Google has announced a new way to display video advertising on YouTube – ad pods. These pods – a set of two video ads that are served back-to-back either before or during a video – will bring YouTube advertising one step closer to the traditional TV ad break.
This is a significant departure from YouTube's past strategy, which saw them popularize shorter ads with additions such as their 6-second bumper ad.
This new experiment reflects how YouTube usage is changing: not only are users watching longer videos, but they're also increasingly likely to watch YouTube on their TV.
When compared to ad-free services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, the regular ad interruptions on long videos can leave viewers frustrated, increase content abandonment, and reduce ad viewing. Google wants to stop this by grouping ads to reduce the frequency of interruptions.
The preliminary results are promising: Google reports that advertisers involved in early release testing experienced a 5-10% in frequency and an 8-11% increase in unique reach, with no negative impact on Brand Lift.
How Do YouTube's Ad Pods Work?
Ad pods are being introduced on desktop this year, with mobile and TV to follow. They will only appear on content which is at least 5 minutes long, and YouTube will be testing them in several formats, each of which involves exactly two ads:
• Two skippable TrueView ads
• A skippable TrueView ad, followed by a six-second bumper ad
• A six-second bumper ad followed by a skippable TrueView ad
• Two un-skippable six-second bumper ads
If the first ad is skippable, and the user decides not to watch it, they will be taken directly to the content and will not see the second ad.
What Does This Mean For Your Video Ads?
The initial results released by Google sound good, but lack context. It is likely Google tested a large sample size before making this change, but there is no information on the channels, types of ad, or viewer demographics which made up this test.
Without further data, it is impossible to give a 'best' strategy for using ad pods. Instead, we recommend businesses stick closely to the following three fundamentals so that they can assess the impact themselves:
1 – Pay Close Attention To Your Analytics
As with any change, there are going to be winners and losers. Some ads will work better in the new format, and some will perform worse – your objective is to figure out which.
It's not just about the creatives: it is not unlikely that different demographics will react differently to the longer ad breaks. For example, older demographics, who watch more television and are used to longer ad breaks, may react more favorably than younger audiences.
It's hard to say for certain now – but that's the point – by taking a data-driven approach you can make an informed decision on your ad strategy.
2 – Test a Variety of Ad Creatives
Finding your winning ads is a lot easier when you can choose from multiple creatives. Collecting analytics is great, but if you only have one bumper ad and one TrueView ad all you'll know is whether this format is better or worse than showing these as single ads.
This is useful information, but you will need more information to achieve long-term success. If possible, A/B test multiple ad creatives with different styles to gauge what works best in this new format – then double-down on your most successful ones.
3 – Deliver High-Quality Video Ads
With the addition of ad pods, your creative is now competing for headspace against another ad placed either directly before or directly after it.
If placed second, your ad must also contend with the fact that the viewer will already have viewed one ad and may have a diminished appetite for viewing a further one.
Additionally, the longer ad time (even the two un-skippable bumper ads now take up 12 seconds total) means there's a greater chance that the viewer may pick up their mobile phone or do some other activity instead of concentrating on the ad.
These factors make it even more essential that you deliver high-quality ads that align with best practice:
• Make those first few seconds count – with TrueView ads you have five seconds to capture the prospect's attention. Let them know immediately what value you are offering and give them a reason to keep watching.
• Don't test their attention span – unless your analytics suggests otherwise, keep your videos short (under 60 seconds). Even if they are interested in what you are offering, they'll only watch for a limited period before they get impatient and skip to their content. The quicker you can get their attention, deliver value, and ask them to take action, the better.
• Show your logo – a viewer should still know who you are even if they don't watch past the first few seconds. Include your logo to ensure they associate your brand with the value you are offering; even if they don't watch or act now, they may remember your brand when they need your product or service.
• Tell them what to do and why – a great ad has a clear call-to-action. Viewers should know what you want them to do and exactly what they will receive in return.