How to Set Up a YouTube Ads Campaign

Television adverts are a thing of the past. If you want to reach people these days via video advertisements, YouTube is the way to go.

At least, that’s the case if you’re targeting a younger demographic. It’s said that more 18-to-34-year-olds in the United States watch YouTube than any TV network – and that statistic only incorporates mobile usage for the video-sharing platform.

Oh, and that’s only scratching the surface in terms of eye-catching numbers in YouTube’s favor. For instance, the platform is recognized as the second biggest search engine on the planet. Sitting only behind Google, YouTube receives over three billion search inquiries each month and is bigger than Yahoo, Bing, AOL, and Ask combined.

As one of the most powerful marketing tools on the planet, it makes sense you want to utilize YouTube in some way. One of the best ways of doing this is with YouTube Ads.

What are YouTube Ads exactly? How do they work? Which ways can they be implemented? There’s no need to ask such questions any longer – this detailed guide is here to supply the answers.

What are YouTube Ads?

If you regularly watch content on YouTube, you will already have an understanding of how the ads portion of the platform works. You may even have become frustrated in the past at adverts interrupting your viewing experience. Yet, at the same time, you will also realize its effectiveness and potential.

For the uninitiated, these ads are ones that are based directly on YouTube. When someone watches or searches for a video on the platform, they will face ads that are targeted towards their interests. The appearance of these ads is dependent on a number of factors, including the popularity of a YouTube channel, video length, geographical location, and if the video has been monetized.

With YouTube Ads, you can get in on the action and have your business placed right in front of potential customers.

The YouTube Ads platform presents two general ad formats: video and image. A video ad can be placed before, during, and after YouTube videos. Image ads are available as video overlays or individual displays. Regardless of the type selected, you can use YouTube Ads to specifically reach the right audience with effective visual marketing.

If you have ever run a Google Ads campaign, the YouTube variant will feel familiar. The reason for this is simple: YouTube Ads are also operated through Google’s popular advertising network.

Available YouTube Video Ad formats

When running a video ad campaign on YouTube, you have a nice range of formats at your disposal. This range ensures that even those on a modest marketing budget can promote via video adverts.

YouTube Video Ad formats

Skippable in-stream ads

Also known as TrueView Ads, these are often seen as an ideal starting point for those entering the world of YouTube Ads.

Skippable in-stream ads

As the name implies, these are ads where a user has the option of skipping the video. As shown in the above example, the “Skip ad” button appears after the video has played for five seconds. These skippable in-stream ads can make an appearance before, during, or after your viewing of a standard YouTube video.

The low risk nature of these ads is what makes them particularly appealing to YouTube Ads beginners. You only pay for the ad usage if a viewer:

  • Watches it for at least 30 seconds.
  • Watches the entire ad when it’s less than 30 seconds long.
  • Directly interacts with the ad.

If someone is uninterested in your in-stream ad, they will skip it after the five seconds have elapsed. This means your budget is focused entirely on those who are intrigued by your video ad.

Non-skippable in-stream ads

As you would expect, these ads function very much in the same way as skippable in-stream ads. The only difference is that viewers never get the chance to skip the video promoting your business. This might not seem like the wisest route to take – people become annoyed by just a five-second interruption into their viewing experience. However, viewers are growing more tolerant of ad interludes on YouTube.

Plus, these non-skippable in-stream ads are an easier pill to swallow since they were dropped to a maximum 20-second run time. In certain situations, the maximum length of these ads is 15 seconds.

With such a restricted timeframe, you have to get creative with your video creation. It has to be short, snappy, and deliver your message within a matter of seconds.

Bumper ads

If you thought you had to get creative with non-skippable in-stream ad types, this aspect is ramped up with bumper ads. You are only allocated a maximum of six seconds for your video content.

These ads cannot be skipped, so they are a suitable pick if you have a succinct, memorable message that will entice potential customers to learn more about your business.

Video discovery ads

Compared to the previous formats, video discovery ads take on a completely different approach. Rather than a viewer being forced into watching these ads, they have to click on the video listing – just like with any standard YouTube video.

Video discovery ads

Along with appearing during YouTube search results (like the above example), discovery ads also appear with related YouTube videos and on the homepage of YouTube’s mobile platform.

Your discovery ads budget won’t be touched for impressions alone. You’ll only be charged by Google when someone actually clicks on the thumbnail for your ad.

Outstream ads

If you want to target mobile users, outstream ads can prove to be a useful option. Funnily enough, these mobile-only ads don’t actually appear on YouTube. They only turn up on apps and websites that run on Google video partners.

When someone visits an applicable website or app, these outstream ads can appear in various different ways. These include in a banner, on an interstitial webpage, and in-feed. The ads will automatically start with the video in mute. A viewer can then tap the video to turn the sound on.

If you use this ad type, you’re charged according to the viewable cost-per-thousand-impressions (vCPM) it generates. This means your YouTube Ads budget will only be used if someone views the playing video for at least two seconds.

Masthead ads

If you didn’t know already, a masthead is known as the highest point of a ship’s mast. So if a flag were raised to the masthead, it would provide it with maximum visibility for everyone to see.

This goes some way to explaining how this ad type received its ‘masthead’ name. Simply put, this is the ultimate package for those who want to utilize YouTube Ads.

How the Masthead ad works is dependent on the device used to view YouTube. For instance, on a desktop, the ad is featured at the very top of the Home feed. As well as this prime position on the homepage, the video ad plays automatically and can last for up to 30 seconds in total. An information panel also accompanies this video with further details about your business.

Due to the scale of this operation, you first need to reserve a Masthead ad via a Google sales representative.

For more information on all of these options, simply read Google’s “About video ad formats” page.

Image Ads on YouTube

Ads on YouTube

Even though this guide is focusing primarily on video ads, it’s also worth noting that images can be utilized for your YouTube Ads campaign. This is suitable for those who don’t want to splash out on producing video content.

When it comes to this format, there are display ads, in-video overlays, and sponsored cards available. Here’s a quick rundown of each one:

Display ads

Typically, display ads are found to the right of a YouTube video and above the list of suggestions. On a mobile device, these ads tend to be located below a video. Big brands may also utilize a large, eye-catching banner on the front page of YouTube above the recommended videos section.

Display ads

In-video overlays

In-video overlays are arguably the most prevalent use of image-based ads on YouTube. These overlays are small banners that are situated at the bottom of a YouTube video. A marketer also has the choice to combine the overlay with the aforementioned display ad, doubling up your exposure in the process.

Keep in mind that in-video overlays are only an option for those running a reservation sponsorship campaign

In-video overlays

Sponsored cards

Sponsored cards are call-to-action pop-ups that can be placed within a YouTube video. These unobtrusive cards appear for a few seconds and might display content relevant to the video playing. For instance, a video about cooking may show sponsored cards adverting kitchen utensils.

Sponsored cards

The reasons to use YouTube Ads

If you haven’t been able to decipher it yet, it’s time to spell it out clearly: YouTube Ads deliver an abundance of benefits for its customers. From global organizations to small local retailers, every type of business – both big and small – can seriously profit from this platform.

For further proof, here are a few of the main reasons to use YouTube Ads.

Open the door to a wide audience

When it comes to marketing, your ultimate goal is to attract new leads and generate sales. While YouTube Ads cannot produce the latter, it can certainly help with bringing new eyes to your business.

This is especially helped by the fact video ads are, well, video. Did you know the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times quicker than text? So not only can your YouTube Ads reach a broad audience, but they are also effective in getting people to stop, take notice of your ad, and ultimately become a customer.

Of course, certain businesses are not searching for a wide audience. Instead, they want to target a specific market with their advertising campaign. Well, YouTube offers the tools to do precisely that. You can reach the ideal audience by refining the aim of your ads. You can achieve this by selecting the right topics, keywords, and demographics. Say you run a business that sells alternative makeup targeted at teenagers. Rather than your ads landing on middle-aged men or conservative women, they will reach the right audience.

It’s cost-effective

Due to the way YouTube Ads operates, you can put together a strong video marketing plan without truly splashing the cash. This is because the platform caters to every type of marketing budget. If you only feel like spending, say, $10 a day on your campaign, there are specific ad formats – like skippable in-stream ads – which will make your budget last.

It’s not merely about saving money, either. When you post an ad on YouTube and take the time to optimize it, you know you’ll be reaching the right type of people you want to convert into customers. As a result, customer numbers should be up, and you can reduce the need to invest marketing funds elsewhere – it’s a win-win situation.


Monitor and measure with ease

One of the best aspects of video marketing with YouTube is that you can view exactly what’s working – and what isn’t. Are your ads turning impressions into conversions? Are you targeting the right audience? Are people watching the entirety of the ad or bailing out before it finishes?

Due to the tools offered by Google, you can easily keep track of your ad performance, costs, budget details, and more. Simply log in to your Google Ads account and visit the “Reporting” tab. This features a number of charts, easy-to-understand tables, and reports that make it simple to gain a meaningful insight into your campaign performance.

You’re only limited by your creativity

One of the best elements of video marketing is there are no boundaries. If you want to produce a 30-second masterpiece with all the bells and whistles attached, you can do that. If you want to create a five-second animation that does little more than reveal your business name and slogan, you can do that. If you want to simply whip up a selfie video in your bedroom where you describe a new product, you can do that.

Certain approaches will have more success than others, obviously, but the only thing holding you back with video marketing is creativity. If you hit it out of the park, you could end up with a viral sensation that goes beyond your planned campaign.

If you’re searching for a slice of inspiration, have a quick glance at this list of 20 creative video ad examples by Advids. Alternatively, there’s always the possibility of enlisting the services of a professional video production company to do the job for you.

Start within minutes

If you have a video ready to go, your YouTube Ads campaign can start almost immediately. Upload the video, fill out the ad details, set your budget, and pick the right target audience. This is all that’s needed before potentially hundreds of thousands of people see your brand.

For further insight into how simple it is to get started with YouTube Ads, just read the following section.

How to start a YouTube Ads Campaign

Yes, it is easy to start a YouTube Ads campaign. That is true. With that said, if you want it to be truly effective – where it will drive thousands of potential customers to your products or services – there are specific vital steps to take.

Step one: Create your video

Even if you have a fantastic idea for your advert, actually producing the video is undoubtedly the hardest step in the process. Yet it’s also the most important. The video is a representation of your brand. It is the first impression potential customers have of your business. As a result, the ad needs to be professional, engaging, and preferably unique.

Before cracking on with creating the video, it’s essential you devise a strong concept. Are you planning to showcase a particular product or service? Maybe the ad will simply be an overview of what your business does? Pinpoint the message you want to deliver and also decide on the video ad format. The latter is important, so you know what length to aim for with the video. For example, the last thing you want to do is choose a six-second bumper ad, but end up with a ten-second ad where there’s no room to chop and change for the video to fit the strict time limit.

For the video production side of things, there are two options available: hire a video marketing agency or do it yourself.

start a YouTube Ads Campaign

Hiring a video marketing agency

The shortcut of hiring someone else to create the video is available. If you pick a reputable production agency, you’ll likely end up with a professional video that has been optimized with the YouTube audience in mind. In fact, YouTube itself endorses various different creative partners.

However, there are disadvantages when going down this route. Most notably is the cost. Hiring a video production company isn’t for those with a modest marketing budget. In addition, they might not be able to capture the true vision you were aiming for with the ad.

Creating the video on your own

If you decide to craft the video on your own, keep in mind there are a host of different components to consider.

  • You have to put together a storyboard and script.
  • You might have to cast an actor or voiceover artist to bring the ad to life.
  • You may need to select multiple locations to shoot from.
  • Plus, there’s all the equipment – a video camera, high-quality microphone, the right lighting, etc. – that’s required for a professional shoot.

Oh, and then there’s the case of editing the captured video into a memorable ad. Fortunately, even if you don’t possess any prior experience in putting together a video, there are tools available that make it easy. For example, you could opt for Magisto, a platform that utilizes an AI-powered video maker to edit and analyze your video. Just remember that certain specialist platforms will typically limit your freedom by placing set guidelines to follow.

Despite the work involved, going it alone ensures you have maximum control over your video ad. Putting it together independently can also work out much cheaper than enlisting a specialist video production company. For tips on how to create professional-grade videos, take a look at this videography guide by Shootsta.

Step two: Optimize your video ad

When the video is finished, you need to upload it to YouTube. However, there’s more to it than simply putting the ad on the platform. It’s essential you optimize the upload for maximum results.

There are three ways in which this is done: the video title, the video description, and thumbnail image.

  • Video title: The title needs to supply the ad’s message in a clear, concise, and eye-catching fashion. The better the headline, the more people will take an interest in your advert.
  • Video description: The description is where you can expand upon the message delivered in the title. Use this text to feature the key message of the ad, such as what makes your services unique, or any special offers currently running on your products.
  • Thumbnail image: If you opt for a discovery video ad, it’s essential you pick the right thumbnail. Think about it: when you search for YouTube videos, it is the thumbnail that instantly grabs your attention. Try and select the best video still that captures the message of your ad. For instance, if the title and description of the ad reference skateboarding, ensure the thumbnail captures someone on their skateboard. For the best impact, create a custom YouTube thumbnail.

Step three: Create your campaign

Now the hard part is out of the way; the next step is to get your campaign up and running. To do this, you will require a Google Ads account – this is the platform used for starting and managing YouTube Ads campaigns.

First, begin by locating your YouTube video. You can do this by either searching for the video title or pasting the URL link. When the URL is entered, you will be presented with two options for how your ads show on YouTube (and Google video partner sites, if applicable). These are:

Create your campaign

After you pick the option that best fits your needs, you will be shown a preview of how the ad will appear on YouTube and Google Video Partners. In addition, you’re asked where you want the ad to appear, and where viewers should be sent once they have clicked the ad.

Google ads

The next step is selecting your target locations. You are able to choose multiple target locations. Furthermore, the target location can be as broad as a country, or you can even be as specific as selecting a specific zip code or city. The latter is particularly helpful if you’re a small business aiming at local customers.

business aiming at local customers

In this section, you’re also prompted to select the languages your customers primarily speak.

Next, you are given the opportunity to focus on specific demographics with your ad. This means you can factor in the gender, age, and parental status of viewers, only selecting those who fit your target audience.

fit your target audience

To further center on the right audience, you can also specify customer intent. This means you have the ability to reach viewers who only intend to purchase certain products or services. The categories available are:

  • Baby and children’s products
  • Beauty products and services
  • Business and industrial products
  • Business services
  • Cars and vehicles
  • Clothing and accessories
  • Computers and peripherals
  • Consumer electronics
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Event tickets
  • Financial services
  • Food
  • Gifts and occasions
  • Home and garden
  • Media
  • Property
  • Seasonal shopping
  • Software
  • Sports and fitness
  • Telecom
  • Travel

Once you have selected one of the above categories, you’re presented with additional sub-categories to better narrow down on your intended customer.

fit your target audience

Step four: Set a budget

The final part of setting up your campaign relates to the budget.

The budget is dependent on several different factors. First of all, it takes into consideration the targeted locations and demographics you selected in the previous sections. The more specific you are with these elements, the fewer people you can reach. If you’re willing to up your budget, however, you can still reach a larger number of potential customers.

As for picking your budget, this is done by selecting a daily amount – as seen in the below example:

Set a budget

When you input your budget, this will alter the weekly reach estimates that you’re expecting from your video ad. These statistics are:

  • Impressions
  • Views
  • Average cost per view (CPV)

Ultimately, these stats give you a general idea about how your ad will perform. The more you’re willing to increase the daily budget, the more your reach and exposure will naturally grow.

Finally, you will be asked to confirm your payment details. When this is completed, your ad campaign is ready for launch!

Helpful tips to improve your campaign

Your YouTube Ads campaign has been launched! While this is guaranteed to draw new eyes to your business, there’s no time to sit still. In fact, the work has only just begun. Now is the time to continually refine your campaign – enhancing the ad’s visibility and performance in the process.

Measure the results and make changes

As with virtually any type of digital marketing campaign, you have the advantage of being able to analyze the statistics accurately. You can gain real-time insights into various areas, including how long people are viewing the ad for, the average cost-per-view, overall impression numbers, and so much more.

Measure the results and make changes

What can you do with these statistics?

Well, you can improve the performance of your ad! Even minor changes can lead to significant improvements. For instance, you could add a compelling call-to-action at the end of the video, and this may shift user behavior to the point it increases conversion rates. Additionally, take a look at the ad itself. You might have stretched the video to the 30-second limit, but could the message be condensed down into a 15-second ad? If so, the ad might produce a greater overall impact.

Stick with engaging content your audience wants to see

It goes without saying, but the actual content of the advert is the key component of any campaign. As a result, don’t simply slap any old video up onto YouTube and tag it as an ad. Take the time to craft an engaging video, one that has relevant content your audience wants to devour.

Did you know 80% of shoppers use YouTube as a research tool before making a purchase? If someone clicks on your ad wanting to know more about your products or services, create a strong first impression. For best results, try and link what you’re attempting to sell with a charming story that resonates with potential customers.

Select the right keywords

Keyword research might not seem like the most obvious tactic with YouTube Ads, but picking the right search terms can help expand your video’s reach – beyond the actual ad campaign.

If your video title features relevant keywords, it will show up in general search queries. A memorable title is also advantageous if someone comes across your ad, clicks away from it, but wants to find the video at a later date.

Build up your YouTube channel

You’ve uploaded the ad video to your YouTube channel – why stop there? Now is the ideal opportunity to build up your YouTube presence. To do this, begin uploading regular content for your audience to view.

If your ad is going to be driving people to your YouTube channel, it’s important to avoid them seeing a dead channel on arrival. The more published content you have, the more they will consume. This helps to build relationships with customers.


With the size, popularity, and accessibility of YouTube, it’s clear why the video-sharing platform is one of the most prevalent marketing tools around right now.

Instead of letting your competitors leverage YouTube all for themselves, it’s time for you to get in on the action. With a YouTube Ads campaign, you can reach more potential customers than ever before with targeted and creative video content.