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What is Sequential Messaging?

Sequential messaging, also known as sequential advertising or sequential retargeting, is a marketing strategy that uses a series of advertisements to tell a story. These advertisements appear across various platforms, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, to directly target audiences and boost brand engagement and guide them through the conversion process seamlessly. 

Sequential messaging ads stand out from the generic ads consumers are accustomed to seeing and establish a bond with the user that is designed to deepen over time. Studies have shown that when a viewer glimpses a story told over multiple ads, they re-engage with the messaging and brand recall increases.  For advertisers, this makes for high-quality leads that are more likely to convert. 

As the name states, sequential advertisements appear for viewers in a sequence. This means that someone could see a short ad one day, and then come across a continuation of the same story or message the next day, or several hours later.  

Recent studies have shown that delivering messages in a story over a sequence rather than all at once, have higher audience engagement.
Recent studies have shown that delivering messages in a story over a sequence rather than all at once, have higher audience engagement.

Examples of using sequential advertising to build a world of change

YouTube recently tested the power of sequential messaging to get people involved in helping the United Nations reach Global Goals.  The Global Goals were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and are planned to be reached by 2030.  They are some of the most ambitious sustainable development deals in history.

YouTube asked filmmakers from world-class creative companies and the award-winning Tribeca Studios to partner together and build sequential stories that inspire people to get involved. The companies ran sequential messaging campaigns as video ad sequences to deliver the stories involved in reaching these Global Goals. 

Check out the linked case studies below, provided by Think with Google, to see how effective sequential story-telling campaigns were in encouraging public engagement on these critical global problems.

  1. Deutsch LA inspires viewers to think again about going past homeless people
  2. Grabarz & Partner throws 30% of a dish away to highlight the issue of food waste
  3. Emotive reveals the brutal truth of illiteracy through a plain film trailer
  4. Dentsu Thailand shows how gender specific jokes can feel to those we love
  5. Wunderman Thompson reveals what happens when São Paulo’s traffic stops
  6. Leo Burnett praises audiences for not doing anything—and roasts those who take action
  7. AMV BBDO shows audiences that you can run, but you can’t completely escape air pollution
  8. Goodby Silverstein & Partners tells an alluring story of the deadly species of the ocean: plastic

Campaign Results

  • 275 million views and 330 thousand clicks closer to achieving the Global Targets
  • +120 percent growth in year-on-year traffic to
  • +80 percent growth in new visits to year-over-year.
  • 100% of the campaigns propelled the brand to raise

According to the Ipsos report, How Sequencing Ads drive Impact, Ipsos has found that ad sequencing generates higher retention than a single replicated ad—a statistic backed by the 8 campaigns mentioned above. With 100% of the campaigns shaping brand lifts as well as guiding acts (+120% of YoY visits to and +80% of new visitors), the findings were self-explanatory.

6 Key Lessons for Creators

The work of the creative teams uncovered in the case studies above showed six main lessons about sequential messaging that can change the game for creators.

The Global Goals case studies on using sequential messaging to tell a story contain some powerful lessons for online marketers.
The Global Goals case studies on using sequential messaging to tell a story contain some powerful lessons for online marketers.

Primed audiences discover value

Whether you’re reiterating a key point in a new way, or breaking down a story for better impact—ad sequencing means that you can create and deliver a story in ways like never before. 

Delivering a story across several messages means you can break your story into digestible chunks and build intrigue.  When a viewer recognizes a second or third message from a brand they have seen before that resonated with them, they are more likely to engage with the story and recall the brand.  This makes them more likely to convert down the road.  

A second opportunity could be more influential than a first experience

When a user sees a second ad or message from a brand they remember, the impact is generally greater.  Not only do they remember the brand, but they already have a base knowledge of the story or message.  This boosts engagement with the story because there is already a frame of reference.  

For brands looking to grow awareness around their brand, mission, or message, the second, or even third opportunity to deliver a message to a prospect boosts their likelihood of conversion.  This even works with viewers who clicked skip on the first ad.  

For example, the Responsible Consumption and Production staff had the expectation that they should “roast and retry” someone who skips their ad with a penalty song to recover their interest.  Their assumption was the viewing rate rose or stayed constant on the “retry” images.  The video directly after the “roast” had a watch time 49% higher than the campaign average.

If you handle watchers and skippers differently it will have a significant effect on ratings and engagement.

Consistent visual signals are key in sequential ads

When it comes to efficiency, the number of stories in a series doesn’t matter as much as the relation that can be made between them. The sequential ads that have success all share one thing in common.  There is a consistent visual symbol across each ad.  This ensures the viewer recognizes that ad as part of the same story and delivered by the same brand.  

In the case studies linked above, all the ads that contributed to a big rise in viewership had a recurring visual prompt, whether it was a red sweatshirt in No Poverty, a gold background in Responsible Production, or a purple smoke cloud in Climate Action.

Quick track performance by front loading

Front-loading is the act of including the greater portion of content up front, or in the beginning.  In an ad this means including the purpose of the content in the beginning ,so audiences clearly know what it is about.  

Just like the front-loaded ad can increase performance, teams have found that the front-loaded series can have similar outcomes. Instead of focusing on boosting the completion rate, brands can focus on putting the main purpose of the ad in the beginning.  This way the audience understands the main message, even without completing the entire series of the sequential ads, which will have a significant effect on brand recall.  

Sequencing is a strong way of approaching ad frequency

Using several, separate ads in a sequential order is perceived more favorably by audiences than repeating the same message. If a viewer sees the same ad over and over again, it may not resonate with them.  

According to the Ipsos report, How Sequencing Ads drive Impact, video sequences of three ads or more improved main message retention by 89%—much more than two repeat ads. 

Let the series fill in the funnel

The teams in the case studies aboe found that ad sequencing provided them with a wider target context and narrative power than conventional ad campaigns.  This enabled them to use specifically differentiated messages to reach a wide spectrum of audiences. This deliberate approach has led to a rise in market interest and consideration for progress on the Global Targets, as well as a major uptick among site users.

New Ways to tell Stories 

Although there are an abundance of ways to attract audiences, strategies built in collaboration with the United Nations and Tribeca Enterprises have demonstrated that better ways of communicating messaging are continually emerging. Whether advertisers are seeking to transform the environment or fuel market success, ad sequencing has the ability to help tell stories that have an impact time after time.

Regardless of what business niche you are in, having a reliable software for delivering your ads to the right audience that will care about your story is more crucial than ever.  

Visit to see how it can help you with your YouTube targeting and ad placements so that you can focus on telling your story in the best way for your audience.  

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