The Complete Guide to Online Video Advertising

Video advertising is one of the most popular ways to reach online audiences. Yes, video is (still!) king. Global video ad spend is forecast to reach over $295 billion by 2026, and guess what? The majority (over $227 billion) will be spent on mobile video ads.

For marketers, that begs the question, where to from here? 

There is no time better than now to learn more about video advertising, how it is changing, the latest trends, and how to improve reach and engagement.

Dive into our online video advertising guide to find out all this and more:

What is Video Advertising?

It seems pretty obvious: Video advertising is promotional content that plays before, during, or after streaming content. However, some marketing professionals expand the video advertising definition to include display ads with video content, social media video ads, and native video ads promoted on websites, such as news sites, entertainment sites, or e-commerce sites. We’re going to take the broader definition, so keep that mind as you continue reading.

The Current State of Video Advertising

Marketing with video is a consistently popular way to engage consumers. In fact, 54% of consumers say they want to see more video content of businesses and brands that they purchase from. There’s a flip side though. In another survey, 67% of respondents said that video with sound was the most annoying advertising format. At the same time, marketers consistently see great results from video ads, with 89% saying they get good ROI from their video ads. 

Stats like these, both the good and the bad, indicate that marketers must be exceptionally careful to create video ads the audience perceives as genuinely valuable and relevant. The placement of a video ad also matters, since the goal is to make any advertising content minimally disruptive. If an ad appears where there’s a natural break in the programming, such as before a presenter discusses a new topic, viewers may be more willing to tune in. 

Walking this delicate balance is the reason why more marketers are leveraging advanced video advertising solutions, like Outbrain Smartads, to maximize viewer engagement. For example, Clip Smartads use short form video animation to attract the eye of the viewer and entice them to engage and convert. 

This directly contrasts with the intrusive and annoying nature of pre-roll video, and brings much better completion rates. Check out how Loreal succeeded with Clip Smartads.

The digital video world is not static. Experienced marketers know they must stay on top of new developments to understand what audiences want and need. Here are four current video advertising trends to focus your strategy.

1. Varying video ad lengths according to channel 

There is no hard and fast rule about how long a video ad should be. YouTube was one of the first platforms to offer six-second ads. Till 2018, 15- and 30-second ads were the most popular lengths.


Today, especially with the rise of TikTok and biteable “micro content” video, video ads may be very short, just a few seconds, or even as long as 2 to 5 minutes for B2B longer form video. It really depends on the goal of the video ad, so keep that in mind when creating a script or storyboard.

2. Viewers prefer mobile 

Worldwide, web users are moving to mobile for many of their brand interactions and experiences, particularly in the B2C world. According to a Lemonlight study, 62% say they prefer watching content on a mobile device or tablet. This correlates with the global forecast that mobile video ads will eventually make up the vast majority of online video in the coming years.

For marketers, that means it’s time to put mobile first when planning video content. Assume that most of the audience will watch on mobile and make sure to configure video ads for mobile before desktop.

3. Video is becoming more important in sales and marketing

The State of Video 2022 report shows just how important video is for advertisers. Eighty-two percent of sales and marketing professionals say that video content is more important than ever before. As a result they are producing more video content than ever before too. In fact, 47% say they produced more than 51 videos last year.

Advertisers need to remain aware of this shift, especially if their companies show signs of pending budget cuts. Forgetting about video ads could cause them to fall behind competitors.

4. More companies are producing video content in house

As more online video creation tools become available and affordable, more companies are using internal manpower to produce video content. This is particularly true for small and medium businesses, who don’t necessarily want to invest in costly video production. Fully 58% of small businesses say they use internal resources for most or all of their video content. It’s true – with just an iPhone and a great idea, marketers can create engaging video ads that bring great results.  

What Type of Marketing KPIs Is Video Advertising Suited For?

Before solidifying a video advertising approach, choose the best key performance indicators (KPIs) to track. With KPIs, you’ll know if your efforts are paying off or if tweaks are necessary. 

Check out these tips and examples for creating video content that converts and meets your KPIs.

There are three main KPIs when it comes to video ads, and they relate to the three key phases of the marketing funnel: 

The KPIs you choose will vary based on what you’re trying to achieve. Here’s an example of some of the outcomes you might want and the KPIs associated with them.

  • Awareness: Percentage of conversations about the brand, increase in recall or recognition and number of unique views.
  • Traffic: Percentage of new visitors to a site and of people who visit after clicking on a link in a video.
  • Lead generation: Number of conversions, cost per lead on video channels versus non-video channels and overall conversion rate.
  • Purchases: Number of purchases due to a link or a promo code shown in a video ad and the average amount spent.

These goals and KPIs are not your only options, of course. Nevertheless, the examples above offer a starting point for what to measure in your video advertising strategy. Keep in mind that you should not necessarily use the same KPIs from year to year. KPIs will change as your marketing goals do. That’s why it’s smart to revisit the KPIs used for video advertising or other reasons at least annually. Then, you can ensure the KPIs still fit with your company’s overall goals.

Types of Video Ads

One reason marketers are eager to give video ads a try is they can choose from many different video types and formats. Let’s take a look at some of the main ones.

In-stream ads

In-stream ads are probably the most familiar to both marketers and consumers. These appear before, during, or after video content. YouTube relies on in-stream ads, for example. Some advertisements are interactive, encouraging a viewer to click a link or claim an offer.

Non-linear ads

Alternatively, non-linear ads play outside the main video, sometimes as an overlay. If a person clicks on one of these ads, the primary content they’re watching stops. Non-linear ads don’t connect to other content. If you don’t want to view it, you can keep scrolling.

Rewarded ad

There are variations within the broad types of in-stream and non-linear, too. One possibility is an ad that plays inside a game. A video advertisement geared toward gamers is the rewarded ad. It incentivizes viewers with a game-related perk, such as an extra life, a health boost, or a new tool, in exchange for watching a video. 

Native video ad

Native advertising is becoming more sophisticated, enabling advertisers to reach potential customers with engaging ad experiences on their favorite websites where they like to browse and spend time. Of the various Outbrain native video formats available, including Click-to-Watch, Outstream, Clip Smartads and more, 97% of survey respondents said they preferred Click-to-Watch.

This format gives the viewer a chance to opt in and take control of their ad experience, and  proves its effectiveness way beyond standard instream video. We’re talking significantly better results for completion rates and dwell time compared to YouTube.

Shoppable video ad

This is an e-commerce ad format that encourages consumers to make their online purchase from watching a video ad. For example, once a viewer sees a video for a product, a link appears so that they can buy the item right away. Even better, the shopping part of the experience happens directly in whatever app the person is using. TikTok Shopping and Instagram Shopping have both taken off as with shoppable video ads, and are regularly expanding their features to enhance the user experience.

The best video ads provide content that complements whatever viewers are doing online. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo all provide video in search results, as do dozens of other sites, such as Amazon and Ask. Check out some of the top video search engines here.  

Display vs. Video Advertising

A display ad is a paid advertisement that appears in the digital space, whether on a website, social media network, or app. The earliest ones were the rectangular-shaped banner ads shown at the top of a site’s main content. Display ads aim to boost brand awareness and purchase intent. However, their clickthrough rate is just 0.05% across all formats. Plus, some people demonstrate “banner blindness,” where they get so overwhelmed by online ads that they don’t notice them anymore.

The well-known shortcomings of display ads compelled marketers to look for other alternatives. One of those alternatives is video ads, which are great at driving awareness, engagement, and conversions. In fact, 69% of people prefer video over text when learning about a product or service. And using video on a landing page has been shown to increase conversions by 86%.

What About Native Video Ads?

According to an Outbrain-Sevanta survey, native advertising is considered the least intrusive form of advertising, while social media feeds, display, and paid search are the most intrusive.

Why is that? It’s simple: Native ads blend into the form and feel of the web page they appear on, so they don’t look like ads. Native ads don’t disrupt the user experience like banner ads too; rather, they take a softer approach, featuring as part of the complete user experience on the web page. 

Native video combines two powerful and proven marketing tactics – video, which is known as one of the most popular and engaging online mediums, and native advertising, which is the least intrusive form of online advertising, and far more trusted by consumers than social media advertising. The proof is in the stats: a study showed that native video ads get 530% more comments than YouTube videos, reflecting a far better engagement profile, and native video was shown to increase brand lift by 82%. 

Here’s an example. Nespresso ran a native video campaign on Outbrain to boost brand awareness of the Vertuo coffee machine. The campaign featured 20 and 30-second videos that got impressive completion rates and significantly lower cost per completion than YouTube.

Advantages of Video Ads

Marketers can benefit from numerous perks associated with video advertising. 

Video content is engaging.

When people tune in, brand awareness goes up. Depending on the context and goal of the video ad, it can be used for much more than awareness. Video ads can include CTA buttons that direct users to product pages or landing pages, helping drive online actions that lead to conversions.

Video ads are not hard to produce.

Not anymore, with the wide range of online video tools available, some even for free. Creating short, in-house video ads and promoting on native or social networks is a fast and cost effective way to get your brand message out to your target audience.

Video ads are shareable.

People share videos they love, and most streaming platforms have built-in sharing buttons. This is a powerful way to increase reach and build audiences and brand awareness.

Videos are great for storytelling.

Experiment with background music, camera angles, and dialogue to connect with your audiences. Then, they’re more likely to remember what they see, and better yet, remember your brand.

Videos convey lots of information in a short time.

A picture tells a thousand words, but a video tells 100,000! By combining visual, narration, music, and/or on-screen captions, videos can pack in a lot of story. A short 10-second clip can be just as powerful as an informative 10-minute product demo video. 

Video is popular on mobile.

Optimize video for mobile devices. As a starting point, that means your marketing team should ensure the video plays smoothly on mobile devices and looks great on small screens. Take the video’s orientation into account, too. 

Why You Should Include Video Advertising in Your Marketing Mix

Making video part of your strategy allows you to engage with audiences that ignore text and banner ads. As mentioned above, marketers are constantly increasing their allotted resources for video ads; not necessarily budget, but definitely manpower and time. If you overlook this trend, you’ll face a competitive disadvantage.

Getting someone to click on a static display ad means impressing them enough with a single appealing image or headline. Video advertising, on the other hand, includes more elements users may find relevant or engaging. You could use a catchy song, a funny opening line, an emotional message, or a relatable situation to get viewers hooked and urge them to watch the entire ad.

Also, advertising with video gives you more flexibility to position your product or service as addressing users’ pain points, offering something exciting or helping them live more fulfilling lives. Since many video ads start playing automatically within the primary content, you don’t need to merely hope people will click on the content. They get exposed to it during a process that occurs within an activity they choose, such as watching a YouTube star’s latest episode or playing a mobile game. Then, provided your ad resonates with them, you’ll be able to keep them interested enough to drive conversions.

On the other hand, when users must click to watch a video – meaning they must actively opt in, rather than drop out of an annoying pre-roll ad – then engagement rates have been shown to soar. By giving viewers control of the ads they want to see, when they want to watch them, you are providing an opportunity for brand engagement on their terms, which is a far preferable way to work towards your KPIs.

In addition, 5G enables a faster, more sophisticated mobile ad experience, giving advertisers even better opportunities to connect with audiences. That’s another reason to add video-based advertising to your marketing mix now. 

How Much Should You Invest in Video Advertising

The amount you invest in video advertising will vary based on your goals and financial resources. If you’re jumping into video ads for the first time, start gradually and scale up. Consider hiring some expert help to guide your early efforts. Although that’s not a requirement by any means, those professionals will have their finger on the pulse of video advertising trends. Moreover, they’ll be well-positioned to offer suggestions for crafting video content that matches your brand and helps achieve those all-important KPIs you choose.

If you prefer, start out easy with some in-house video ads that you can produce cheaply and quickly. A/B test them on native or social networks to get a feel for what engages your audience. You can build a complete video advertising budget once you’ve got some experience behind you.

Plus, keep in mind that programmatic video advertising spend is increasing all the time, expected to reach nearly $75 billion by 2023. More marketers are leveraging programmatic, helping them achieve cost effective results quicker, via automated bidding for high-quality video ad placements.

Video Advertising Effectiveness & Examples

Video advertising works for several reasons. Firstly, studies conclude that roughly three-quarters of consumers prefer video content over text ads. They stick in viewers’ minds, making brand recall more likely. Videos tell stories and help a brand develop its voice. Plus, native advertisements can blend seamlessly with the surrounding content, making them a natural part of the viewer experience.

Effective video marketing can generate millions of views and shares in a relatively short time, and build up engagement and reach over a longer period. Check out the Christmas 2021 video by British retailer John Lewis that got close to 3 million views in less than six months.

Or take a peek at Nike’s 2021 ad campaign, “Best Day Ever”, for the Tokyo Olympics, a quirky and engaging video envisioning how tomorrow will look for sports. The campaign ran a 15-second video as well as a longer 1-minute version, racking up 58 million views in a year on YouTube alone.

Then, there’s the brilliant campaign by Dove, helping to combat the negative effects of screen time on girls. The “Reverse Selfie” video ad showed a young girl’s preparation for taking a selfie in reverse, as the makeup is removed, the spots return, and her true self is revealed. The powerful ad resonated with audiences, achieving over 750K YouTube views and 870K Instagram views in 6 months. 

It’s difficult to predict what precisely causes a video ad to make a splash with the audience. But, as these examples indicate, spending time considering that question could reap benefits for your brand. In addition to paying attention to things like share counts and views, read the comments people post. These will give you deeper insights into what people liked (or didn’t!) about the video.

How to Create Video Ads

If the video advertising trends listed above have compelled you to act, proceed with care. Choose your top KPIs, and use those as your guiding direction. Work with an experienced video production company to make ads that delight viewers, or you may want to consider creating videos yourself. These days, you don’t need to be a video producer or spend a lot of money to create effective videos. Here is a selection of video creation tools that may help you. You should also consider the types of video ads available, and decide which is best for your message, distribution platform, and audience.

Are you ready to start reaping the rewards of video advertising on the Outbrain native network? Go for it!

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