This Youtube Ad Got Me To Buy My First Online Course

By Thomas Escourrou

I am a big Tennis fan and I love watching “how-to” videos to try to improve my game. One of my favorite channels is Feel Tennis. The coach (Tomaz) is great, clear and insightful. The other day, I was about to watch yet another of Tomaz's “hit like the pros” videos, when Youtube showed me this pre-roll ‘ad’:

Pre-roll ad for an online course taught by Serena Williams: Masterclass ran this ad on Youtube targeting viewers subscribed to Tennis channels.

No skipping this time. Masterclass is an online education platform, similar to Udemy, Skillshare, Coursera, NovoEd, but focused on classes by celebrities. In any case, how could I skip over Serena Williams? the undisputed #1 women player who came this close to a calendar grand-slam this year. Could Serena be teaching me? It’s all filmed in high frame rate with beautiful slow motion sequences detailing each step, and motion graphics to highlight key concepts.

Masterclass’s content is not free (the class costs $90) but the higher production value convinced me to try it out. This is probably the first time that I actually bought an online course. I’ll let you know if it was worth it!

Is advertising on Youtube the next big thing for online instructors? After all, most courses already have a promo video that could easily be used to advertise on Youtube.

A better question might be: What are the elements of a successful ad for online courses? Judging by this example, I think it comes down to:

  • Targeting: Youtube offers very precise targeting, by topic of interest, by channel subscribed to, by demographics. As a course instructor it should be easy to know what videos your audience likes to watch. A web development course should appeal to people tuning in for Google I/O. A premium bread baking course should appeal to the novice searching for “no knead bread videos”.
  • Relevant content: It needs to be content - it should not feel like an ad. And it needs to be relevant to me. In this case I was already looking for tennis tips, and the ‘ad’ taught me something about Pronation - a technique to improve one’s serve - a topic close to the heart of most tennis players.
  • Production value: Youtube ads don’t have to look like hollywood movies. In fact it helps if they maintain an element of DIY authenticity. Note the webcam recordings of Serena - certainly not random. At the same time the beautiful cinematography, dramatic music score, appealing motion graphics, and concise script all help this video connect with its target audience (like me), and convince me this is something worth paying for.

Curious to hear from other online course creators. Have you tried to advertise courses on Youtube? What video(s) did you test? How did it perform? Chime in via the comments below, or send your thoughts by email and I’ll compile and share back in a follow-up post:

In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me, I have some new tennis tricks to learn!