Standing Out In A Skippable World (Understanding In-Stream Video ADs)

Long gone are the days of using email as the primary means of online messaging. Now, social media has taken over as the massive hub of communication where everyone from our Gen Z nephew to our Silent Generation grandmother takes part. Naturally, the advertising industry has evolved to keep up with the rapidly expanding role of social media in society. In-stream video ads are done by thousands of brands but not always done well.

    In-stream video ads are described as short ads that run in the middle of an online video the consumer is streaming, similar to the traditional ad break found on television. Every social platform has its own rules and standards for this type of ad, but the general concept is basically the same. It is most commonly seen on Facebook and YouTube, the top two social network platforms. Of the 81% of the U.S. population that is active on some form of social media, Facebook and YouTube cover 3,667 million of these users. It’s no surprise that advertisers go after these two social networks to reach their desired audience. It’s also no surprise that Facebook and YouTube constantly make various changes to their advertising process so that their advertisers are happy. However, these changes are not usually well-received by consumers. The ads are seen as a disruption, more so than the pre-roll ads. Because of this, it’s important to know how to best place and target your ad for maximum effect.

Let’s first look at in-stream video ads on Facebook. Facebook Business lists out several requirements for in-stream ads to follow, including:

  • Must be 5-15 seconds long
  • Videos that the ads are placed in must be at least 3 minutes long, with the first ad break being at 1 minute.
  • Possible objectives are “views, reach, brand awareness, or post engagement.”
  • Must be of high quality
  • More advanced targeting options available on the Audience Network

Video ads are a relatively new feature on Facebook. They were first introduced to the Audience Network in 2015 with in-stream options made available in 2016. Eventually, video ads were also available to advertisers outside the Audience Network. In-stream video ads are just now approaching the two-year mark and audiences still aren’t sold on them yet. 

A veteran to the online video ads game, YouTube has refined its advertising options far more extensively than its counterparts. The network gives advertisers six different ad formats to choose from:

  • TrueView in-stream ads
  • TrueView in-slate ads
  • In-stream selects ads
  • Standard in-stream ads
  • First Watch
  • Google :30s

    Each of these formats give a variety of different options for ad specifications: whether or not it’s skippable; where it’s placed within videos; whether or not it’s available on mobile; if it plays in YouTube partner or Google Display Network videos. The general rule regarding spot length is reasonable with a maximum of 15 seconds on videos less than ten minutes long and a maximum of 30 seconds for videos over ten minutes long. It’s important to explore each of the options to figure out which is best for your brand, your audience, and your budget.

    As many advertising options are available, none of it means anything if advertisers don’t have a solid strategy to support themselves. Google’s YouTube playbook outlines four key points for creating a successful strategy:

  • Target the right audience – “Find the point where your brand’s passions overlap with your audience’s concerns.”
  • Have a clear objective – “…many brands struggle to clearly articulate a role for content that’s both unique and valuable.”
  • Understand your customer – “Once you have a sense of the journey your customers are on, it will be easier to figure out what kinds of videos they’d most appreciate.”
  • Be realistic with your resources – “You might want to create high-quality daily programming… but without production experts and a big budget that’s going to be difficult.”

Social media has given us a whole new way to consume media. Rather than being limited to the personal television set at home, we can access the internet anywhere and on almost any device. This means that advertisers have an overwhelming amount of options for advertising online, including in-stream video ads. While it is smart for advertisers to jump on this opportunity, it’s important to be mindful of their strategy. At the end of the day, messaging means nothing if the right people aren’t paying attention.