YouTube Ad Types: Which is Best for Your Brand?


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  • YouTube commands over 2 billion users and over 1 billion hours of content watched daily.
  • 18-34-year-olds in the United States spend more time watching YouTube on mobile devices alone than any television network.
  • Over the last several years, the number of small- and medium-sized businesses advertising on YouTube has doubled.
  • Viewers of TrueView ads were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand channel, watch more by that brand, or share the brand’s video.
  • TrueView advertisers are opt-in, meaning they aren’t bound by time limits, giving them the flexibility to experiment with creative approaches and advertising formats.

The ubiquity of mobile technology places social media platforms at the forefront of multimedia advertising. YouTube’s explosive popularity liberates brands from relying on conventional (and costly) television ad buying to produce effective calls to action. YouTube ad offerings provide scalable media buying strategies for brands seeking to efficiently target their customer audience.

In this article, we’ll aim to navigate the often non-intuitive waters of YouTube’s video advertising model, as well as Google’s latest innovative approaches to direct response solutions. By partnering with Redefine Marketing Group as a seamless extension to your team, we can help design optimal video advertising strategies for your brand. Keep in mind, the types of YouTube ads described here are ideal for brands with an established advertising budget already invested in rich media creative.

More than 2 billion users watch over 1 billion hours of content daily, making YouTube’s advertising potential without equal. Google often boasts statistics from its own commissioned study highlighting 18-34-year-olds in the United States spend more time watching YouTube on mobile devices alone than any television network.

These rapidly evolving statistics aren’t lost on new or established brands. Over the last several years, the number of small- and medium-sized businesses advertising on YouTube has doubled. Redefine Marketing Group empowers its clients with competitive intelligence, an expert knowledge base of all types of YouTube ads, and their potential for customer engagement. 

When creators choose to monetize their video, YouTube delivers a variety of advertising options associated with their content in various formats. The types of YouTube ads we’ll explore in this article include: 

  • Video Discovery Ads
  • Skippable In-Stream Ads
  • Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads
  • Bumper Ads
  • Display Ads
  • Sponsored Cards
  • Overlay Ads 

Video Discovery Ads

Also referred to as TrueView Video Discovery ads, and previously known as in-display ads, these types of YouTube ads are used to capture audience attention in places of discovery. They’re delivered at the top of YouTube search results, on the watch page next to related videos, or on the YouTube mobile homepage.

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Discovery ads are formatted differently, depending on where they appear. Generally, this ad unit consists of an image thumbnail and up to three lines of text. Its seamless integration benefits well-produced videos that might get clicked if they appeal to the viewer more than organic search results.

When a user clicks the ad, they’ll be sent to the YouTube watch or channel page to view the advertiser’s video rather than playing the video within the ad itself. Advertisers seeking to enhance their product and brand consideration goals can opt for this campaign. Since you’re charged only when a user clicks on your ad thumbnail, Discovery ads are highly cost-effective.

Skippable In-Stream Ads

Also referred to as TrueView In-Stream ads, these are the all too familiar pre-roll ads appearing before, during, or even after a selected video. Users can skip these ads after 5 seconds of viewing. These are the most visible ad types, playing in the video player and delivered to desktop, mobile devices, smart TVs, and game consoles. 

YouTube - Swimming Competition

Advertisers who opt for CPV bidding pay only when users watch 30 seconds of video (or the full duration if the length is shorter) or if they interact with the video. Opting for Target CPM, Target CPA, or Maximize conversions bidding, payment is based on impressions only. Either method makes them particularly cost-effective. A Google Meta-Analysis measuring TrueView impact on brand channel engagement found that viewers who completed TrueView ads—watched completely or at least 30 seconds—were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand channel, watch more by that brand, or share the brand video.

Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads

Like skippable in-stream ads, Non-skippable video ads may play before, during, or after other videos on YouTube and across websites and apps running on Google video partners. However, they must be watched in their entirety. These types of YouTube ads are delivered to desktop and mobile devices and play directly in the video player. However, they’re limited to 15 or 20 seconds in length (or shorter), depending on regional standards. Skippable ads exclusively use Target CPM bidding, so advertisers pay based on impressions.

Bumper Ads

These are non-skippable video ads of up to 6 seconds that must be watched before a video can be viewed. Bumper ads deliver to desktop but work especially well on mobile devices and play directly in the video player. Bumper ads also employ Target CPM bidding and are best used for short and strong brand messaging across impressions.

Display Ads

A type of non-video ad delivered to desktop, these basic but prominently placed graphic ads are positioned to the right of the featured video and above related video suggestions. For larger players, these types of YouTube ads may appear below the player. The display ad graphic incorporates a call-to-action button with a link to the advertiser’s website.

Sponsored Cards

One of YouTube’s earliest ad innovations to appear on both desktop and mobile devices, Sponsored Cards display content that may be relevant to a video such as products or services featured in the video. A teaser for the card is played for the viewer for a runtime of a few seconds. Users may also click an icon in the top right corner of the video to browse available cards. Sponsored cards can vary in size.

Creators have found the use of Sponsored Cards as an effective tool for continuing audience engagement within their own selected content, but it may not be the ideal strategy for brands seeking to develop broad impressions across YouTube.

Overlay Ads

The leanest selection among the different types of YouTube ads, these are semi-transparent banner overlays on the lower fifth of the video’s screen area. They are delivered to desktop only at 468×60 or 728×90 as static images or text.

The team at Redefine Marketing Group recognizes the unique value Google’s TrueView offers to advertisers who opt-in. Google’s TrueView is built on the premise that an advertiser only pays when a user chooses to watch a video ad completely. The logic follows that viewers will see videos they’re curious about, and the advertiser earns views from an audience they know may be interested in their service or products. Google further empowers the advertiser to choose what they want to pay per view. In 2019, the number of advertisers opting into TrueView grew over 260 percent.

The Advantages of TrueView

Brands who opt-in to TrueView aren’t bound by time limits, giving them the flexibility to experiment with creative approaches and advertising formats. Not only are advertisers able to target their viewers while fitting their budget – they’re able maximize their media investment to produce long-format demos, how-to videos, or testimonials of any length.

There are two types of TrueView video ad formats. As mentioned earlier, TrueView In-Stream ads play before or during another video from a YouTube partner, allowing users to watch five seconds of pre-roll video and then have the choice to keep watching or skip it. You pay when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds or finishes the video, or if they interact with a card or other elements of your in-stream creative.

TrueView Video Discovery ads appear alongside creator YouTube videos, in YouTube search pages, or Google’s display network partner websites that match an advertiser’s target audience. Brands pay only when the user clicks on the ad to watch their video. Both types of TrueView ads may be enhanced by interactive elements such as cards, shopping cards, and call-to-action buttons.

TrueView for action campaigns use the skippable video ad format to add prominent calls-to-action (CTAs), headline text overlays, and an end screen to enhance a brand’s video ads. This empowers target users to explore a product or service, fosters lead generation by contact submission, and drives conversions directly from video.

The Future of YouTube Advertising Solutions 

In response to the growing economic crisis of 2020, Google announced the launch of Video action campaigns, offering a cost-effective performance video solution to drive even more conversions across YouTube. Video action campaigns automatically allow advertisers to broaden the reach of their video ads to new, intelligent targets beyond TrueView’s existing platform.

Redefine Marketing Group consolidates its expertise and insights from both the Google’s product side, as well as from within the creator community. We know how YouTube ads work — and more importantly how advertisers and audiences think about YouTube advertising. Understanding how creators, viewers, and advertisers work together is an essential component when building potential ad campaigns. Likewise, we work collaboratively with our clients to ensure we’re accomplishing their goals consistent with their budget needs and company vision.

YouTube and the streaming video landscape at large is always-changing. As viewer insights, customer data, and ad innovations continue to evolve, hosts and advertisers must grow as well. The strategies available to brands today may transform tomorrow. It’s always recommended that your marketing team stay apprised of the latest trends and be poised to guide you to adopt the best approaches to accomplish your goals. Contact Redefine Marketing Group to begin that partnership today.

Psst- we know tons about YouTube SEO, too!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor is an SEO specialist for Redefine Marketing Group. Victor's primary focus within his role at Redefine is technical SEO. He's also a Cal Poly Pomona alum with a Business Administration degree in E-commerce and minor Marketing.
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