November 12, 2020

Online Video Advertising – The Performance Marketer’s Complete Guide

From top platforms to best practices, we’ve got everything marketers need to know about online video advertising.

online video advertising

It’s no secret that online video advertising is an integral part of any performance marketing strategy. According to Oberlo, 88% of marketers are satisfied with the ROI of social media video ads. Meanwhile, 54% of consumers actually want to see more video content from their favorite brands and businesses. The question isn’t whether to use video ads — it’s where to begin.

At yellowHEAD, we’ve analyzed online video ads down to the most minute creative elements. Our proprietary creative technology platform, Alison, uses machine learning and human expertise to produce results-driven video campaigns. We know video, and we’re excited to share our insights here today.

In this post, we’ve rounded up information about the top online video advertising platforms and channels, as well as some general best practices for video ads. Let’s get started, shall we?

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Jump to a section…

What is Online Video Advertising?
What Are the Different Types of Online Video Advertising?
YouTube Video Ads
Facebook & Instagram Video Ads
What Are the Best Practices for Online Video Advertising?
Which Online Video Advertising Format is Right For You?

What is Online Video Advertising?


In a nutshell, online video advertising refers to video ads that run on websites or in apps. That’s a broad definition, but as you’ll see, there’s more to running video ads than simply uploading a video to the internet. These days, there are many different video advertising channels, from YouTube to social media platforms to mobile games — just to name a few!

While there are many impactful digital ad formats, video outstrips static in its storytelling ability. As a content medium, video also resonates with the modern always-online consumer: Users watch billions of videos daily across numerous platforms. With that kind of engagement, it’s no wonder that marketers are reporting huge increases in digital video budgets.

What Are the Different Types of Online Video Advertising?


According to a recent analysis from HubSpot, 85% of businesses use video ads as part of their marketing strategies. Of that 85%, 92% say it’s an essential part of their strategy, a number that’s been growing steadily over the last five years. When considering the impact of video ads vs. static ads, there are plenty of factors to consider. Generally speaking, however, video ads see stronger engagement. We typically recommend testing both video and static formats to see what works best for you.

Just like all mobile ad formats, online video advertising comes in all shapes and forms. You’ll find some overlap with general formats, as most online ads can be adapted to use video.

YouTube Video Ads

As the second-most popular website globally, YouTube is a favorite among streamers, viewers, and advertisers. The video-sharing platform helped revolutionize the internet video age. Today YouTube remains one of the most effective platforms for performance marketers.

YouTube ads run under the Google AdSense banner, and the site offers several formats for advertisers:

  • Skippable in-stream ads: These ads play during, before, or after videos on YouTube and other Google partner sites. Users can skip the video after five seconds, while advertisers only pay for views of 30 seconds or longer.
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads: These ads are 15 seconds max and play at the same intervals that skippable in-stream ads would. However, users can’t skip these, and advertisers pay based on Target CPM impressions.
  • Video discovery ads: YouTube offers discovery ads to promote videos in search results, on the mobile homepage, next to related videos, and other “places of discovery.” Ideal for product and brand consideration, these videos are considered “watched” once users click on the thumbnail. Advertisers pay per click.
  • Bumper ads: Bumper ads are six seconds or shorter and designed to reach a broad swath of viewers with a brief, memorable message. These ads appear on YouTube and Google video partner channels. They utilize a Target CPM bidding model, so advertisers pay per impression.
  • Outstream ads: For advertisers who want a cost-effective way to expand their mobile reach, outstream ads are a good fit. These mobile-only ads begin playing with the sound off, allowing users to unmute if and when they choose. Unlike other ads on this list, outstream ads don’t appear on YouTube, but they do run on Google video partners’ websites and apps. That means they will appear in display placements such as banners, interstitials, in-feed, native, portrait, and full-screen options. For this reason, outstream ads are budget-friendly and versatile.
  • Masthead ads: Used for driving awareness, featured masthead ads autoplay without sound for up to 30 seconds at the top of YouTube’s home feed. Masthead ads have different options for desktop, mobile, and TV screens, but they’re only available on a reservation basis with a fixed cost-per-day or CPM rate.

Facebook & Instagram Video Ads

Facebook users watch over 100 million hours of video on the social media platform every single day. Along with Google, Facebook is considered one of the biggest advertising channels on the planet. Instagram, which was acquired by Facebook in 2012, is a visual-focused medium, so it makes a perfect home for creative, eye-catching video ads.

Facebook and Instagram use the same advertising tools, giving marketers a one-stop-shop to both platforms and the Facebook Audience Network. Like YouTube, Facebook offers a variety of options for video ads:

  • Slideshow: Slideshow ads let marketers turn images and text into simple, quick video ads.
  • Stories: Stories is one of Facebook’s most popular formats, boasting over 500 million viewers apiece on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. Engaging and often interactive, Stories ads are optimized for a vertical video experience.
  • Carousel: While not strictly a video format, carousel ads allow advertisers to showcase up to 10 images or videos within a single ad, each with its own link. Including videos within carousel ads is a great way to increase engagement and tell a story.
  • Collection: This ad format combines the power of video advertising with the instant gratification consumers crave. Use a primary video to hook users, with four smaller images in a grid providing a fast-loading post-click experience.
  • Messenger: These ads appear in users’ Messenger inboxes. They take advantage of the chat platform’s massive reach: 1.3 billion people use Messenger every month. Great for capturing attention and retargeting, Messenger video ads include a call to action that takes them to a chosen destination. That could mean a website, an app, or a conversion within Messenger itself.
  • Playables: While not strictly a video format, playable ads often incorporate video elements. Playables take interactivity to new heights. These ads let users try out an app experience, typically a mobile game, within the advertisement itself. Think of it as an immersive preview that lets users test-drive your app before downloading it, which they can do from the call to action.
  • Instant Experiences: Facebook describes Instant Experiences as “a beautiful, fullscreen destination for your ads” that can “shorten the distance between your message and the customer.” These mobile-optimized ads load instantly and can combine videos, photos, carousels, and tilt-to-pan images in a single ad.
  • In-Stream Reserve: These ads are used to showcase videos in exclusive content, such as Facebook Watch. This format is ideal for reaching younger audiences in a brand-safe environment.

Check out our post on the best Facebook ads for some great examples of the above. Of course, advertisers aren’t limited to YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Instagram when it comes to online video ads. While these are the most popular platforms, there are plenty of emerging channels and ad networks. When testing out a new platform or format, work with a trusted performance marketing partner to ensure your ads are set up for success.

What Are the Best Practices for Online Video Advertising?


Best practices for video ads vary by platform and campaign goal. However, there are some general rules of thumb advertisers should follow:

  • Optimize for mobile devices: You don’t need us to tell you how important it is to make sure your ads look good on mobile devices. That’s why some video advertisers have taken to using a vertical format — most smartphone users are typically holding their phones upright.
  • Keep it short and sweet: There’s no universally accepted length for online video ads, but typically, shorter is better. Attention spans are shrinking, so you only have a few seconds to make an impression.
  • Include a CTA upfront: Not only should your video ads have a CTA, but that call-to-action should also appear within the first few seconds. CTAs often appear at the end, but getting that core message on the screen within the first three seconds leads to better results overall.
  • Turn the sound off: Many users keep their devices permanently on silent. Your video ads should be watchable with the sound on or off. Consider subtitles — not only do they increase accessibility, but they help keep viewers engaged if they’re not in a place where they can turn the sound on.

Which Online Video Advertising Format is Right For You?

When considering where to place video ad campaigns and which format to use, think about your overall marketing goals. Are you trying to raise brand awareness? Drive more downloads of your app? Retarget lapsed users? Get the most for your ad spend while still engaging viewers? These questions will help you determine the best online video advertisement strategy.

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Remember: you’re not alone. Finding the right partner to help you deploy your marketing campaigns can cut down on uncertainty and make data-driven decisions, especially with a machine-learning platform like Alison on your side. At yellowHEAD, we take it one step further by having our own marketing experts work alongside cutting-edge technology, giving our results a human touch.

Ready to get started? Get in touch!

Want to learn more about other online ad formats? Check out our guide Online Ad Formats: The Ultimate Guide to Creative Optimization

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