No.5 Most Read Article of 2013: YouTube Paid Advertising - a Beginner's Guide

  |  December 30, 2013   |  Comments

There's an enormous opportunity for brands to promote their goods and services to a worldwide audience through video advertising on the world's second largest search engine.

This story was originally published on June 20, 2013, and comes in at No. 5 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ stories of 2013. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we're celebrating the best of 2013, as determined by you, our readers. Enjoy!

Now that we have covered how to win the search game on YouTube through organic video search, video optimization, and video analytics, let's take a look at the world of paid media on this powerful video search engine.

Video viewing is up and continues to increase as people subscribe to YouTube channels and discover engaging content they enjoy. According to YouTube, over six billion hours of video are watched each month on the video search engine (up 50 percent over last year), and 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

This presents enormous opportunity for brands to promote their goods and services to a worldwide audience through video advertising on the world's second largest search engine.

YouTube has a wide variety of advertising opportunities, and to my surprise, most brands are not fully aware of the different programs available. In this column we'll take a general look at the video search engine's TrueView platform, which offers a great deal of flexibility for advertisers and viewers.

Note: There are other advertising opportunities on YouTube that are not part of TrueView; for this column we are only looking at the TrueView program which, in my opinion, provides a superior experience for brands and viewers for different reasons.

Advertising via TrueView Offers Greater Flexibility and Reach

At its core TrueView is a pay-per-view model; advertisers pay for their video ad only when a viewer chooses to watch it.

Rather than pay for impressions, which are difficult to quantify (did they really see it?), advertisers pay for actual views, which also provides a wealth of YouTube analytics data to inform advertising strategy and ad placement.

TrueView ads offer tons of brand visibility because they are viewable not only on but also on YouTube's mobile, connected TV, and game console properties, the Google Video network, and embedded YouTube players.

Brands can use TrueView in three different ways, depending on budget and search marketing goals: in-stream, in-search, and in-display. It's possible to use them separately but combining them together creates a much larger, more powerful online video presence and stronger advertising effort.

Ad Unit Where does the user interact with the brand? Where does the brand ad run?
TrueView In-Stream Pre-roll on partner's YouTube videos Before, during, or after partner's YouTube videos
TrueView In-Search On the brand's watch/channel page YouTube search results page
TrueView In-Display On the brand's watch/channel page Next to partner YouTube videos

TrueView In-Stream

TrueView in-stream ads are similar to television commercials. As the name infers, in-stream ads are part of the video stream, before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll), or after (post-roll) the ad partner's video. However, unlike a television commercial, YouTube's in-stream advertising is a video search marketing tool that reaches a brand's target audience with greater precision due to the use of select keywords, interest targeting, and video optimization. This is a tremendous asset to advertisers.

Viewers may watch the entire ad, part of it, or skip it after at least five seconds of play. The advertiser pays only when at least 30 seconds or the entire ad is viewed (whichever is shorter). TrueView in-stream ads may be any length, which offer advertisers greater leeway in terms of creative format for their message (tutorial/how-to, infomercial, entertainment, interactive, etc.).


Why use TrueView in-stream ads?

  1. Viewers have the option of watching or skipping the ad - this helps retain viewership of the selected video and reduces fall-off.
  2. Advertisers can maximize their ad budgets by delivering the right message to the right audience.
  3. No maximum ad length restrictions. Longer ads allow greater flexibility in terms of ad message format and message delivery.

In-stream for mobile. Mobile viewing makes up more than 25 percent of YouTube's global watch time, with more than one billion views a day. Therefore, advertisers cannot afford to omit mobile-specific ad campaigns in their YouTube media mix. In addition to the TrueView in-stream ads described above (pay-per-view), mobile advertisers may also choose two other in-stream options (which are also available for desktop):


  • Standard in-stream. These ads are not skippable and are limited in maximum length (up to 15 seconds or up to 30 seconds). They run pre-, mid-, or post-roll. Advertisers are charged when the video loads.
  • Select in-stream. These ads play before the partner video. They can be up to 30 seconds long and viewers have the option to skip after five seconds. However, advertisers are charged no matter how long the viewing time.

TrueView In-Search

These online ads are where organic search, YouTube analytics, and video advertising converge. Brands can target their video ads as a search result by choosing search terms that appear in YouTube. Similar to a Google AdWords campaign, in-search ads appear in a special promoted section of the search results pages on YouTube and Google, above or to the right of regular results. Advertisers pay per actual view (charged only when the viewer chooses to watch the video), not per impression.

A call-to-action overlay is available to direct viewers to the brand's website, splash page, or other digital marketing asset.


When viewers click on your ad, it takes them to your YouTube channel, where they can subscribe and watch your other videos at no charge to you, the advertiser. You are paying for that initial view and if you provide viewers with relevant, engaging video content on your brand's channel, you will greatly enhance the value of that original cost-per-view. Therefore, high-quality, relevant video ads will give advertisers a strong ROI.

TrueView In-Display

These are videos that show up on search pages alongside other YouTube videos or on the Google Display Network that match your target audience. A click-through on the video ad directs viewers to your YouTube channel. As with in-search, you pay only when a viewer chooses to watch your video. Make sure your video ads are well-optimized to boost their in-display results.


The TrueView formats allow advertisers to target their messages by search terms and interest; drive more traffic to their brands' YouTube channels or their websites; enhance their online visibility, view counts, and signal greater brand relevance to Google and YouTube; help boost search results; and make this earned media search engine into a powerful place to put advertising dollars.


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Benjamin Spiegel

Benjamin Spiegel is the managing partner, vice president of innovation at Catalyst, a GroupM agency. He is a digital advertising veteran with more than 14 years of experience in media, data, and technology. For the past three years, he led the search practice across the GroupM Network; today, Ben leads the innovation practice at Catalyst providing thought leadership and innovations for its Fortune 500 client brands.

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