Work Smarter, Not Harder, with 4 Low-Cost Ad Creative Solutions


  • As fears of inflation and recession spread through adland, brands are identifying low-cost solutions to big budget problems.
  • From repurposing legacy assets to leveraging UGC-style content, cost-efficient approaches can still generate stellar videos–just at a fraction of the cost
  • As video-first platforms rewrite the ways we produce video ads, low-cost creative may give you an upper hand as the fight for consumer attention continues.

Look, we’re not going to beat around the bush here. We’re all feeling fatigued from the deluge of headlines describing the severe economic uncertainty the world is experiencing right now.

As marketers and advertisers, the potential for a steep downturn in consumer spending is cause for alarm. Just maybe not quite as much as the alarmist industry headlines have insinuated. 

First, despite looming threats of a recession as inflation tightens consumer belts across the market, this is not directly correlating with a decrease in ad spend. Insider Intelligence and eMarketer predict that ad spend will actually increase 13.2% year-over-year in 2022. When reflecting on the impact the 2008 recession had on adland, Insider Intelligence analyst Peter Newman reported that “17.5% decrease in ad spend between 2008 and 2009 mostly came from mediums like print that entered long-term decline, while others like TV and digital remained strong for years.”

That means no two recessions are exactly alike, so the doom and gloom we experienced in ‘08 may not rear its ugly head as disastrously as it did over a decade ago.

Second, cost-crunches in the ad industry inspired by recessions typically don’t last. When comparing previous recessions, an Ad Age report discovered that the industry will regularly course correct an economic downturn into a tailwind of growth. Following the Great Depression when ad spend dropped by 18% in 1933, the industry saw an astounding 24.5% increase the following year. 

During the financial crisis of 2008, ad spend plummeted by 10.2% in 2009 before rebounding in 2010 with an increase of 8.8%. To bring us to today, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused ad spend to spiral downwards by 7.5% in 2020, it immediately rebounded by almost 20% the next year. So while you may be feeling a short squeeze right now, the industry predicts that won’t turn into a long squeeze in the coming years.

But regardless of the silver lining that adland has spied on the horizon of our economically dubious sky, you’re probably still screening a million anxious messages from your C-Suite team to find ways to cut-costs from your media budgets just in case this rainy day turns into monsoon season.

You have our permission to tell them that there is a better way to get smart with your spend to keep costs down that doesn’t require you to eviscerate your ad budgets. And it all revolves around maximizing efficiencies in the video production process by leveraging low-cost creative solutions for your campaign’s big budget problems. 

Because especially in economically uncertain times, your ad creative is the key to continuing to hit your objectives, even as fears of inflation and recessions loom in our cultural consciousness. Or as Audrey Melofchik, Chief Executive Officer at agency Wunderman Thompson North America, so eloquently put it to The Drum

“Fundamentally, the power of creativity to act as an economic multiplier for brands inspiring love and demand won’t change in a recession.”

Here are four low-cost creative solutions that will help you work smarter, not harder, for your next campaign.

Solution 1: Repurpose All Your Legacy Assets

It doesn’t matter if you have run TV ads or social ads, if your business has been advertising in any form or fashion, you already have a wealth of legacy assets you can refresh into net-new pieces of ad creative.

This is especially useful if you’ve traditionally only produced static image ads as, on average, people retain 95% of what they see in a video versus 10% of what they read in an ad. According to a report by Databox, while marketers leverage videos and static images in an almost equal balance (52% versus 48% respectively), when it comes to the results of each asset, that gap is far greater. When looking at Clicks, marketer’s found that videos drove almost 30% more clicks than simply static image assets. The fact is video ads routinely drive 25% higher impression rate than static ads.

This means you can get quite a lot of extra mileage out of your successful static image ad campaigns by repurposing them into video.

Additionally, because you do not have to hire additional talent, secure a new filming location, or any of the other costs that are associated with a typical production, this is one of the most budget-friendly solutions at your disposal. 

For instance, you may have previously created a super slick visual effect for an ad that your current budget cannot afford. By repurposing that effect into a new piece of content, you can save time without losing the engaging bite of the visual experience. After all, target audiences were 9% less likely to stop watching a video with visual effects compared to those without. On the eCommerce front, the study found that purchase intent was 9%-12% higher for videos with visual effects versus those without effects.That makes repurposing your visual effects a “No, duh!” decision.

Here are a few different styles of ad creative you can turn your legacy assets into:

Motion Graphics

Using motion graphics, you can animate existing still photography to get new video content. This technique can animate any number of photos and often uses on-screen text or voiceover to drive messages home. Motion graphics videos are fully customizable and easy to iterate so you can test various messaging with your different audiences. Call out value propositions, product features, or anything else that you know will land with your targets.

Motion Still/Cinemagraph

Motion stills and cinemagraphs are short videos that animate just a single photo or two. Both of these approaches are particularly successful for product-focused videos.

Motion stills can showcase an entire line of products.

Cinemagraphs are a great option to draw audiences in with a video that looks like an optical illusion—just a single part of a photo is animated, adding texture and personality to a still. 

Post-Production Editing

Often the most cost-effective way to make a new video is to alter existing video footage with post-production editing. This is a great option if you are looking to use the same creative on different platforms that require resizing or a length cutdown. You can also rework messaging on existing creative by changing on-screen text or editing a video to a new voiceover.

Solution 2: Capture Your Entire Campaign in a Single Shoot

The quickest way to balloon your budget is having to go back in-studio or on-location for a pick-up shoot. They can delay your campaign, and surface hidden production costs you may have been able to avoid if you had planned to capture all of the footage you need in a single day. 

A strategy that QuickFrame by MNTN implements is to cost-efficiently design campaigns and production by identifying target audiences and KPIs at the start of the pre-production phase. With these key metrics in mind, you can then design a production plan that captures every single bit of footage you need, from swapping out talent to script variations or even net-new concepts, in one day.

This was a strategy that our partner QuickFrame by MNTN deployed with healthcare services brand NURX. With clear goals in mind to improve direct response performance and increase brand awareness, QuickFrame strategized a robust testing plan that would capture all of the essential footage at once. This would create the framework NURX and QuickFrame would use to test disparate variables each week to pinpoint what was pushing the needle–and what wasn’t–in their ad creative. This led to a windfall of positive performance for NURX, with 33% reduction in CPA during the campaign, an overall 31% lower CPA than their original goal, which allowed them to increase ad spend 2x while maintaining a positive ROI. As Antonia Rubell, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at NURX said, 

“With our methodical learning roadmap and quick creation of new videos every week, we were able to see significant improvements in CPA and fascinating insights to guide future creative in just 5 weeks.”

One way to ensure that you are getting all of the footage you’ll need for your campaign is by creating an exhaustive shot list. This will serve as the building blocks of every deliverable. 

You can create a shotlist through storyboarding, where a designer creates a visual breakdown, shot-by-shot, of the individual scenes in your video. However, this process requires specialized artists with unique skill sets, which can inflate the bottom line of your video marketing production budget. This may be the path you want to take if you’re planning a high-profile, broadcast-ready campaign.

But not every video project requires a round of storyboarding, especially if your concept isn’t complex. Instead, to stay budget conscious, create a shot list by going beat by beat through your script, isolating the images you want to focus on in each segment. Aim to be as specific as possible—this will give the creators producing your video a clear picture of the concept that lives in your head.

Solution 3: Produce UGC-style Creative

If you’ve ever had someone say, “You can’t shoot an ad on your phone that people will actually want to watch,” ask them, “What rock have you been living under for the past five years?” 

Now more than ever, low-budget User Generated Style content engages a vast array of audiences in ways that legacy brand commercials simply cannot. According to Power Reviews, 38% of customers find user-generated content more important than before the pandemic.

Why? Because often UGC-style videos feel like they were created by your own friends, family, or followers. It establishes a different style of personal connection through a direct address, making the audience feel listened to and heard, something that you can’t exactly say an ad like “The Man You Wish Your Man Could Smell Like” does well. 

This personal connection instigates something called Social Proof, a leading factor as to why testimonial videos are so popular. In fact, UGC-style creative often looks and sounds very similar to typical client or customer testimonials. Both feature speakers sharing their personal experience about a product or service–just one might feel made by an ad agency, while the other feels like a video your BFF shared on the group chat. Based on findings from marketing analytics company Spectoos, the benefits of UGC-style testimonials are abundantly clear, 

“Statistics have confirmed that customer testimonials are the most effective form of content, coming in at an 89% effectiveness rating, according to a 2014 report, compared to other content types. A 2014 study found customers spend 31% more with businesses who have good client testimonials.”

So why is UGC a low-cost solution? It’s two fold: 

  • It typically only requires one actor or real customer (seriously, real customers will crush your KPIs)
  • You don’t need top-of-the-line equipment to create UGC-style videos because–hello–it’s supposed to look user generated. 
  • The permission to embrace a more DIY approach to creative.

Solution 4: Embrace Those Low-cost Vibes

Recently, a video game developer debuted an ad called “Still Working On It” for a latest edition of the series, Skate. Rather than showcasing a finely polished product (as is expected for launch trailers for AAA games) they did the unthinkable. They showed off the product as it is still in progress–warts and all–to give their audience a peek under the hood at how the award-winning series gets made. The gimmick paid off, and game makers across the world felt like their talents were finally seen–all while the studio saved their developers from being crunched for time.

But this ad is also a perfect example of a brand embracing a low-cost vibe for a highly compelling creative concept. This is something you see brands often leveraging on video-first platforms, like TikTok.

You might think it’s the combo of on-demand music and dance trends that has attracted swaths of young users to TikTok. But that’s only part of the reason why it captures so much attention–and no, I’m not talking about the algorithm either.

It’s the fact that users aren’t self-conscious about the level of artistry behind the videos they create. They don’t care if you can see the green screen or that their cinematography is questionable at best. What they want is content that feels hand crafted and authentic, not a splashy commercial that’s been focus-group tested to death. When you consider that 77% of consumers buy from brands whose values are similar to their own, you can safely assume that by showcasing low-cost vibes, brands can create a sense of relatability with their audience all without having to dip into socio-political issues that may impact brand safety. Frankly, this is the primary reason why 52% of TikTok users find ads on the platform to be fun and engaging–because it looks exactly like the type of content they value creating themselves.

This embrace of low-cost, DIY creative is also getting audiences accustomed to what ads will look like in our video-first future. And based on the rise of influencer marketing as TikTok and Instagram continue to control the cultural conversation, those ads are going to embrace the low-cost vibes that these platforms have been cultivating for years.

And if you want to create content that your target audience actually wants to see, you’ve got to embrace those vibes as well. Not only will it save your budget, it could lead to the ROAS of your dreams.


Like we said, creating video ads can be costly and time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean video marketing in general has to be expensive and exhausting. As the appetite for video continues to get stronger every year, being able to produce a stream of new, relevant video ads at scale may very well be the deciding factor as to whether or not your brand sinks or swims in the ad-supported future of our content ecosystem.

But with the four low-cost creative solutions we’ve outlined above, you can stay afloat, keep your production costs down, while still being able to turn what you want to do into what you can do.

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