YouTube Ad Format Cheat Sheet

YouTube is a goldmine for advertisers and creators alike. Be it a brand, an influencer, a vlogger, or a layman, YouTube has something for everyone. The platform has 2 billion monthly users, while 300 hours of videos are uploaded on the platform every day. The channel is growing day by day, with users flocking to consume content that entertains, educates, and inspires them.

Considering how amazing this platform is, it isn’t a surprise that it is a favourite for marketers across the globe. Which is why YouTube has become one of the top advertising platforms on digital.

But advertising on YouTube isn’t as simple as it is on, say, Facebook or Instagram. Because it is a completely video-based platform, your ads need to follow certain requirements to be able to run as specific type of YouTube ads. So today, I am going to talk about the different type of ads available on YouTube, with personalized recommendations of which ones you should go for.

Type of Ads on YouTube:

Despite being the world’s top video streaming platform, YouTube doesn’t only offer video ads to marketers. Instead, there are three types of ads that you can run on YouTube:

  • Video ads
  • Display ads
  • Search ads

Let’s talk about each one by one..

Video Ads

Different video ads on YouTube can bring different types of results for your brand. These ads can either help you:

  • Influence the audience’s
  • consideration of your product
  • Increase leads/conversions on your website
  • Create a funnel based video marketing approach
  • Increase shop visits by interested customers

But to be able to run get these results from YouTube, you need to know the exact type of ad that you should be running. Here are the different video ad types the platform offers:

Skippable In-Stream Ads:

Skippable in-stream ads allow your audience to watch 5 seconds of your ad, after which they can skip the ad or watch the whole thing. These ads are placed before, during, or after the video being watched. Here are a few requirements of skippable in-stream ads:

  • Ad placements: desktop, mobile, TV, gaming consoles
  • Ad duration: 12 seconds to 3 minutes (>30 seconds recommended)
  • The video must be uploaded on YouTube (public or restricted)

Bumper Ads:

Bumper ads are up to 6-second video ads that appear only at the beginning of videos, which is why they’re also called pre-roll ads. These ads are a great way to communicate your message in the shortest duration possible, which leaves little room for distractions and enable marketers to be direct and to-the-point. These types of ads are only viewable on mobile and desktops. Below are the requirements of Bumper ads:

  • Duration: must be up to 6 seconds only.
  • The video must be uploaded on YouTube.

Non-Skippable Ads:

Non-skippable video ads are exactly what the name suggests. These ads can be as long as 20 seconds, depending on regional YouTube guidelines, and are playable on desktop and mobile devices. While these type of ads may be prefered by marketers because a user is bound to watch them without opting to skip, they can be intrusive if the video is longer than 10 seconds, and so, are usually not the best option to go for.

The requirements of unskippable ads are:

  • Duration: Can be up to 30 seconds long, but the shorter the video is, the better.
  • The video must be uploaded on YouTube.
  • Video size must be a maximum of 1 GB.

Outstream Ads:

While YouTube itself is a great advertising platform, there are a lot of advertisers who’d want to play their ads outside of it on Google Partner websites and apps. For that, YouTube offers Outstream placements, which enables ad viewership outside of the platform. These ads are exclusively shown on mobile-only and are shown as native content on partner sites and apps, which can grab the attention of the users as the video seem to be a part of the third party platform.

How are Outstream ads different from other YouTube ad types? For one: they’re not played on YouTube at all and are used to increase the reach of the video rather than its views. Secondly, Outstream ads can be skipped immediately as users scroll or skip past them, while in-stream or Bumper ads can be skipped after 5 seconds.

Outstream ads work similarly to how Facebook’s Audience Network ads work for videos. They are shown as native content on 3rd party channels, enabling your content to be shown outside of YouTube as well.

The requirements for Outstream are almost similar to the rest of the video ads, such as:

  • Duration: up to 30 seconds long, however, in my experience, shorter videos work better.
  • The videos must be uploaded on YouTube to run as Outstream.

Ad Sequence:

Ad sequences are a type of video ads that let you create a funnelled video campaign for your audience. If you have two or more videos for a particular product or service that are a continuation or variation of each other, you can place all three (or more) in a sequence, which will allow you to show these ads in a funnelled way to a wide, narrow, and narrower base of the audience with each respective video sequence. For example, say you are selling an online course and have made a set of three videos, in which the first one has the details of the course, the second one highlights the advantages, and the third one has the final CTA.

The first video will be the first step of the sequence, which will be shown to your targeted audience. The second video will then be shown to the people who have seen a certain percentage of your first video, and the third video will then be shown to an even narrower chunk of audience who’s viewed the most of your second video.

This type of ad format is a great way to create a funnel with your ads and can be used to convert interested audiences to actual customers. However, if you’re depending on Sequence Ads for reach or high impressions, I suggest to rather go for in-stream or bumper ads as they’re useful for brand awareness.

My recommendation:

Go for skippable in-stream ads or bumper ads. That’s because while it’s important to take your word across to your audience, you don’t want to interrupt their experience by showing constant ads. That’s intrusive, and even I hate it. And a good rule of thumb is that if you don’t like something that ruins your digital experience, you shouldn’t make your audience go through it either.

While the rest of the ad types are not wrong, per se, in my experience the best performing ads have been the two I’ve identified above. For example, I’ve run Outstream ads and they have worked great to bring me in-game video views, and Sequence ads have been a great way to create video marketing funnels. So always remember to try and test your campaigns and see what works best for you.

Discovery Ads

Discover ads refer to the static or animated banner ads that show outside or over the YouTube video player. These ads are:

Display ads

Display ads are static or animated banner ads that are displayed on the right of the featured video or above the video suggestion list. Display ads on YouTube are only viewable on the desktop, and thus, may not be the best choice if you’re looking for mobile optimization of your advertisements. The requirements of display ads are as follows:

  • Ad size: 300×250 or 300×60
  • Ad type: Can be static or animated
  • The ad should lead to a proper website

Overlay ads

Overlay ads are semi-transparent text-based or designed banner ads that appear in the lower 20% of YouTube’s video player. Like banner ads, these are also only viewable on desktop. Requirements of the video ads are as follows:

  • The ad size can be 468×60 or 728×90.
  • These ads can either be text-based or designed banner ads.

TrueView discovery ads

TrueView discovery video ads aren’t exactly video view ads, but show the video thumbnail that’s shown on YouTube search or watch pages on desktop and mobile. The ads show an image thumbnail and supporting headline and text that talk about the ad. Clicking on the ad will take the user to the YouTube watch or channel.

TrueView discovery ads are shown on the following channels:

  • Search results (search and web)
  • Video watch page (search and web)
  • YouTube mobile app’s homepage

There aren’t any specific requirements of such ads, except that these videos should be uploaded on YouTube and the text and images should comply with YouTube’s policies.

Sponsored cards

Sponsored cards are display ads that are relevant to the video they’re shown on, the product featured in the video, or the people starring in it. The cards are shown as teasers and can be viewed by clicking the icon on the top right corner of the video being viewed. These ads are shown on both mobile and desktop, and the sizes may vary, depending on the cards placed on the video itself by the publisher or by YouTube as ads.

My recommendation:

In my experience, YouTube’s TrueView discovery ads generate great impressions. They’re easy to set up, can easily be customized for content in headlines, and are easily visible on the YouTube search or player page, especially if your customer is mostly active on mobile, or your placement options include mobile ads only. But be warned, these ads don’t necessarily bring you video views, but can definitely work in increasing brand recognition and earned views for content creators and similar companies.

Similarly, display and overlay ads are equally effective. In fact, unlike video discovery ads, they give you more room for creativity and the display ads can even support different banner sizes. However, the objective of these ads differs from the objective of the TrueView discovery ads. While those ads only support videos existing on your channel, the banner and overlay ads support web links as well. And so, you should pick and choose your ad type based on the objective you want to achieve with the ad.

Search Ads

YouTube isn’t just a video streaming platform, it’s also a search engine. The easy to use interface, combined with the sheer popularity of the platform makes it the second largest search engine after Google. So your search ads that are set up for Google aren’t limited to the search platform only, they’re also visible on YouTube.

These ads are shown on the search page, above videos, and they’re usually related to the keywords you use to search for the videos you want to watch.

These search ads greatly improve the visibility of your advertisement assets and also create a way for you to maximize the optimization of your budget.

My recommendation:

While there isn’t a lot to pick and choose from in these types of ads, one thing I’ll advise you to do is that if you have sufficient budget, and are planning video campaigns, try to create search copies that relate to your video ads. That way, when you place your ads on YouTube, you can also increase reach, impressions, and clicks on your website.

So that’s it. As exhaustive as this article may seem, it’s actually useful to understand the type of ads offered to advertisers on YouTube, so that you can make informed decisions for your advertisements, and can make the best use of your budget and assets.

Zainab Abdul Rehman

Content and strategy specialist with a head full of ideas that I never get time to execute.

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