top of page
  • Gail Malcolm

YouTube Ads 101: Understanding Ad Formats

Understanding YouTube ad formats

If you use a lot of video across your business’ digital media platforms, having YouTube as an additional marketing channel can be extremely beneficial. This is because users spend more time on YouTube in comparison to other social networks – this isn’t surprising when you consider that users decide to visit YouTube specifically to view long form video, whereas social can be more of an “on-the-go” activity.

Introducing YouTube ads to your digital marketing strategy has a number of benefits such as:

  • High reach

  • Interest, demographic and keyword targeting

  • Placements or Category selection

On YouTube there are several video advertising formats to choose from, including:

  • Bumper

  • TrueView InStream

  • Unskippable InStream

  • Discovery

  • OutStream

In this blog, we'll explain these advertising formats.


These are the super short, unskippable, 5-6 second ads that play before, during or after the video you are watching. They are great for increasing brand awareness and reach and can be used as part of an overall series of short clips that tease, amplify or echo parts of a larger marketing campaign.

TrueView InStream

These ad formats play on videos found within YouTube, embedded YouTube videos or on sites and apps that are within the Google Display Network. They can last longer than 30 seconds and users have the option to skip them after 5.

TrueView ads can be useful when testing long format content, such as product demonstrations or more artistic, “story telling” style video advertisement.

Unskippable InStream

There are a few subtle differences between an unskippable InStream and a TrueView InStream. The unskippable ads can only last up to 15 seconds and the user isn’t able to skip them. This ad format can only be used when you are trying to increase your brand awareness.


When you search for a certain phrase on YouTube or visit a watch page, you may see some suggested videos at the top of the screen or list of video results. These are Discovery ads and look something like this when they appear:

YouTube discovery ads

When these are clicked on, it will take the user to your channel or to the watch page for that video.


Where InStream ads can be used almost exclusively on YouTube, OutStream ads can be found across the web. Designed for mobile use only, users can unmute, scroll past or click as they please – it all depends on how interested they are in viewing the ad.

This format is particularly useful when trying to reach an audience away from YouTube. It can also be cost effective as you are charged when more than 2 seconds have been watched.


In addition to the above video ad formats, some YouTube advertisers have the option to use overlay ads. These appear as banner style ads that are placed (or “overlaid”) on top of the video:

YouTube overlay ads

Promotional Formatting

In addition to the different ad formats available, we also have the ability to format our videos to give them a more polished finish. If a YouTube video on your channel is over 25 seconds long, you can apply end screens to the last 20 seconds. End screens can be used to promote other videos (you can let YouTube choose the video best suited to the viewer), encourage viewers to subscribe, promote a playlist or promote your channel.

YouTube Promotional Formatting Ad

In this Saturday Night Live example, they are using an end screen to encourage viewers to subscribe to their channel, visit their channel or watch another video clip.

In addition to YouTube being a very visual, inspiring place to advertise your product or service, Google has reported that 90% of people discover new brands or products on this platform – suggesting that there is a sea of untapped consumers that have yet to find you!


Looking for help to create the perfect YouTube ad, or run your campaign for you? Get in touch today.


bottom of page