Paid for placement is probably the way to go for this and in this short article I will introduce you to one of the options, which happens to be one of my favourites: pre-roll on YouTube.

You might be thinking “I always skip those” but you might be surprised to hear that the view rate can compare favourably with the CTR from text based PPC. 

Get the content right

This isn’t just about the content of the film, this is a logistical thing too.

With in-stream ads you only pay if the viewer watches all of the film (if it is less than 30 seconds long), or they watch over 30 seconds (if the film is longer than 30 seconds) – you will also pay if the viewer engages with the film (clicks the CTA for example). So I would usually recommend making your content just under 30 seconds, that way you only pay if someone watches the entire film.

This approach is a bit of a win-win, you only pay if they watch all of the film, so even if they don’t click on your call to action or make a call, at least they have shown some engagement and hopefully your brand has made an impression, certainly no worse than a TV commercial. 

Target your content carefully

Video advertising works well for both B2B and B2C advertising, but B2B can be very cost effective because you don’t always need many people to see your ad and make a purchase if you have high value products or services for sale.

Whether it’s B2B or B2C, making sure you target your add correctly is crucial to a successful campaign. This is one of the things that makes online video ads stand out from traditional forms of advertising like broadcast television – you can make sure it’s only relevant people that see your ad (within a margin of error).

Targeting means spending less money and that the money you do spend is more likely to get results, it goes way beyond ‘keywords’. 

So with Google for example, we can target age, sex, parental status, region, keywords and topics among many other things. 

Use analytics wisely

We have clients that want to trace a sale from an individual film – as a film producer that’s a very exciting opportunity, the ultimate way to demonstrate ROI.

Adding tracking code to your in-stream ad means you can track a viewer all the way from watching your film to hitting the site, clicking a chat button or even making a call.

The right CRM system will then assign those calls or clicks unique reference numbers that will allow you to credit a specific film to a specific sale or lead. 

Have a clear call to action

Sounds obvious but calls to action are something that often get forgotten in online video as apposed to TV. Ironic as a CTA can now be so much more effective online than it ever was in the world of TV.

So make sure your call to action is clear and available throughout the film. YouTube allows you to add a CTA overlay very simply (so it doesn’t have to be in the film itself and can be changed easily), allowing a viewer to click at anytime.

The first five seconds count

Creating content for in-stream is a bit different to other channels. We need to make sure we get our audiences’ attention within the first five seconds or there is a good chance they will skip your film.

In some ways this is good, we don’t want people who just aren’t interested watching because we will pay for it, however we do want to make sure any potential customer chooses to continue watching. 

So don’t have a logo on screen for the first three seconds. Either get straight to the point or choose something a little enigmatic that might be curious enough to keep people watching.

Try different things – changing the entire film to see if something else works better, or maybe just the CTA, can make a big difference. Have multiple ads running and Google will display the most effective for you.


The way Google works is pretty mysterious and constantly changing (video ads have just been integrated into the Adwords control panel), so make sure you check the latest rules and guidance before proceeding.

If you are also responsible for a terrific video ad campaign, then enter it into the Advertising category at The Masters of Marketing awards, brought to you by Econsultancy and Marketing Week (closing date September 23).