person’s interest immediately — often in the first three seconds. Facebook measures video views to be three seconds or more for tracking purposes. As a result, your video ad needs to be concise. Tell your viewers quickly how your services can help them. The shorter the video, the more likely people are to watch it all the way through. According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau Research Council study, 15-second videos work best in the pre-roll position where the user does not have a choice to skip them, while 30-second spots are optimum in user-initiated ad placements that involve clicking or rolling over to play the ad. The latter is likely to receive fewer views but more action on the viewer’s part.

Take note of production value.
Although you can shoot your own videos, quality and content can suffer unless you know how to leverage lighting, locations and audio to create content with a professional finish. If your video looks sloppy, people might assume the same about your firm and the services you offer. Common mistakes can be unnatural delivery, poor lighting and lengthiness. Taking the time to plan a script and devoting a reasonable budget to your video ad can be fruitful. Remember, the feel and look of the ad should be representative of your firm’s values.

Target the right audience. Like any other content marketing campaign, a video ad has to reach the right audience to be successful. Being very specific with your targeting can help avoid the wrong viewership altogether and ensure that your ads are only shown to people who are likely to avail of your legal services. Smaller law firms can compete with big players despite a less robust marketing budget by using specific demographic information to create a cost-effective, targeted video that your prospective clients will stop to watch. For example, Facebook has tools that allow the targeting of specific segments of your audience to see what resonates the most.

Include a call to action. As a law firm, your goal through the video ad is to tell your potential client what to do next. The call to action should never be aggressive. Instead, it should be a soft approach persuading a viewer to contact you for more information. If your video generates thousands of views but nobody calls or emails you, then the ad has no real results and no return on your investment.

There are some instances in which video ads might not be appropriate. Using memes and gimmicks can undermine your reputation and credibility. Although humor often serves to make companies more approachable and help build a relationship with the customer, it can actually hurt law firms by leading potential clients to think that you are not taking their concerns seriously.

In many cases, the success of a video ad is measured by how viral it is in character. However, this is not necessarily the goal of legal video marketing. Your video advertising approach depends on your objectives and the characteristics of your visitors, among other factors. “Going viral” can contradict your law firm’s goal of professionalism and ethical obligations. Creating a video ad merely for the sake of gaining attention can do more harm than good as a high number of video shares does not necessarily convert into clients.

Brands should be flexible when it comes to video ads, as the medium allows experimentation with different formats to find the combination and placement that works best for your law firm. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, but a sound ad strategy will seek to use more than one type of placement. The success of video ads can be evaluated to determine return on investment by examining the number of video views and shares, as well as new clients. Measuring such data against the firm’s objectives can not only shed light on why a campaign did or did not succeed but also help companies enhance their understanding of video advertising.

The popularity of video ads is gaining momentum in the dynamic world of online advertising. Embracing video ads as part of your law firm’s marketing strategy can pay dividends — when done correctly. Video marketing can help law firms achieve broad goals like establishing your brand, generating new leads or driving traffic to the website, but by defining more focused objectives, the full potential of the medium can be realized.

About Author

Dipal Parmar is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine and legal content developer for mid-sized to large law firms.

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