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Sarah Vlietstra
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General PPC

What Are the 2021 YouTube Advertising Campaign Types? Learn Here.

What Are the 2021 YouTube Advertising Campaign Types? Learn Here.

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

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Are you advertising on YouTube yet?  

Advertising costs on this platform are still incredibly low, with CPVs as low as .01.  Not only that, but targeting options can be quite extensive and effective, ranging from the broader based affinity targeting to reaching people who have searched for your product or service on Google with custom intent audiences.  With so many options and campaign types, it can be a confusing thing to navigate.  As of this writing, there are approximately 7 campaign types and 7 different ad formats that video runs on across Google and Google Video Partners.  I’m here to break it down for you.

SKIPPABLE ADS: The first important thing to note is that there are several different video formats available on YouTube.  The one you are probably most familiar with are skippable in-stream ads.  These ads play for 5 seconds, after which the user is given an option to skip.  This means the first five seconds of this ad are essentially free advertising.  Also, if the user decides to skip the ad anytime before watching 30 seconds of it, that is also free advertising.  For TrueView In-Stream, the advertiser is only charged once someone watches 30 seconds of a video or to the end – whichever comes first.  

NON-SKIPPABLE ADS: YouTube also graces us with non-skippable ads from time to time.  These ads are referred to as either 15 second non-skippable, bumper ads or discovery ads.  15 second non-skippable ads are exactly like they sound.  They are usually purchased from a Google Ads or YouTube representative directly.  Bumper Ads, however, are 6 second non skippable ads that you can set up via a campaign (more on that later.).  Discovery Ads are the thumbnail ads that you see on the YouTube search or watch page that the user can choose to click on to watch.  The advertiser is charged for that click.  

Lesser-Known Video Ad Formats

There are three other video ad formats you may run into which are lesser known.  These are Outstream Ads, Masthead Ads and Responsive Display Ads.  

Outstream Ads appear on websites and apps running on Google Video Partners.  So – to note – these are seen outside of YouTube and play automatically when they appear.

Masthead ads are the reserve buys that you will see at the top of the YouTube Home page.  These are bought via a daily reservation and are quite costly.  

Lastly, you can also utilize YouTube videos within Responsive Display Ads.  If you are already familiar with and running RDAs on the Display Network, I encourage you to go in and edit them to add a video if you have one available.

Now that you have somewhat of an understanding of all of the ad types available, we’ll walk through the campaigns you can create with these ad types.

The 2021 YouTube Advertising Campaign Types (So Far)

TrueView For Action/Video Action Campaigns

I included both of these campaign types together because TrueView for Action is essentially going to be morphing into Video Action campaigns in the next few months.  You can still create  a TrueView for Action campaign currently, however, if you create it (by choosing sales, leads or website traffic as your goal and drive conversions as your subgoal) and then choose to create  Responsive Video Ad, you are no longer creating a TrueView for Action, you are creating a Video Action campaign.  The sole difference between them lies in their ad format.  

Remember earlier when I said that there was basically Skippable and Non-Skippable Ads (i.e. In-stream or discovery/bumper?).  Well, RVAs basically give you the option for one ad to show in either of those formats.  This means, ad creation will be a bit more lengthy, as you have to craft headline, and description lines for your ad as well.  

If you’d rather not go this route, you can still create an In-stream Ad for a TrueView for Action campaign and still have a call to action that appears in your ad placement.  Just note that In-Stream ads do not provide the same amount of coverage as RVAs do and you will only be able to create these ads until September 30th, at which time the format will become deprecated.

TrueView for Action/Video Action campaigns are meant to engage the user to complete some sort of action, whether it be a visit to a website, or filling out a lead form.  Video Action campaigns also have the potential to run with certain extensions, such as sitelink & lead form extensions.  Lead Form Extensions, in particular, can be extremely effective in engaging the user without ever having them leave the YouTube page.  

You can also run Video Action campaigns with a Product Feed to generate sales, however, this feature is currently still in beta at the time of this writing, so you will need to ask your Account Manager to be opted in.

In order to set up these campaigns, you must have conversion tracking enabled.  Video Action campaigns can only run on Maximize Conversions or Target CPA, so they will need historical data to be effective.  

As with all video campaigns, I encourage you to monitor your placement report carefully.  Especially, if you are utilizing audience targeting, as we’ve found it is easy to get a lot of children’s placements from parents who let their children borrow their devices.  Clix marketing has come up with a great list of placement exclusions that covers these here.  I recommend creating a placement exclusion list for these that you can utilize in other accounts as well, if you have a manager account.

TrueView for Shopping

If you’d like to run a video campaign that showcases your shopping products with an In-Stream format, then TrueView for Shopping is the [current] best way to go.  I actually have a theory that these will be deprecated as the Video Action campaigns with GMC beta is pushed live, but don’t quote me on that. For now, you can create one of these campaigns, link your product feed and showcase up to 6 product cards with your video. In order to create a TrueView for Shopping campaign, you need to select the product & brand consideration goal, the video campaign type and the shopping subtype.

When choosing which products to showcase with one of these campaigns, you can choose all products or apply any number of filters to choose specific products. However, these filters are all created at the campaign level, so if you have a number of products you want to showcase with specific videos, the caveat is that you will have to create multiple campaigns, each with their own product filter pertaining to that video.

These campaign types are only compatible with maximum Cost per View (CPV) and are eligible to appear on YouTube videos and Video Partners on the Display Network. We’ve found TrueView for Shopping to be better suited to a remarketing audience, as better performance has been found with people who are already familiar with your brand and farther down the funnel to purchase.

By the way, Joe Martinez wrote an excellent blogpost a couple of years ago on this subject that you can read here.

TrueView for Reach & Bumper Ad Campaigns

If you are specifically looking for brand awareness & recognition, then TrueView for Reach and Bumper Ads will be some great options for you.  Let’s break them down

TrueView for Reach is a skippable in-stream format that uses Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions (CPM) bidding to generate more impressions and greater reach.  In order to create this campaign format, select brand awareness & reach as your goal, video as your campaign type and skippable in-stream as your campaign subtype.  Google doesn’t recommend an impression cap for this type of campaign. They also recommend a broader audience targeting strategy, but this depends on what your product is and the audience you want to reach.

Bumper Ads are the short, snippy 6 second videos that you may have seen before or during YouTube programming.  The most difficult part about this campaign format is that the video must be 6 seconds or less, which means that you need to focus on one simple message.  Bumper Ads also run on CPM bidding and – because each impression counts as a view – you won’t see that distinction in your reporting.  If you do decide to run Bumper ads, then we recommend you run them alongside a TrueView In-stream format, as opposed to running them as a standalone offering.

Outstream Video Campaign

An Outstream Video campaign also runs on CPM bidding, however, they play solely outside of YouTube, on Google video partner apps & sites, so they utilize Google’s viewable CPM (vCPM = at least 50% of your ad shows on the screen for 1 second or longer for Display ads or plays continuously for 2 seconds or longer for video ads), specifically.  They also will only show on mobile & tablet devices. In order to create an Outstream Video campaign, select the Brand awareness and reach goal, Video as the campaign type and Outstream as the campaign subtype.  The ads are more robust in an Outstream campaign, so you will need to create a headline, description, call to action and include a logo.

Video Ad Sequence

A Video Ad Sequence campaign can be very compelling. However, they are not used often due to the amount of creative assets that are needed. They are also very different from other video campaigns. You cannot target keywords, topics, or placements, but you can exclude them at the campaign level. The frequency cap is defaulted to one sequence per person per week, and traffic estimates aren’t available.

The way these campaigns work is that YouTube will progress the user through a sequence of videos that you choose, without being served the same video twice. To create video sequence campaigns, select the product & brand consideration or brand awareness and reach goal, the video campaign type and the ad sequence campaign type.

There are four different templates you can use for a video ad sequence campaign (you can read more about those here). The bid strategies supported are Target CPM or Maximum CPV and skippable, non skippable and bumper ads are all supported video formats.

“This Sounds GREAT! But I Can’t Make Videos…”

Google has done their best to make their video ad service about more than just reach or brand awareness and, with the cost of these campaigns still relatively low, most people find themselves not starting due to simply not having the creative assets available to them. Well, not to worry, Google has thought of that too. About a year ago, Google launched the YouTube Video Builder. However, they’ve also recently stopped accepting applications into the Beta. In the meantime, you may still be able to request access through your Google account managers, as we have gotten clients into this beta ourselves.  While we are all waiting for the YouTube Video Builder to [hopefully] be launched to the general public, we are also living in a time where we have easy access to cameras and video editing software to make a relatively decent video that can be promoted on YouTube. Don’t let lack of creative stop you from pursuing an ad on YouTube, with the amount of resources available, nearly anyone can start advertising on this platform.


Sarah Vlietstra
Senior Paid Search Strategist

Sarah started her career in digital marketing by working as a contractor at Google.

Over the last 6 years, she has worked with thousands of Google Ads accounts, gathering specific insight into industry benchmarks, trends and data. Because of her time representing Google, she excels at implementing Google Ads best practices in ZATO clients to maximize machine learning applied intelligently through a human framework.

Sarah is also passionate about educating others regarding Paid Search products, and actually taught the existing ZATO team about a specific product on her first day ever working at ZATO!

Sarah lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband, two sons, dog, and Russian tortoise. She enjoys spending time with her family, getting house projects checked off the list, and traveling throughout Arizona and to her home state of Michigan.

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