How to do YouTube Advertising? YouTube Ads Formats & Options

This post was updated on September 24, 2019. Additional content that was added: YouTube masthead ads (now available for all advertisers).

Just like we were saying farewell to our keyboards, we’re also waving our TVs goodbye now - well, more like our TV cable networks. We have YouTube now! Besides finding millions of cute cat videos, it’s THE place for any video on any topic. Take a virtual tour to the moon, learn how to play the guitar, become a master-chef, sing-along with your favorite songs while practicing cool dance moves - whoever your target audience is, they are on there spending a lot of time. Shoo: go and get them with your very own ‘cool’ videos.

Click to go to the YouTube ads-format directly: display ads / overlay ads / sponsored cards / skippable ads & companion banner / non-skippable ads / discovery ads / bumper ads / masthead ads.

Why Use YouTube Advertising?

OK - here we go:

  • 6 hours worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube each second - meaning, it’s a super-big-huge-gigantic platform.
  • It’s the world’s second largest search engine, and third most visited site - meaning, your reach is massive.
  • 1.9 billion users log-in to YouTube each month - meaning, lots of potential new fans for your brand or channel.
  • Every day, over 1 billion hours of video are being watched on YouTube - meaning, when your ad pops up before, during, after, or around the video they were watching, they surely spotted your brand right there.

The stats weren’t convincing enough, really? Are you still wondering why you should be using YouTube Ads? - then let me ask you this: why not? As hundreds of hours of video content are uploaded onto YouTube each minute, you do face huge competition. Though one way to tackle your competitors is by doing YouTube SEO to your videos and channel, another (and faster) way is by using YouTube Ads: plus super effective, knowing what effects YouTube Ads have on the users, and on your brand.

And hey: if you’re going to give video advertising a shot anyway, YouTube is the place where you want your ads to be seen. Where YOU want to be seen.

YouTube Advertising Options & Formats

First-things-first: there is a difference between YouTube Ads & YouTube Video Ads. Though both are called YouTube Ads (I know, confusing) you have the option to show real videos as ads - the skippable and non-skippable ads, discovery ads, and bumper ads. But you can also choose to show ads on YouTube as images - these are the static ads; the display ads, overlay ads and sponsored cards. Let’s just have a look at all of the formats:

YouTube Display Ads

youtube advertising display ads
youtube advertising display ads

Don’t worry: unlike last time, I won’t get caught up with the whole cat-theme (he’s chilling in the sun right now, letting me work peacefully).

So yes, in here you can spot the display ad - it’s showing up in the right top-corner, just above the videos who are lined up to play next. Note that this type of ad only runs on desktop, not on mobile devices, game consoles and (smart) TVs. And though you aren’t allowed to use sounds, you can make these ads stand out with animation.

YouTube Display Ads Specs

Formats: JPG, GIF, PNG, HTML5
Platforms: desktop
Dimensions: 300x250 or 300x60, max 150 kb
Animation time: max 30 sec.

Overlay Ads

youtube advertising in video overlay image ads
youtube advertising in video overlay image ads

This is an example of the in-video Overlay Ad. They show up 10 seconds after the video starts playing, and covers about 20% of the bottom-half. This type of ad exists in two ways. You can either set it up as an image ad (like the one above) which disappears from the screen after a minute, or as a text ad (like the one below). The text ad is semi-transparent but stays throughout the video - or at least up to 10 minutes in longer videos. It fades away a bit further after the first minute, but never really leaves the screen - for this option you need to get in action and click the tiny x, to have it go away completely.

youtube advertising in video overlay text ads
youtube advertising in video overlay text ads

YouTube Overlay Ads Specs

Formats: GIF, PNG, JPG
Platforms: desktop
Dimensions: 468x60 and 728x90, max 150 kb

Note: The text overlay is actually a ‘regular text ad’, that shows up automatically when you target online videos on the Display Network.

Sponsored Cards

The sponsored cards are kind of a different story. They show up towards the end of the video, or you can have them already revealed earlier by clicking on the ‘i’ in the right corner yourself. Now you’re thinking; who wants to open an ad by him or herself? Well - as I said, it’s kind of a different story.

youtube advertising sponsored cards ads information button
youtube advertising sponsored cards ads information button

Sponsored cards are like a superpower to your video. These small rectangular ads will appear on the top right side within the video-player, while the video is still playing. They are used to advertise the products or services that you’ve just seen in the video. Like in the image above: I am watching a clip of a destination. Let’s say I’d love to go there - then how amazing would it be that when I click on the little ‘i’, sponsored cards would pop up that direct me to a page where I could be booking my flight tickets straight-away. Tadaa:

youtube advertising sponsored cards ads overview
youtube advertising sponsored cards ads overview

Besides one of the cards redirecting me to the advertiser’s website, I can also be sent to another relevant video on their YouTube channel (as you see, they refer me to their ‘destinations’ playlist as well), but also the channel itself could be an option. And if I wasn’t interested in anything shown in the video, then no loss either. To sum up: they’re timid, unnoticeable and just awesome.

YouTube Sponsored Cards Ads Specs

Formats: JPG, GIF, PNG
Platforms: desktop & mobile devices
Dimensions: sizes vary, max 5 mb

Skippable & Non-Skippable Ads

Now we’re getting to the real-deal of the YouTube Ads world; the actual YouTube Video Ads.

When we talk about the true YouTube ads, we actually mean trueview ads; the skippable and non-skippable ads. We’re 10000% sure you know what we mean, cause really; who hasn’t seen those little bastards. Right then, when you think you’re going to watch the most awesome video in the entire world, you are confronted with an ad and forced to watch it for some time - and if you’re unlucky enough, you’re even gonna have to sit through the entire ad, which seems endless. Oh boy.

All right, enough. This was me speaking as a YouTube-watcher.

Now this is me speaking as a digital marketer again: YouTube video ads ROCK! And that’s not because you’re forcing people to watch your advertisements - hehe - but because of the many benefits it brings along. Stay with me:

Skippable Ads

It’s in the name: skippable ads are the video ads that you can skip, 5 seconds into the ad - but, since they can be skipped after 5 seconds, you have to make sure that every second counts.

The skippable ads (aka trueview in-stream ads) show up at the start, in the middle of the video, or at the end, and you only pay when a person clicks on your ad, or decides not to skip the ad but to watch for at least 30 seconds, or entirely - whichever comes first. This also means that when you do pay, your budget was dedicated to an audience that cared about what you had to say with your advertisement, aka: an audience that’s more likely to convert. Perfect!

youtube advertising trueview in-stream skippable video ads
youtube advertising trueview in-stream skippable video ads

And once your video ad finished playing, you can have an ‘auto end screen’ pop up for about 5 seconds. An end screen is created automatically and shows information about the product or service once again - if you don’t want an end screen, you have to manually turn this feature off when creating your campaign. However, it’s said that end screens help you to achieve your campaign goals by “encouraging viewers to take an action” - and the best thing, it does not costs you anything extra.

youtube advertising trueview in-stream skippable video ads automatic end screen
youtube advertising trueview in-stream skippable video ads automatic end screen

But hold on: we aren’t there yet. When someone finishes your trueview ad-video or is not interested in your ad and eagerly skips after 5 seconds (or skips by mistake, before realizing the ad is perfect for them), you have the option to still show off your brand on the watch page!

Yesss, along with the great trueview ad-type comes the companion banner. These banners are optional, and only shows in certain cases depending on the video context. It appears on the same spot as a display ad would (at the right top of the YouTube watch page, just above the ‘up next’ section), and is only available on desktop. It can come in two ways: as an image (like it does in the example above), or as a video wall showing up to 3 videos (like the image below). Clicks on the companion banner go to your external URL (your website eg.) or to your YouTube channel.

youtube advertising companion banner ads
youtube advertising companion banner ads

Note: when you do not provide a custom companion banner, a video-wall companion-ad will be created automatically with 3 of the recently uploaded videos on your channel, and includes your channel icon and name. The companion banner is not only available for skippable ads; you are able to set it up for all in-stream ads (so non-skippable and bumper ads, too).

YouTube Skippable Ads Specs

Locations: YouTube videos, apps, games, videos on Google Display Network
Platform: desktop, mobile devices, TVs & game consoles
Length: min 12 sec, max 3 min
Clicks: go to website

YouTube Companion Banner Specs

Formats: JPG, GIF, PNG
Platforms: desktop
Dimensions: 300x60, max 150 kb
Clicks: go to your website, or a YouTube channel and videos

Non-Skippable Ads

And then there are also the ‘can’t skip YouTube Ads’ - right: you have to watch the whole thing, before you can continue. Just like it’s skippable brother the ads are in-stream, meaning it plays inside the video player and can show up before, during and even after the video you were watching. The ads may be up to 15 seconds in length, depending on the region you’re at; for EMEA, India, Malaysia, Mexico, and Singapore you may even go up till 20 seconds.

youtube advertising trueview in-stream non skippable video ads
youtube advertising trueview in-stream non skippable video ads

Tip here: target, target & target. Targeting here is really important as you do not want to force people to watch your ad when its super irrelevant to them. They might go ‘hate’ it.

YouTube Non-Skippable Ads Specs

Locations: YouTube videos, apps, videos on Google Display Network
Platform: desktop and mobile devices
Video length: max 15 or 20 seconds
Clicks: go to website

Discovery Ads

These type of ads are named ‘discovery ads’ because of the fact that they appear natively in the search results of the videos that you are searching for; if you are familiar with Google’s search ads, it’s exactly like that - just this time on YouTube. The discovery ad (aka trueview in-display ad) typically looks like a YouTube result showing the thumbnail of the video plus a headline and 2 description lines, and when someone clicks your ad, he or she will be redirected to the YouTube video watch page.

youtube advertising discovery ads search results
youtube advertising discovery ads search results

Not only do they appear at the top of the search results, your discovery ad can also pop up on the YouTube homepage, at the top of the ‘up next’ section on the video watch page, and even on Google’s Display Network.

YouTube Discovery Ads Specs

Locations: YouTube videos and search results, YouTube app homepage, “related videos,” and video overlays, and YouTube mobile website search and watch pages
Platform: desktop, mobile devices, TVs & game consoles
Video length: none
Ad copy length: headline; 25 characters, body; 2 description lines; each max 35 characters
Clicks: go to the video on the YouTube watch page, or your YouTube channel

Bumper Ads

And lastly the bumpers. The bumper ads are also the type that you can’t skip - however, the ad only lasts 6 seconds. They show up before the video you wanted to watch on both desktop and mobile devices.

youtube advertising trueview in-stream bumper video ads
youtube advertising trueview in-stream bumper video ads

I know, six seconds is really short to tell your brand’s (entire) message .. so if you go for bumper ads, try to focus on just one single point. There is such a thing as ‘ad sequencing’, meaning you can set up different bumper ads with different messages that will be shown one after another to a single user, over time (this feature is also available for other trueview in-stream ads).

YouTube Bumper Ads Specs

Locations: YouTube videos, apps on the Google Display Network, and videos on partner sites
Platform: desktop and mobile devices
Video length: 6 seconds

YouTube Masthead Ads

Now the greatest, most favorable, most powerful (and the easiest to create) ads of them all: YouTube Masthead Ads.

While in the past, YouTube Masthead Ads were for reservation buying-only, you can now set them up yourself. As of July, the Mastheads are made available to all advertisers. And while in the past, YouTube Masthead Ads were showing up on YouTube’s homepage for a full 24 hours to anyone visiting YouTube, they’re now shown on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis and use a more advanced audiences targeting option.

youtube advertising masthead ads reservation buying
youtube advertising masthead ads reservation buying

* And like I said: they are the ‘easiest to create’. All you need, is a YouTube video URL.

Targeting & Content-Exclusions

If you are wondering ‘are YouTube Ads targeted?’ then the answer is: yes. In fact, you have quite a lot of targeting options to pick when setting up a campaign.

Audience Targeting

Demographics: you can focus on (1) certain groups: age, gender, parental status, household incomes, or you can get into more detail by reaching users based on (2) additional shared traits: students, parents of infants / toddlers / preschoolers / grade schoolers / teens, or homeowners and renters, eg.

Interests: you can pick from the available audience categories, to target people who are interested in certain topics. Choose from (1) affinity audiences: people who already have an interest in similar topics, (2) custom affinity audiences: audiences that are more tailored to your brand, (3) life events: reach audiences when purchase behavior shifts and brand preferences changes during life, like moving, graduation, marriage eg., (4) in-market audience: people who’ve researched products and are actively considering to buy a product like yours, and (5) custom intent audience: reach audiences as they are making purchase decisions based on keywords they’ve recently searched for, on Google.

Video remarketing: you can also target your ads to the ones who interacted with your videos, YouTube ads, or channel before. Google automatically creates this list for you, when you’ve linked your Google account to your Google Ads. Note: people are added to your remarketing list once they’ve watched, commented on, liked, or shared your videos, in the past 30 days.

Content Targeting

Placements: you can target specific YouTube channels or videos where you want your ads to be shown. Placement-targeting also includes other websites and apps in the Google Display Network.

Topics: you can target certain topics: your video ad then will appear when someone watches a video or reads content regarding these topics on YouTube and the Google Display Network.

Keywords: you can show your ads based on keywords. Pick keywords that are relevant to your audience, or the videos you want to target.

Devices: you can target users using smartphones, other mobile devices, (smart) TV’s, and computers.

Location: you can even target the ones located in a certain area - whether that’ll be around the corner, a city or the entire world.

Content Targeting-Exclusions

Already there is a content filter automatically enabled when creating a new campaign: the standard content filter. This filter is recommended to most advertisers, and filters out inappropriate or graphic content. Next to that, you have the following exclusion options:

Sensitive content: you filter out (1) sensitive social issues, (2) tragedy and conflict, (3) rough language - beta, (4) sexually suggestive content - beta, and (5) sensational and shocking - beta.

Digital content labels: you filter out content (1) suitable for general audiences / families, DL-PG, (2) suitable for teen and older audiences, DL-T, (3) suitable for most audiences with parental guidance, DL-T, and (4) suitable only for mature audiences, DL-MA.

Content type: you filter out (1) embedded YouTube videos, (2) live-streaming videos, and (3) videos that appear in online or mobile app-games.

Your YouTube Advertising Campaign

All right now, how to create a YouTube advertisement campaign?

First up: you have to select your campaign goal - for each goal, you have different video campaign types that you can run. If you want to increase (1) leads or (2) website traffic, the format you can use is a skippable in-stream ad, for the goal (3) product and brand consideration, you can use the skippable in-stream ad and video discovery ad, and for (4) brand awareness, you can select any type of YouTube ad format. Note that when you want to go for a display banner or overlay ad, you have to set up a ‘display’ campaign; as the Google Display Network includes YouTube. You are able to set up a display campaign for all of the campaign goals mentioned above, plus an additional goal: sales. If you do not have a goal at all (or yet) that’s ok too - you have the option to set up a video or display campaign without selecting a goal first.

After that, you have to start thinking about a bidding strategy. With your bidding strategy you tell the system how you want to ‘optimize your bids to meet your goals’. Which bidding strategy fits which YouTube ad format, depends on the goal you’ve selected earlier. In total, there are six different bidding strategies available:

Maximum cost-per-view, (CPV): here you choose the highest amount you’re willing to pay, each time someone views your ad.

Maximum cost-per-thousand (CPM): here you choose the highest amount you’re willing to pay, each time a thousand people saw your ad.

Target cost-per-thousand: same situation as with the maximum CPM, only this time you set the ‘average amount’ you’re willing to pay for every thousand impressions.

Maximize Conversions: here Google will automatically set your bid to help you get the most conversions within your budget.

Target cost-per-acquisition (CPA): here you choose an average amount you’re willing to pay for each conversion. Google then optimizes your bid to fit as many conversions as possible, inside your budget.

Viewable cost-per-thousand: here you choose the highest amount you’re willing to pay for every thousand times your ad was shown, in a viewable position.

Create YouTube Ads Campaign

So now that you’ve chosen a goal and know your bidding strategy, you are ready to create a YouTube Ads campaign. These are the steps you will go through:

  1. Choose a campaign name.
  2. Set a budget, and select your start and (optional) end dates
  3. Pick your (matching) bidding strategy.
  4. Choose the networks where you want to advertise: YouTube search results, YouTube videos, and/or video partners on the display network.
  5. Language and location.
  6. Choose your targeting and exclusion options
  7. Set a bid, and:
  8. Create your video ad - note that your video has to be uploaded onto YouTube first, either as ‘public’ or as ‘unlisted’.
youtube advertising create google ads campaign trueview in-stream skippable video ad
youtube advertising create google ads campaign trueview in-stream skippable video ad

After uploading your video and adding your final URL, you can see a ‘preview ad’ button popping up, to see how it’s going to look like on YouTube.

youtube advertising create google ads campaign trueview in-stream skippable preview video ad
youtube advertising create google ads campaign trueview in-stream skippable preview video ad

Wow! Look at that: Google automatically created the companion banner for us already, too (they really thought of everything - great!). Seems like the campaign is good to go!

Recap: So Then, How Does YouTube Advertising Work?

It was a lot of information, I know. If you just want to find out super-fast how it works, here's a snappy overview of the most important points:

  • You can set up static YouTube ads: display banners, overlay ads, and sponsored cards, and
  • you can set up YouTube video ads: skippable & non-skippable in-stream ads, discovery ads, and bumper ads.
  • You can target your ideal customers, and
  • you can target the ideal video content where you want your YouTube ads to be shown.
  • You only pay when someone watches or clicks your YouTube ad.
  • You can track what’s working well and what isn’t, with YouTube Analytics and on the Google Ads platform.
Post date: 15 Mar 2019

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