No, not that 5 second rule. I’m talking about the one that governs Youtube advertising. The one that ensures that, as you settle down to enjoy the latest video of an existential cat pondering the meaning of life, you must first endure at least 5 seconds of an advert. Once those 5 seconds have elapsed, you can then choose to skip the ad.

So brands have just 5 seconds of guaranteed airtime in which to make an impact on their viewers. How can advertisers make the most of these vital moments?

I have heard it advised many times that the key is to make sure you have a heavily branded presence in the first 5 seconds, so even if a viewer skips the ad you have still forced your message onto them. However, the whole point of using video is to tell a story, not to cram the frame with logos and strap lines for a few seconds.

Instead, a better approach is to aim to captivate the viewer in those 5 seconds, to draw them into your video and tempt them to watch the whole thing. In doing so you increase your exposure time and their engagement with you. As Youtube Creator Guy Larsen bluntly remarked at Social Media Week:

if I see your brand in the first 5 seconds then you’re telling me your film is rubbish.

So how can you get viewers to take their cursor off the skip button and watch your whole ad? Looking at some of the most successful ads on Youtube, there are three key tactics these brands have deployed which advertisers can learn from:

1. Be targeted

Youtube ads allow everyone, regardless of budget, to get their Don Draper on and create compelling advertising spots. However, it also has an added benefit that Don never had: targeting. You can use Youtube’s advertising programme to target ads to people by characteristics like age, geography, demographics and interests. If you target your ads properly, you will greatly increase the chance that people will watch them through, as they will be relevant to them. (Even better, you won’t have wasted any budget getting in front of the wrong audience).

2. Be emotional

People go to Youtube to laugh, to cry, to marvel, to feel. Your ads should aim to make them do this too. Ads like Volkwagen’s The Force and the Dollar Shave Club spot wonderfully use humour to appeal to their audiences and get them smiling all the way to the end. Contrastingly, charities such as Save the Children have used powerful, heartrending storytelling to draw audiences into their causes. From the moment the camera focuses on the beaming girl’s face in the ‘Most Shocking Second a Day’ spot, the viewer’s attention and heart strings are captured and held fast throughout.

3. Be surprising

Viewers on Youtube love to be surprised. One sure fire way to keep an audience’s attention for the long haul is to introduce an element of surprise. Check out Volvo Truck’s majestic Jean-Claude Van Damme spot and TNT’s ‘A Dramatic Surprise in a Quiet Square’ for bravura examples of this method.

The targeting programme and cost effective budget options make Youtube Advertising a great fit for small businesses, as well as big brands. Tell your viewers a great story that is targeted, emotional and surprising and you will reap the benefits of this powerful advertising channel.