Tips for creating effective video ads

There are several video ad formats to choose from in AdWords, and each offers unique opportunities for you to attract customers with creative messages. That's why it's important to know your audience and think about the best way to reach them. We'll give you some tips on the basic parts of any video ad: the opening image, content, and text.

Engaging content is always a winner, and finding ways to drive traffic to related videos that you also own -- or content on your website that's especially relevant to your video ad -- will keep viewers coming back for more.

Since there are multiple formats, we've organized our suggestions to build successful and relevant ads into the following groups:

  • In-stream video ads (Ad gallery and AdWords for video)
  • Click-to-Play ads (Ad gallery)
  • YouTube TrueView video ads (AdWords for video)


See demos of these ad formats, and learn more about the other available video formats.

Learn about call-to-action overlays.

Learn about targeting ads on mobile devices.

In-stream video ads

Fine-tune your in-stream video ad campaign

In-stream video ads allow you to insert your ad into the beginning or middle of other video content. While this method is a great branding medium, it often has lower conversion rates than other online formats. Here are a few suggestions for ways to get the most out of your campaign:

  • Direct traffic from your ads to your brand's YouTube channel or website with additional video content. By continuing a customer's video experience, you're more likely to get better conversion rates than sending your customer to a text-only site.
  • Make sure your landing page is relevant to the content of your ad. For YouTube landing pages, consider directing customers to a page or brand channel tagged with an AdWords remarketing code to increase your brand exposure and how often your message is shown to viewers.
  • Have a clear call-to-action within your ad, and select colors and fonts to match your brand.
  • Avoid using keyword targeting for your campaign, since this could significantly limit how often your ads are shown.

Be creative with your in-stream video ad content

Make sure the video you create for your ad is engaging. Remember, you don't have a captive audience, so it's important to keep their attention during the video. Try these tips:

  • Keep your video short and sweet. Deliver your most important messages early in the video, in case viewers stop watching before it's over. Play rates drop off significantly after 45 seconds.
  • Be clear about what your business offers, since the video may be your sole communication with a site's viewers.
  • Provide clear next steps for customers to take after finishing the video. That could be making a purchase, or visiting your website or store.

Click-to-Play video ads

When a site first loads, the viewer sees a static opening image which has to be clicked before the ad starts playing. That image is your attention-grabber. A low-quality opening image won't entice customers to view the video, and a low-quality video won't get your message across. See the following tips for catching the viewer's attention.

Your opening image

Inspire viewers to act with a clear call-to-action in your opening image

Effective video ads educate and entertain, and also inspire the viewer to act. If your campaign's goal is not just about branding, make sure you communicate to your customers what you'd like them to do, such as visit your store or site, call a phone number, or complete a purchase. Letting people know that they can learn more by clicking "play" usually increases play rates and video interaction rates.

  • Entice customers to click "play" using rich, sharp colors.
  • Include a few words to describe your product, service, and/or business.
  • Boost your play rate with a call-to-action that lets customers know they can play the video to learn more.
  • Create multiple video ads with different opening image sizes to increase the number of placements where your ad can appear.

Use an eye-catching opening image

The opening image that customers see before they choose to play the video should be descriptive and creative. Try these techniques:

  • Tease your audience's curiosity to make them want to know what the video is about.
  • Avoid packing too much text into your opening image. Crowded and complicated messages are just plain uninteresting.
  • Provide a simple and clear message that will stand out.
  • If your opening image is compelling enough to grab a customer's interest, then your video can provide details not included in your opening image.

Good Example 1:

Good Example 2:

Both of the ads above have successful playback results. The images are simple and compelling, inviting viewers to play the video to satisfy their curiosity or learn more. The unique puppets and an attractive face grab attention, and lead to videos with an entertaining storyline and clear message.

Use a non-commercial feel

We've found that an opening image that doesn't look like an actual advertisement can sometimes generate greater interest. Such "non-commercial" images make customers feel like there's more to learn by clicking the "play" button and viewing your video.

Good Example:

Bad Example:

The first ad is for a store selling robotic guitar tuners. The ad's opening image indicates that the video will be a product demo. Typical viewers find this more interesting than the overly-commercial image on the right that's clearly trying to sell something.

Good Example:

Bad Example:

The first ad provides enough details to interest a customer, but doesn't seem to be trying to sell anything. Customers are interested in the image and realize that there's more to learn from the video. The other example isn't an effective use of video because it's too similar to a static banner ad. It provides all the information on the surface, which could reduce playbacks, because customers have little reason or need to learn more.

Create engaging video content

Keep viewers entertained

Although videos can be up to four minutes in length, we've found that viewers start dropping off significantly if ads are longer than 45 seconds. Try to keep your video around 30 seconds, and deliver your key message within the first 10 seconds.

Keep them curious to learn more

Video content should be entertaining, informational, and relevant to what your business offers. Unlike TV advertising, you only have a captive audience if they choose to continue watching your ad, and viewers can drop off at any time. People are more likely to view most of the content if the video has an entertaining storyline and they can learn about your product's features through the video.

Make sure people can hear what you have to say

You have the double advantage of both sight and sound to communicate with your consumers, so make sure that the voices you use are clear. If you're using a soundtrack, make sure the music doesn't drown out any voices.

Don't be shady

Make sure the quality of your opening image is consistent with the quality of your video. Don't make a bad impression by showing an interesting image to entice people to play the video, and then provide video content that has no relation to the image.

TrueView in-display ads

YouTube is a powerful way to gain new customers through video content on the web, but it's also a community-driven social media network that values meaningful content and genuine community engagement with real people and stories. For you to get the most out of YouTube, you'll need to create video content that builds a relationship with YouTube users above and beyond the traditional advertiser-customer relationship. Promoting video content that contains only advertising can actually make it harder for you to drive increased viewer engagement with your brand.

Here are some guidelines to help you create effective TrueView promotions for YouTube that contribute positively to the YouTube community. Choosing relevant keywords and promotion text can help you get your video content in front of interested viewers for a reasonable price. It's a good idea to test different keywords and promotion text to reach your goals.

What to promote

Before creating your promotion, make sure to review YouTube's advertising policies and the Google AdWords editorial policy for standard text ads for placements on the Google Display Network. TrueView ads accept only Family Safe content for promotion, either on YouTube or the Google Display Network. Feature engaging content with a real story. A video that's just a commercial is less likely to keep viewers happy and coming back for more.

Ad text

  • Avoid using general themes in your ad text and focus your text instead on why a person who sees your promotion should click on it to watch the content you're featuring. For example: what kind of language is used in a movie trailer versus a commercial on television? Movie trailers use taglines and scripts that encourage the audience to be intrigued by a story and to follow up to see more. Try to encourage people to learn or see more through your video instead of heavily pitching the sale of a product or service.
  • If you want people to perform an action, have them perform an action that's possible on YouTube, such as: Subscribe, Watch, Record a Video Response, or Comment.
  • Do some market research to see what people are saying about related content. Take a look at comments for similar videos and channel pages.
  • Use YouTube Analytics to see which parts of videos keep your viewers most engaged. This can help you come up with more ideas.


If you need some ideas for choosing keywords, use Keyword Planner for ideas based on AdWords keyword data only.

General keyword help

  • Choose keywords related to topics that entertain people, such as: names for celebrities, titles for movies and television shows, quotes, actions or verbs, objects in the video, or emotions that relate to the content. That's because people are searching for video content, so they're less likely to look for something to buy on a video publisher site than they are on a search engine.
  • Think about trends in online video overall, plus trends on the relevant site, whether it's YouTube or other sites on the Google Display Network. Examples include: current events, political awareness, celebrity gossip, and popular videos.
  • Use video comments and tags on your target sites for new ideas.

Use YouTube search trends for viewer insights

  • Use the "auto-fill" suggestion drop-down menu on YouTube.
  • Consider using your current tags (or other YouTube user's tags) as keywords. YouTube users label videos with "tags" to help them and the rest of the community find relevant content related to those same tags later. You can use those tags as keywords for your video.
  • Group your keywords for a promotion by theme. For example, if you have a travel clip of a location in Fiji and another of a location in Africa, each clip should have its own promotion with keywords that are specific to that promotion. Creating a promotion with a travel clip of Africa with Fiji-themed keywords will be less useful for you and customers.
  • Use the YouTube Analytics to see which keywords and referrers are driving traffic to your video for more keyword ideas.
  • Use negative keywords to filter out unwanted searches so people who are more likely to be interested in your content see your promotion.

Video stills

When you create your TrueView in-display ad, you'll see a number of video stills or "thumbnail images" to choose from. These stills are the first thing YouTube users see before they click on your promotion. Choose the video still that highlights your content best. You can also try to match this image to the content in your promotional text or keywords.

For example, if your video features someone surfing, choose the video still that actually has this moment captured. When you create your promotional text and choose your keywords, you should mention surfing. That way, you'll have a well-packaged promotion that makes sense to anyone who searches for surfing-related videos, sees your corresponding promotion, and clicks on it to watch your surfing video.

Next steps

  • Update your content: It's important to keep your content fresh so people will keep coming back, especially if you're promoting a YouTube channel.
  • Refine your keywords: Use viewer comments and responses to help you target the best keywords. Can you use the discussion to inspire new keywords or better promotion text? Try using a Search Terms Report after your campaign has run for a few days. You can access this report from the menu above your keyword statistics table on the Display Network tab. This information can help you pick good negative keywords to help people find you more easily. It can also help you find new keywords to try.
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