Just like how Facebook has sidebar and feed ads, YouTube has its own different ad formats you can use. Each ad type has its own pros and cons. Understanding how each format works will help you make an informed decision and craft a more effective ad campaign.

What does "TrueView" mean?

YouTube calls its advertising system TrueView because you only pay when someone chooses to view your video. You’re not charged for impressions or video starts, so you know that every view you get is from a real person.

The TrueView ad system is setup to be a triple win. It’s a win for advertisers because you can laser target viewers and only be charged for the ones that watch or interact with your video. It’s a win for the viewer, because they see more relevant ads that don’t completely interrupt their viewing session. And it’s clearly a win for YouTube because…money.

The two main ad formats in the TrueView system are the TrueView In-Stream ad and the TrueView Discovery ad. Let’s take a look at each one to see how they work and the best time to use them.

Download the YouTube Advertising Checklist

These are the types of ad placements most people think about when they think of YouTube ads. In-Stream ads (AKA Skippable pre-roll ads) play before a video starts giving the viewer the option to skip after 5 seconds.

Where your ads appear

TrueView In-Stream ads appear on a video’s watch page or on embedded videos across the Google display network.

How you are charged

With this format you are only charged if a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of your video (or the entire video if your video is less than 30 seconds) or if they interact with your ad (i.e. click a link). If a viewer clicks the skip button or they watch less than 30 seconds no money changes hands.

When to Use

In-Stream ads are great for awareness because you have a guaranteed 5 seconds of attention (that’s 2 more seconds than what Facebook counts as a view!). In-Stream ads are also great when you need an influx of targeted viewers because the viewer literally has to do nothing to keep watching your promoted video.

Things to Consider

Attention is the name of the game with in-stream ads. The viewer has already decided to watch a video on YouTube when BOOM, your video appears. Their mouse cursor is already hovering over the skip button and if you don’t give them a compelling reason to stay, that button is getting clicked right at the 6th second.

Skips may not cost you anything, but if every viewer clicks skip your ad will be seen as low quality and require a higher max CPV bid to get in front of viewers.

Formerly known as TrueView In-Display, discovery ads require some action on the viewer’s part to begin watching a video.

Where your ads appear

TrueView Discovery ads appear in YouTube search results or at the top of the related video section.

How you are charged

With Discovery ads you are only charged when a viewer clicks on your video to begin watching it.

When to Use

TrueView Discovery ads can work well at any stage of your sales funnel, but I think they work particularly well at the middle of the funnel since you can get your video to appear in search results for a specific keyword. This is great for capturing viewers when they’re actively looking for a solution to a problem.

Discovery ads aren’t as great at generating mass amounts of views as In-Stream ads since viewers have to click to begin watching, but because a viewer has elected to watch your video you’ll generally see a higher retention rate vs. a skippable ad.

I also like to use Discovery ads combined with keyword targeting to make sure my clients have visibility on their most important keywords. Remember, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine next to Google.

Things to Consider

TrueView Discovery ads are very similar to Google search ads. You have a title and two description lines with the addition of your video thumbnail. Tweaking the text and thumnbnail you use for your discovery ads can have a dramatic impact on the number of clicks your video gets. So don’t just try one combination. Test different titles, descriptions, and thumbnails to see what works best.

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YouTube Trueview Campaign