How to create social-first ecommerce video ads | insights from Nusa Studios

Barney Cox
minute read
Written By
Barney Cox
December 11, 2023

Toby Hart is the Co-Founder of Nusa Studios, a social-first content studio that creates thumb-stopping video ads for ecommerce brands. 

Nusa Studios launched soon after the COVID 19 pandemic began in 2020. Toby and his co-founder, Peter Hutchinson, saw lots of brands relying more heavily on social media—especially as this was the time TikTok was becoming increasingly popular

Toby and Peter saw an opportunity to help brands make video content that would help them grow. They use the concept of ‘social-first’ in every piece of content they create and their growing portfolio of brands include TASTER (who happen to be one of Dash’s customers), Vivobareet, Fussy and MOJU Drinks.

Whether you’re working with an agency or you’re creating content in-house, keep reading to find best practices for creating thumb-stopping video ads for your brand. 

🎧 Listen to Toby’s original interview on our podcast: Ecommerce Marketing 101

🎥Watch Toby’s full interview on YouTube.

Toby’s key takeaways for creating video content 

Here are some of Toby’s key takeaways for creating video content for social media.

  • Use a framework for capturing attention: For each piece of content, make sure it’s underpinned by one of the four frameworks for grabbing attention—surprising, emotional, primal or personal. 
  • Pin down your objectives: A good content brief needs to have one key objective, as well as clear metrics to help you meet your video goals. 
  • Create videos in batches: If you’re investing in video content for social purposes—especially if you’re working with an agency—it's best practice to shoot lots of media in batches. 
  • Record different hooks and CTAs: During your batch-filming sessions, shoot multiple call-to-actions and hooks that you can swap in and out of your content. 
  • Be clever with your aspect ratios: Make sure your videos are suitable for both landscape and vertical—Toby explains how Nusa Films uses on-screen aspect ratios to do this. 
  • Take creative risks: You’re trying to stop people from scrolling past your content, so taking creative risks might be necessary to capture your audience's attention. Toby talks through one of his favourite projects with Kally Sleep.
  • Use the ‘thumb-stop’ metric: If you’re unsure how to measure the success of your video, the ‘thumb-stop’ metric is a good place to start. It considers how many watch the first three seconds of your ad. 

7 tips for creating video content that stops the scroll

Now for an in-depth look at Toby’s 7 tips. Head to the end of this article for his three predictions for the future. 🔮

Use Patrick Fagan’s framework for grabbing attention 

When it comes to paid video content, you need to make it count. So every piece of content that Toby and his team produce is underpinned by Patrick Fagan’s framework for grabbing attention. 

Patrick Fagan is a behavioural psychologist who wrote the book Hooked: Why cute sells...and other marketing magic that we just can't resist. Fagan says there are four ways to capture attention in your content. It should be: surprising, emotional, primal, or personal. 

  • Surprising means creating content that’s unexpected and shows something that people have never seen before. It could be as easy as starting your video with a quick camera movement. This catches people's attention because our eyes are naturally drawn to movement.
  • Emotional is about making people feel something. That could be through humour, sadness, joy—whatever it is, you want to make your audience feel a certain way. This makes your content more memorable.
  • Primal is about tapping into basic instincts. This includes things like spiders, food, sex or faces. These are hardwired into our evolution, which means we’re naturally drawn to them. For example, in a lot of user-generated content (UGC) we typically see people's faces. Our natural programming makes us pay attention to faces, especially when someone is talking.
  • Personal is about speaking to the individual. Imagine you're at a loud party: If someone says your name from across the room, your brain pays attention. That's because we always look for things that are personal or relatable to us. In content this might mean using actors that look like your audience. 

Check out this ad Nusa Studios worked on for Pooch and Mutt. It taps into the ‘primal’ instinct and ‘surprising’ hook that Toby talks about. It’s dark and spooky—but with a fun twist at the end. 🐶

Pin down your objectives in the brief 

Whether you work with an agency or you’re shooting content in-house, a brief is super important in ensuring you stick to your objectives (and your budget). 

When thinking about your video brief, Toby says that it’s crucial to include your objective. It's easy to say you need a video of a product launch or you want to celebrate something—but what's your main goal? Are you aiming for brand awareness or driving website conversions for a specific product? 

Having a clear objective and metrics to measure them by is a fantastic starting point to any video project. For example, you might want a certain number of conversions or a specific thumb-stop ratio for paid social (more on that later). 

Alongside that, clear timelines, brand guidelines, previous projects and creative references (content you like and dislike) are really important. 

Shoot multiple videos in one day 

Content production is usually the most expensive part of a video project. Toby recommends batch filming to get the most out of your investment. This method is particularly good for brands with smaller budgets and tight timeframes.

“If you're investing in a one or two-day shoot, make sure you plan it strategically to get the best content. It's better than rushing through and realising you lack the necessary material. Being super organised, doing a location recce, creating a detailed shot list, and ensuring it's realistically achievable in a day are crucial steps.” 

Typically, Nusa Studios’ shoots run from around 9am to 7pm, with a break for lunch. Toby says they prioritise efficiency, sticking to the shots they need, making sure their footage will work across all devices and channels, and allowing some time for experimentation. Additionally, they plan set-up times in case changes are necessary. This approach helps them maintain a balance between productivity and a healthy work environment.

Record various hooks and CTAs 

For paid content, Toby says it's important to adopt a more strategic approach. We’ve already mentioned bulk-shooting, but you can also think of your video content like a jigsaw puzzle. 

In one recording session, you can capture various hooks, unique selling points, and calls-to-action. Later, you can remix and repurpose this content for different channels and message points.

For these hooks and USPs, Toby says you need to keep things simple— the vast majority of people aren't deeply invested in your brand. Therefore, concentrate on the one aspect that makes you stand out and communicate this in the most engaging way possible.

Plan out your aspect ratios 

In a dream scenario, brands would have loads of budget to have separate shoots for all the different social platforms. But in reality, most small businesses don't, so you have to be clever about how you're putting content across your different platforms. For this, Nusa rely on aspect ratios. 

Some channels, like YouTube or your website, may need landscape content. Others, like TikTok and Instagram, need vertical content. Toby says: 

“When time is tight, we use frame guides for both landscape and vertical framing on our camera's LCD screen. It means we can shoot the action in the centre of the frame and it works for both content types. In an ideal situation, with more time, we shoot two separate shots tailored for each aspect ratio, ensuring the best presentation for both.”

Take creative risks  

One of Toby’s favourite projects was with Kally Sleep. They’re a sleep brand that produces pillows and sleep accessories. They approached Nusa Studios with a fairly open brief, which gave Toby and his team the opportunity to get creative and try something different. 

“We noticed the sleep category often looked and felt the same. Many mattress brands have similar visuals and we wanted to break away from that homogeneity. So, we developed a campaign called the Kali Sutra, a play on words inspired by the Kama Sutra.” 

For this campaign, Toby and his team drew inspiration from 80s pornos and infomercials. They incorporated sexual innuendos, rented an 80s-style house and got actors to dress up in different 80s costumes. 

“While the client might have initially had reservations, the content performed exceptionally well. We helped drive over 10,000 people to their redesigned quiz, titled the ‘Kali Sutra’, which determines the type of sleeper someone is. It was risky, but credit to Kali Sleep and their team for being open to taking that creative leap. It paid off.”

Measure success based on the ‘thumb-stopping’ metric 

There are loads of different metrics you can measure to find out how well your content is performing. But Toby says the ‘thumb stop’ ratio is a great place to start. This ratio looks at the amount of video plays lasting 3-seconds and divides it by the total number of impressions for a given video.

“It considers how many people not only view the ad but also stop to watch the first three seconds. It's an interesting metric and is used by many agencies. We don't delve into every number, but it's essential to look at what performs well and adjust our approach accordingly.”

Check out this interesting article from that explains how they experiment with the thumb-stop ratio

🔮 The future of video content: Toby’s predictions 

Finally, I asked Toby what his predictions are for video content in the future. Here’s 3 things he can see changing in video in the near future: 

Trends will change depending on the most popular platforms 

“Trends come and go, including things like user-generated content (UGC). There's been a significant shift towards authenticity with platforms like TikTok. It's quite different from 10 to 20 years ago when it was all about high-production-value TV content. I'm sure it will swing back the other way at some point. I'd say it often depends on the medium and what's the most popular at that time. Nowadays, with so many different platforms, who would have thought that podcasts would become a thing?”

More demand in authentic content

"The explosion of the creator economy is fascinating. It’s disrupting the traditional model of production companies and agencies. The rise of influencers, now more broadly termed ‘creators’, has led to a demand for authentic content.” 

Professional video is becoming more accessible 

“In general, content creation has become more creative, with various production styles seen on platforms like TikTok. Simultaneously, professional-grade camera equipment has become more accessible, levelling the playing field. People now have access to cool tools and techniques, making it about finding new ways to create interesting content. Ultimately, it's about storytelling and how we use tools like AI, new camera rigs, drones, and more to create impactful content."

If you’d like to listen to Toby’s full episode, make sure to subscribe to our podcast: Ecommerce Marketing 101: How to Grow Your DTC Brand. 


Barney Cox

Barney is the Marketing Lead for Dash. He writes about small business marketing strategies and how DTC brands can boost sales.

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Barney Cox

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