Animated Video Production

Understanding YouTube Video Ads: TrueView Explained

Shawn Forno 02.27.2017

YouTube video ads are a quick, cost-effective way to reach your ideal customers. But buying an ad from the world’s second largest search engine (only itself Google has more monthly users), which services billions of people can feel a little intimidating.

Where do you start? What kind of ads work best? How much does it cost? Will your ideal customers even see your ad? These are great questions, and crucial to understand before plopping down a random budget in AdSense. So to help you understand YouTube Video Ads, here’s a quick look at how they work, a few customizable options you have, and what you get when you create a YouTube Video Ad.

Understanding YouTube Video Ads: TrueView In-Stream Ads

First things first: there are really only two types of video ads on YouTube—TrueView (aka in-stream) and Google Preferred.

Google Preferred

Google Preferred ads are premium tier advertising for YouTube’s pre-selected “top performing” channels. There’s a lot that goes into determining these select channels, but suffice it to say, this is niche advertising for first-time ad buyers. It’s high budget, and predominately used to build brand awareness. If you’re just getting started with YouTube ads, don’t worry about Google Preferred.

TrueView Video Ads Explained

The far more relevant (and affordable) type of YouTube video ad is called TrueView Advertising. These “in-stream” ads are the little video commercials that pop up before you watch a YouTube video. You know, the ones that let you skip ahead. Sometimes.

You can purchase these ads in Google Adsense using a lot of the same criteria you’d use for in-display ads (aka search ads). You can target the ads placement based on demographics, geography, audience affinity, topic and more. Basically, it’s like buying a search engine display ad, with a few differences.

Skippable vs. Non-Skippable

YouTube ads come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but it really comes down to one question: to skip or not to skip? Skippable ads can be any length at all. Your preference determines, length, style, and cost.

Skippable Video Ads

This is the most common type of ad (and the least expensive). Skippable ads are typically placed at the beginning of a YouTube clip (pre-roll), but can also be mid-roll and post-roll ads. It really depends on your budget.

Customizable Length: From 5 Seconds to an Hour

Aside from the reduced price tag, the pros of skippable YouTube ads is the ability to customize the length of the ad. You can choose from 5 seconds, 15 seconds, traditional 30 seconds, a minute, 3 minutes, or more. You can make an hour long ad if you want. YouTube lets viewers opt out of your ad, so they let you make it as long as you want. Hopefully it’s interesting.

Set Your Budget: No Minimum Ad Spend

Like display ads, you set your budget for video ads. Who sees your video (and how often) is up to your ad spend, but there is no minimum. This low barrier to entry means that you can test a pre-roll ad for a few dollars a month and see if it gains any traction.

Pay Per View: How Ads are Charged

You only pay for the views you get. YouTube skippable ads are charged “per view” which basically means that if people skip your ad, you don’t pay for that impression. Google only charges you after someone watches your entire ad, or at least the first 30 seconds if it’s longer. It’s a fair system that doesn’t punish advertisers for errant views.

Bonus: If you pack a lot of information into the first five seconds of your ad—that’s basically free advertising.

Detailed Analytics

When you do finally launch your video ad, you can see how well it’s working with detailed analytics. YouTube shows, who’s watching and how long they watch among other metrics. These “audience retention” numbers (aka how long people actually watched your ad), can help you improve your ad for future use, or reinforce the positive elements of your video.

YouTube video ads

Your “view through rate” is another measure of how many people either clicked on your ad, or allowed it to play when given a choice to skip ahead. It’s an incredible real-time engagement metric for measuring campaign ROI.

Built-In CTA

While YouTube video ads are primarily built for brand awareness, you can leave viewers with a clear, clickable call-to-action at the end of your video ad. People can sign up for a newsletter, visit your YouTube channel, or share the video on social media. The call to action is fully customizable, unlike T.V. ads, and you can even run multiple campaigns with unique CTAs.

However, the most popular CTA is asking viewers to tap or click through to a landing page on your website straight from the video. If you go this route, make sure that your website is optimized for mobile traffic! “YouTube ads reach more 18-49 year olds on mobile devices alone than any cable network,” according to Jim Habig, Product Marketing Manager at YouTube.

Non-Skippable Video Ads

Non-skippable have the same targeting options, the same pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll options, and the same analytics. The biggest difference is the lack of flexibility in length.

Google’s help page says that non-skippable YouTube ads can only be 15-20 seconds long, but depending on your region, 30-second ads are available. Recent information suggest that Google plans to cut 30-second YouTube ads as of next year in favor of ads that “work for both users and advertisers.” Obviously, they mean TrueView style ads.

Google has introduced other shorter variations of non-skippable ads based on the skippable format. These so called “Bumper Ads” last exactly five seconds, which means that while technically not skippable, they’re a lot more “watchable” than other types of non-skip pre-roll ads. No option to skip, but no need to. Sneaky, huh?

The Bottom Line: YouTube Video Ads Work

YouTube is one of the biggest advertising platforms in the world. They reach billions of people every month, and are one of the best ways to build brand awareness and drive certain types of marketing campaigns. In 2014-2015 YouTube looked at over 800 brand video ad campaigns and noticed a “65% increase in brand awareness.”

You can read about it all day, but the best way to find out if YouTube video ads are right for your company is to make a video, and take YouTube video ads for a spin yourself.

Contact us today to get started making your animated pre-roll ad.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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