YouTube Pulls the Trigger on Mobile Ads

Eighteen months after it began testing them, Google has officially started selling display ads on YouTube’s mobile Web site.

U.S. wireless users who point their browsers to m.youtube.com today will see ads for Mazda on the site’s home page, search, and video browse pages. Ad placements will be sold by the day, and each day’s advertiser will own all inventory on the mobile site for that day – just like they do on YouTube’s regular home page.

The offering will pertain only to people who visit YouTube’s mobile Web site – not to those who access videos through custom applications such as the YouTube iPhone app, installed by default on Apple’s devices. And the new program only covers display ads. YouTube’s “Promoted Videos” ads still do not appear to mobile users. Those ads use a keyword bidding model to allow video content owners to drive traffic from YouTube search results pages. Likewise, in-stream and in-video placements are not included in the new offering.

Mazda’s mobile buy with YouTube is part of a campaign that also includes a home page ad on YouTube.com. However, advertisers need not buy the home page to place a mobile ad buy.

YouTube first began testing ads served to mobile users in August 2008, and expanded those tests last year. Beta advertisers have included L’Oréal, Land Rover, Sony film “District 9,” and Kia. Click-through rates and brand awareness studies conducted in the wake of those tests were positive on the whole, according to YouTube.

According to comScore, YouTube had 398,000 unique mobile visitors in the U.S., out of a total mobile internet audience of 6,678,000.

“The increased usage of high-end devices like the iPhone and Android is also making mobile advertising easier and more effective for advertisers,” the company said in a blog post announcing the new program.

In addition to the U.S., YouTube has also rolled out mobile ads to Japanese users. No other countries are included with today’s launch.

Follow Zachary Rodgers on Twitter at @zachrodgers.

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