Youtube ad platform.

How YouTube Ads Work + 5 YouTube Ad Campaign Examples

YouTube ad example from NBA.

Admit it: we kind of take YouTube for granted. The website that began as a simple nexus for amateur video has become a media titan, to the extent that many people don’t appreciate its enormous influence. Believe it or not, YouTube is the third-most visited site in the world, behind only Facebook and Google. Each and every month, people consume 6 billion hours of video on YouTube. To have such an enormous audience on a single platform is rare, and it makes sense that YouTube ads have become a preferred marketing technique for many businesses.

When it comes to advertising, YouTube provides clear benefits that have made it immensely popular. Consider the following YouTube Ad stats in 2020: 

Clearly, YouTube has a massive reach. It is a unique hybrid of social media site and search engine, and draws in viewers for a host of reasons. As a search engine, YouTube ranks behind only Google, as users use it to find info on everything from World War II, to how to unclog a toilet.

In terms of interaction, YouTube is the third-largest social media network. If you accept Forbes’ claim that all internet users want either information or social interaction, YouTube manages to provide both. Its reach is so encompassing, it actually engages more people between the ages of 18 and 49 than either broadcast or cable TV.  Think about that for a moment, and consider the benefits of advertising on a platform that reaches the widest possible audience. 

How to Advertise on YouTube

Like any advertising tool, the way to garner the most benefits from YouTube ads hinges on your strategy. Aalap Shah is the founded of 1o8, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency. 

“What I find most useful is to treat YouTube ads as you would normal out-of-home ads on TV,” says Shah. “You have a shorter format, a compelling hook at the start, and you use all the targeting features (including banners and re-marketing) to make the ad pop and become memorable.”

Not all YouTube ad campaigns are created equal, and each should grow from a clearly established marketing strategy. For example, before you can create effective YouTube ads, you must identify your target audience. If you want to reach different demographics, you will need to design specialized content for each. Among the top 100 advertisers who utilize YouTube, 56 of them have more than 10 channels, with each targeted on a specific sector. 

To identify a target audience, create distinctions between factors like age, gender, location, level of education, and occupation. For example, let’s say you want to promote weight loss tips. If you search YouTube simply for weight loss, you’ll receive over 175 million results. That’s an ocean of competition, and your carefully crafted advertising will sink without a trace. If you search for “weight loss tips for women”, you suddenly narrow down the results to 23.8 million. If you further refine your search, you might end up with something like “weight loss tips for women over 60”. This brings the number of results down to a relatively lean 871,000. 

This search process is one among many ways you can identify an audience through YouTube. You can also:

  • Survey your present customers
  • Divide the market according to income or education to identify profitable groups
  • Imagine the customer most likely to purchase your product or services
  • Research the volume of specialized keywords (low volume is best, as there is less competition)

Pick the Right YouTube Ads

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to settle on which types of YouTube ad campaigns to run. You’ll also want to keep in mind the key difference between advertising on YouTube versus Facebook or Google. With YouTube, you only pay for an ad view if one of two things happens: a viewer passes the 30-second mark, or they watch the whole thing. 

YouTube offers six types of ads for you to choose from.

  1. Non-Skippable Video Ads: A viewer must watch these before they can access a YouTube video. Non-skippable YouTube ads can appear during, before, or after the primary video. Since the viewer has no choice but to watch the ad, you wind up paying every time it appears. Generally speaking, these types of ads are for companies with larger budgets.
  2. Skippable Video Ads: These ads allow the viewer to skip them after 5 seconds. Like non-skippable ads, they can appear before, after, or during the primary video. With these, you will only get charged if a viewer chooses to watch for at least 30 seconds. 
  3. Display Ads: These YouTube ads are placed to the right of the feature video. Display ads can appear anywhere on YouTube, with the exception of the homepage. Ideally, your ad will entice a click from the viewer, at which point you get charged for the advertising.
  4. Overlay Ads: These transparent ads appear on the bottom of videos watched on laptops or desktop computers. They will not appear on mobile devices, and the viewer can close the ad at any time. In reality, these ads tend to generate mis-clicks, in which a viewer attempts to close the ad, but accidentally clicks through to the advertiser’s video.
  5. Midroll Ads: These ads only appear in videos longer than 15 minutes. The ads appear intermittently throughout, in the same manner as commercials on television. Viewers have no choice but to watch them to continue their video. 
  6. Sponsored Cards: These showcase content relevant to the primary video, such as featured products. The viewer sees a teaser for the card, and then can click an icon in the top right corner to browse the sponsored cards.

Know Your Competition

Advertising on YouTube has a major element of competition. In order to make your efforts successful, you must familiarize yourself with your competitors. Locate a competing company’s channel or channels, and watch their YouTube ads yourself. Ask yourself how effective they are, and make note of successful tactics. 

To understand a competitor’s broader YouTube strategy, you can create a spreadsheet that tracks their ads. The spreadsheet can have columns for the company’s name, a screenshot of the video, the product or service offered, the number of views, and the ad’s headline. With this information, you can identify not only the most successful ads, but also the elements that drive them.

YouTube Ads in Practice: Five Successful Campaigns

If you want to be the best, you have to study the best. A consideration of other campaigns is indispensable for someone who wants their own YouTube ads to succeed. Each of the five companies considered below achieved a great deal of success through their efforts on YouTube. Click through to the videos, then read our analysis of how they work.

GoPro

YouTube ad example from GoPro

GoPro became a household name thanks to videos of the camera’s use in extreme sports. The above ad is completely different, however. Instead of the first-person view of a mountain biker flying down a trail, or a skydiver hurling themselves from a plane, it features a firefighter saving a kitten. The overall feel is sweet and cuddly, rather than action-packed and dangerous. You might wonder why GoPro would create marketing materials at odds with their image. Simply put: it makes them appealing to a wider audience. 

When you make your own YouTube ads, don’t shy away from pushing the boundaries of your image. If you vary your format and topics, you can find different ways to showcase your brand’s theme to appeal to a larger audience.

Skullcandy

YouTube ad example from Skullcandy.

Skullcandy is not messing around when it comes to YouTube ads. You’ll notice that they maintain a consistent voice, and do a good job of targeting sports demographics like skateboarders, surfers, and snowboarders. They accomplish this through high-energy videos that appeal to young people. Skullcandy also has a variety of content, from customer reviews and product demonstrations, to a concert series and podcast.

Skullcandy’s YouTube ads foster a sense of community among its customers. If you can do the same, you will develop long-term customers that have a sense of loyalty to your brand.

Artifact Uprising

YouTube ad example from Artifact Uprising.

Artifact Uprising helps customers put together custom photo books, cards, and albums, and also prints photos. The nature of their product encourages sentimentality and emotional connection, characteristics which the company highlights in its YouTube ads. 

Regardless of your type of industry, you can use this approach to forge an emotional connection with customers. Learn how people use your services or products to enhance their lives, and share these stories in your ads. 

Code.org

YouTube ad example from Code.org

This non-profit promotes greater access to computer science instruction in schools. The ad serves as an example of influencer marketing, in which recognizable people create a bond with the viewer through the product. As Bill Gates describes his humble beginnings, the message is clear: if you help Code.org with its mission, more people can succeed like he did.

If you work in an intimidating field like computer science, influencer marketing can humanize your message. Put a face to your company that viewers can either recognize or sympathize with, and you can lower the barrier of entry to your services.

Sun Bum

YouTube ad example from Sun Bum.

Sun Bum has clearly fostered a laid-back, chilled out aesthetic. Its YouTube ads not only highlight the company’s hair care products, sunscreen, and lip balm, but also contain engaging content that has fostered a fanbase. Through multiple videos a week, the company covers a broad range of topics that includes everything from office life vignettes to dyeing tutorials. They also have a channel devoted to musical performances. This allows them to link their brand to appealing musicians as a way to connect with customers. 

One of the best things you can do through an advertisement is cultivate a community of similarly-minded people. If you produce engaging content, these people will actively help your marketing efforts through sharing and discussing your ads.

YouTube offers a platform to place your ads before millions of people. If you can target your audience, settle on an ad type, and create compelling content, you can count on enhanced business. Of course, ads on YouTube require work, as you must keep your content fresh. If done correctly, however, the money and time you put into YouTube ads can represent the best investment you’ll ever make.