It’s easier than ever to promote your products and services with video ads, a tactic that’s traditionally been reserved for branding rather than direct response.

However, YouTube is changing this paradigm by introducing new ad formats and video features aimed at generating leads, sign-ups, and sales.


A Bit About YouTube

YouTube has over one billion users who log in each month, representing over a third of the Internet. While this number may sound daunting, YouTube gives advertisers the ability to refine targeting by location, demographic and interest. The best part? Advertisers only pay when their ads are viewed.

There are a variety of different ad formats available on YouTube which can be mixed and matched depending on your digital advertising goals. Here’s a brief overview of the ad formats available.


1. TrueView in-stream ads

In-stream ads play before, after or during other videos. These ads are skippable after 5 seconds of viewing.

The ads can appear on YouTube or on Google’s Display Network. Advertisers pay on a cost per view basis if a viewer watches 30 seconds or more of the ad.

youtube trueview

Image Source: Google


2. TrueView Discovery ads

Discovery ads appear next to related videos on YouTube, in YouTube search results or on YouTube’s homepage. These ads use a thumbnail image with accompanying text.

The call-to-action for these ads is always an invitation to watch your video. If a user clicks on the ad, they can go to the video’s watch page or your company’s channel page.


Image Source: Google

3. Bumper and Outstream ads

While bumper and outstream ads are not applicable to conversion-oriented campaigns, we wanted to mention them as they are part of YouTube’s suite of ad formats.


A. Bumper ads are very short ads – Up to six seconds or less – that are shown before, during or after another video. They cannot be skipped. Bumper ads can appear on YouTube, mobile apps, partner sites and Google’s Display Network and are charged on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis.  


Example of a 6-second bumper ad — Source: YouTube


B. Outstream ads are mobile-only ads that can appear on partner sites and apps on Google’s Display Network. The ads begin without sound, but users can tap the ad to turn the sound on.

Views are counted when someone watches an outstream ad for more than 2 seconds.


Using YouTube for Direct Response

There are several ways that advertisers can leverage YouTube video advertising for sales and lead generation. The most direct way to do this is by taking advantage of Google’s TrueView for Action video ad format which Google introduced in September 2016.

TrueView for Action enables advertisers to display call-to-action banners while video ads play. The banner is located at the bottom of the video and can be displayed throughout the entire video and at the end.

These call-to-action buttons can link to a company’s website or directly to a product page.  


Here is an example (Note the “Shop Now” button at the bottom of the ad):


Image Source: Google Ads Blog

Google is planning to take their TrueView for Action ads a step further by adding functionality that lets advertisers capture email addresses or phone numbers directly from the video ad via an embedded form, a feature that will hopefully be available later this year.


Adding interactive elements to TrueView Video Ads

You can create more engaging, conversion-oriented ads by adding interactive elements to all your TrueView Video Ads.

Here’s how:

1. Use cards — Advertisers can add up to five interactive cards to their TrueView videos. Card subtypes include Channel, Donation, Link, Poll, and Video or Playlist cards. Cards add functionality to your video by providing links or features that viewers can engage with (e.g., a donation card enables viewers to make donations directly to a U.S. nonprofit).


2. Shopping cards –  TrueView for Shopping campaigns enable advertisers to use shopping cards which link directly to products featured in a video.

This function can only be used with TrueView in-stream video ads. With TrueView for Shopping, product information is pulled from your linked Merchant Center Account. Up to six shopping cards can appear in your video ad.


3. YouTube End Screens — YouTube provides creators and advertisers with the option of leveraging two different types of “end screens” which can feature a prominent call-to-action for videos of 25 seconds or longer.

Custom end screens encourage users to take action and can be accessed via the Creator Studio in YouTube, so you don’t need to be a YouTube advertiser to benefit from using end screens, but your YouTube channel needs to be part of the YouTube Partner Program to access this feature.


Best Practices For Driving Engagement

There are a few principles to keep in mind when creating video ads with the goal of driving a measurable action from viewers.

1. Motivate users to take action. This can be as simple as adding a “Shop Now” button to your TrueView ad or baking an incentive into the video itself by promoting a time-sensitive offer, sale or perk.


2. Know your audience. Make sure you use YouTube’s sophisticated targeting capabilities to narrow down your ad’s reach only to those audiences you know will be most receptive to it.

To this end, YouTube enables advertisers to target affinity audiences and custom intent audiences. The former reaches people who have expressed an interest in similar products and services as those that you offer. The latter reaches people who have recently searched for keywords deemed relevant to your product or service.


3. Design ads for maximum impact. Since in-stream videos cannot be skipped for the first 5 seconds, make sure these 5 seconds make a strong impact.

Also, make sure that your important visuals are focused on the top three-fourths of the ad if you plan to use a TrueView for action ad with a call-to-action banner on the bottom of the ad. YouTube also recommends using quick cuts and bursts of action to keep user attention focused on your ad.



It’s clear that video has a role to play at every stage of your customer’s journey. Google reports that conversions generated by YouTube are up 150% year over year.

Google’s new TrueView for Action format can drive a variety of conversions including booking a trip, signing up for a membership, and purchasing a product. By taking advantage of YouTube’s many ad formats and features, you can create a video campaign that successfully drives conversions.

AI may, in fact, be evolving at a rapid pace, but that means it’s leaving more opportunities for researchers and marketers than ever before.

These opportunities invariably come in the form of more efficient data gathering and more intuitive customer interaction. Those who focus on those areas will find they have no problem adapting to the “robot uprising.”


Ryan Gould

Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services

Elevation Marketing

An expert search, social and content marketer, Ryan leads Elevation Marketing’s digital strategy department, helping brands achieve their business goals, such as improving sales and market share, by developing integrated marketing strategies distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement, nd conversion. With a proven track record of energizing brands, engaging audiences and managing multi-disciplinemarketing teams, Ryan is a respected expert in achieving consistent results through creative design, thought-provoking narratives and innovative problem solving.

LinkedIn: gould
Twitter: @ryanscottgould

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