Filming UGC Video Ads: A Guide for Creative Strategists

Filming UGC Video Ads: A guide for creative srrategists & mobile marketers

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Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the meteoric rise of social media platforms like TikTok, consumer-savvy companies of every size and industry have begun to harness the power of user-generated content (UGC) in their marketing efforts.

The numbers (as well as the campaigns that we’ve run at AppAgent) show that users respond better to ads in which individuals are presenting their authentic experience with a product—thus, these campaigns tend to have a higher ROI.

But the movement toward more genuine, consumer-generated content also comes with a new set of challenges. Sourcing the right actors for your UGC video ads can be a daunting task on its own, and because creators will typically be filming their content independently (i.e. from their own homes), you’ll have much less control over the production process in general.

After working with dozens of creators to deliver original user-generated video ads to our clients, we at AppAgent have learned some hard lessons about how to do it right.

This practical guide aims to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes when producing authentic user-generated video content for your brand.

Here are some questions we’ll be tackling:

  • What exactly is user-generated content?

  • How can UGC benefit your marketing campaigns?

  • What should you look for when sourcing UGC actors?

  • What are some of the best practices when it comes to shooting high-ROI UGC ads?

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is any online content that is created and published by consumers of a brand, rather than by the brand itself. In addition to videos, you can often find UGC in the form of images, audio, testimonials, blog posts, and social media posts.

The unprecedented success of UGC can primarily be attributed to its raw authenticity, which allows brands to build a sense of trust with their audience in a way that has rarely been seen before.

Ania Steinke, AppAgent’s Creative Strategist, explains, “There is a growing need for ‘realness’ in marketing. Audiences don’t want to buy products that haven’t been tested and approved by others. We want to see products in action, users’ reactions, and unfiltered opinions. That’s where UGC comes into play.”

Why Should You Be Using UGC Ads In Your Campaigns?

Well, for one thing, UGC-based ads have 4x higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average.

User-generated video content, in particular, has become a prevalent way for brands to engage with users due to its high potential for shareability and virality. For reference, user-generated YouTube videos created about a brand are typically viewed 10x more than traditional videos made by the brand itself.

Ania emphasizes that “most people, especially the younger generation, have at least one active social media platform where they share their lives, follow others, and spend most of their time. In response, brands are now moving to mediums like TikTok and Instagram to follow their audience.”

It’s also worth noting that UGC is relatively cheap to produce, as businesses no longer need to spend their marketing dollars on pricey camera equipment and high-profile actors or models.

How to Find the Right UGC Actors & Creators for Your Brand

We normally begin by searching for actors with portfolios that are full of high-quality, creative, and entertaining video content. It’s also important that they have their own individual style and aesthetic that will appeal to your target audience. 

Next, after narrowing down our options to only a few creators, we try to find someone who exhibits a sense of excitement or enthusiasm about the project. The more passion the actor has for the product or service that they’re promoting, the likelier they are to come up with their own ideas on how to improve the concept or script.

As Ania puts it, “I’m always looking for creators who can not only deliver great content based on our script but can also add their own ‘flavor’ to it. Videos will only look authentic if the creator’s unique personality is there too.”

Finally, we aim to find creators who are easy to talk to and collaborate with, as good communication is essential for a smooth production process. 

So, now you have the criteria, but how do you go about the process of actually finding your star? 

Luckily, there are now a variety of software and tools available that are designed specifically to connect brands with UGC actors. You can also do it the old-fashioned way, by manually searching for freelance content creators on platforms like Fiverr and Upwork.

For additional tips on sourcing creators, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Finding & Collaborating with UGC Creators.”

Best Practices for Shooting High-ROI User-Generated Video Content

Now that you know the basics of user-generated content, let’s talk about how you can brief your actors to produce stunning UGC-style video ads from their own homes.

Keep in mind that as a mobile marketing agency, we’ll primarily be focusing on best practices for UGC creatives that promote apps and games.

1. Backdrop & Lighting

First things first: instruct your actors to always be shooting in front of a clean, aesthetically-pleasing backdrop. No viewer wants to see an unmade bed or dirty socks scattered around the room while someone is trying to convince them to make a purchase (unless that’s the hook of the video).

For best results, we typically suggest that our creators shoot their content in front of a neutral, minimalist background that has a decent amount of natural lighting. If they’re filming at night or in a space that doesn’t get enough sunlight, encourage them to use a tool such as an LED ring light to brighten up the video.

Another factor that they should keep in mind is the decor of the room that they’re shooting in–old, outdated furniture can look unappealing, and may interfere with their ability to grab viewers’ attention.

Ania’s pro tip: Adding a few plants is a simple way to make a space look cozier and more attractive!

Example of a good background for UGC videos
@ASOS on TikTok

A good example of UGC background: simple and well-lit background, greenery, no distracting decorations.

Example of a good ring light setup for UGC videos
@Heynicolewong on TikTok

Good example of UGC lighting: use of ring light to compensate for dim-lit environment.

2. Camera Setup

Once your actor has found a suitable backdrop for their video, it’s time for them to set up their shot. Remember that user-generated content should not look or feel like a traditional ad, so creators should be filming on their smartphones to ensure that it blends in well with the rest of the viewer’s feed.

One of the most crucial components of the setup is a straight and stable camera position. Actors should aim for a medium camera shot that allows for the footage to be zoomed in during post-production if needed. 

We also remind creators that there should be enough distance between themselves and the backdrop—meaning that there should be at least a few feet of space between their bodies and the wall behind them.

Although it may seem obvious, it’s worth keeping in mind the orientation of the video. If you’re planning to publish your ad on a platform like TikTok or Instagram Reels, you’ll want to brief the creator to set their camera up in a vertical orientation. Traditional long-form YouTube videos, however, should be shot horizontally.

Ania’s pro tip: Have your actor switch their phone’s camera settings to 4K resolution to improve the quality of their video.

Good example of a medium camera shot for a UGC video
@Headspace on TikTok

Good example of UGC setup: stable position, medium camera shot, appropriate orientation.

Example of medium camera shot for UGC videos
@alomoves on Instagram

Good example of UGC setup: adequate distance between actor & backdrop, high resolution.

3. Audio Setup

In terms of audio, we begin by asking that our creators film in a quiet location to reduce the risk of their camera picking up any distracting background noise.

If they’re creating their video in public or in a shared space, they can politely ask others to steer clear of the area while filming. Whenever shooting video content at the AppAgent office, for example, we hang up a sign in advance that informs our colleagues of where and when we plan to be filming.

Ania’s pro tip: To improve the quality of the audio, I like to encourage our actors to use a discreet clip-on lapel microphone that’s compatible with their phone or tablet.

4. Clothing & Appearance

The way your UGC actors present themselves on camera is crucial, as it directly impacts the audience’s perception of your brand.

We let our creators know that they are free to show off their unique style, but provide them with these simple guidelines to make sure their look isn’t too distracting to viewers:

  • Wear clean clothes without any distracting prints or patterns,

  • Make sure not to show too much skin,

  • Hide any visible brand tags that may be on your clothing,

  • If you decide to wear makeup, aim for a natural look that covers any flaws and enhances your features,

  • Stick to a simple hairstyle that doesn’t cover or distract from your face,

  • Keep your fingernails clean and cut with a simple manicure.

Ania’s pro tip: I always remind creators to double-check how their outfit looks against the backdrop of the video. For example, if they’re shooting against a plain white wall, they probably shouldn’t be wearing a plain white t-shirt.

Good example of UGC style for men
@Poshmark on TikTok

A good example of UGC look for men: plain clothing that doesn’t clash with backdrop, simple hairstyle, no visible brand tags.

Good example of UGC style for women
@Meganryder on TikTok

A good example of UGC look for women: clean, non-distracting clothing, natural makeup, & simple hairstyle.

5. Mobile Device & User Experience

If you’re producing user-generated content to promote a mobile app or game, you may want to include some shots of your creator playing or scrolling on a mobile device (i.e. a tablet or smartphone).

Just as with normal footage, instruct your actors to shoot their device against a well-lit, non-distracting background that doesn’t take the audience’s attention away from what’s on the screen. They should also be mindful of any smudges or reflections that may show up on camera.

One critical thing to keep in mind is the distance between the camera and the device; the shot should be close enough to accurately capture any gameplay or essential app features.

If you need your creators to provide footage directly from their mobile screens, encourage them to use a free screen recorder tool.

Ania’s pro tip: I typically prompt actors to shoot a few different takes from various angles and proximities to ensure that I get the footage I need.

Good example of filming a tablet for UGC

A good example of user experience on tablet: well-lit background, no smudges or reflections on screen.

Good example of filming a mobile device & user experience for UGC videos

A good example of user experience on smartphone: clear view of gameplay, adequate distance between camera and device.

6. Language, Culture & Vibe

When it comes to the general culture and vibe of the video, the most important thing is that creators are encouraged to be themselves—because let’s face it, authenticity is the key to producing successful user-generated content.

Even if you’ve provided them with a brief or script to follow, encourage your actor to think of different ways that they can inject their personality into the video. If you’re working with a more popular influencer who already has an established personal style of content, consider asking them to come up with their own unique concept for the video.

Ania’s pro tip: I ask actors to create a few different versions of their video – one that strictly follows the script or brief that I’ve provided and another that incorporates their own input and creativity. I then test both iterations and keep note of which one performs best!

Good example of creative freedom for UGC videos
@gopuff on Instagram
Good example of showing personality in UGC videos
@Tinder on TikTok

UGC Video Filming Checklist

To make things simpler for you, we’ve created a downloadable checklist based on the guidelines that AppAgent provides to actors before they create their UGC videos.

You can download an interactive version of the checklist to send to creators here.

UGC Video Filming Checklist for Content Creators

Closing Remarks

Incorporating user-generated content into your marketing strategy means navigating some unchartered waters. Viewers are no longer interested in ads with high production quality or A-list celebrity endorsements, which leaves us marketers left to adapt to a new and ever-shifting landscape.

As Ania explains, “Audiences have gotten used to this new type of content that’s published on platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok. Less polished, spontaneous, and real–this is the content that they want to consume, not high-quality ‘fake’ ads with scripts and actors.”

We hope this guide helps you understand some of the best practices when it comes to filming thumb-stopping user-generated video content. 

If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, check out AppAgent’s UGC Ads Library, where you can browse through over 100 UGC video ads for mobile brands like Niantic, MyFitnessPal, and Uber.

Mastering UGC: How to Build SUccessful Collaborations with Content Creators

Want to take your UGC production to the next level? Watch our recent webinar, where you’ll learn how to collaborate with creators to achieve the content you desire (and deserve!). 

This session is packed with valuable insights, including foolproof tips for identifying and partnering with the right content creators, crafting effective creative briefs, and producing high-performing UGC ads.

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Frequently Asked questions

  • 1. What is UGC?

    Any online content that is created and published by consumers of a brand, rather than by the brand itself. 

  • 2. Why should i use UGC videos in my marketing campaigns?

    UGC videos are relatively cheap and easy to produce. In addition, this content has higher click-through-rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click than average.

  • 3. What should creators keep in mind when shooting ugc video ads?

    UGC creators should pay attention to camera setup, audio setup, the backdrop that their filming against, and their overall appearance.


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