How to Make the Perfect Video Ad

Something a little different this time. My colleague, James, spent 12 years as a BBC news journalist. Now, when he isn't working on the SPF with me, he runs a small commercial video company. He has some thoughts on how to put together the perfect Facebook video ad.

With that... over to James!

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Hi! I'm James. In this post I will:

•    Explain the fundamentals of a good video ad; and

•    Outline the creative process and offer some tips on tools to use.

Video is the single most powerful form of media. It can pack an emotional punch more than any other.

But it can also look awful.

So you need to be careful, and I’ll put this out there from the beginning…

Less is more.

The key word is ‘emotional’. Video is not the media for a detailed insight into your book or your offer. It’s a place to make an emotional connection with the viewer.

My job at the BBC was to tell stories, because stories trigger an emotional response and therefore it was the best way to convey complex news.

I knew when I’d done a good job and I knew when I’d been lazy.

When I let a TV report ‘breathe’, when I stopped talking and let the pictures and sound tell the story, that’s when I got it right.

Pictures by themselves are powerful. They work better without an annoying reporter or voiceover talking all over them.

These days we try to avoid voiceover completely.

Have a look at this short film we made for a UK company specialising in providing fun, action-packed vacation holiday camps for children:


A picture paints a thousand words and that video boasts 25 pictures per second. That’s a lot of ‘words’, with only a few actual words on the screen.

Sure, there’s the in-your-face car dealership and furniture showroom TV spots that are as subtle as a slap in the face, and maybe they do their very specific job of alerting you to a bargain. But they work over a much longer period of time, so when you finally sit up and start noticing the deals, it’s because you’re already familiar with the shop and context.

Selling books online means coming in cold to new readers.

So be enticing. Set a mood, use few words and strive for the emotional trigger that will appeal to your potential reader.

Here's the video we prepared for one of Mark's Facebook campaigns:


Simple, succinct and effective. And, given the cost of running a video ad on Facebook of between 1c and 2c per play, it is also an extremely cost effective way to broadcast your brand.

Here are some practical tips on the creative process:

1. What You Need

The John Milton ad was created simply using the assets that Mark’s designer had come up with for the book cover.

If you get your book covers designed for you, be sure to ask the designer for all the component parts that he/she used. They usually work in layers in a design product like Photoshop – so you can then deconstruct the image and start it moving, bringing it to life with video.

Your designer may want to be paid a little extra for this – and that’s absolutely correct. You are effectively asking for Leonard Da Vinci’s paint palette so that you can have a go yourself – so please respect your creative partner and pay them appropriately. For future designs, make it part of the deal.

2. How to Do It

Once you have the assets, you have enough for a simple ad such as the one we made for Mark. We use Adobe Creative Cloud software, which includes Premier Pro and After Effects for video editing as well as Photoshop. Its full price is hefty, approx $50/month in the US or £45/month in the UK, but if you have a student in the household who would benefit from access to the software it gets a lot cheaper, $20/£15 a month. This is a powerful set of creative tools and the package includes everything for web design, design in general as well as video and photography production.

It’s not straight forward software to use, so only go down the self help route if you are prepared to learn and you are adept with this type of program. There are lots of online video tutorials available.

3. A potential short cut...

You might be too busy to do this yourself. If you want to farm the work out there is a growing army of talented creative types - often working from their bedrooms - who’ll create something from your assets for a relatively low fee. We use when we need to outsource work and we’ve had very good experiences.

So that’s it – an outline of content and process. If it’s of interest, I can go into more specifics at a later stage – just Tweet us at @SelfPubForm or let us know via the SPF Facebook group.