Creative Strategies for YouTube Ads

October 28, 2021


There are 2.3 billion monthly active users on YouTube. 400 hours of video is uploaded every second. Google generated nearly $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2020. There is plenty of opportunity for companies to run advertisements on the platform.  On this episode, Laura Devinsky shares her experience managing YouTube ad campaigns, offers relevant examples and actionable takeaways. We answer questions like:

  • What are some common YouTube ad types?
  • Why do people use YouTube in the first place?
  • What goes into building a creative strategy for YouTube ads?
  • How often should campaigns refresh creative?
  • What role does influencer marketing play?

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John Tyreman:  Hi gang. Welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we go in the trenches so you can learn more about digital marketing. I’m here today with Laura Devinsky, Creative Strategist at Silverback Strategies. And we’re here to talk about video ad creative strategies for YouTube advertisements. Laura, how are you doing today?

Laura Devinsky:  Pretty good. Thanks for having me.

John Tyreman:  I’m glad that you’re here. I’m really interested in this topic. And you’ve done some really impressive graphic design work for associations. I was looking at your portfolio which folks can find in the show notes here. I’m curious, does your graphic design skills – do they extend beyond marketing? Do you have any other passion projects that you’re working on?

Laura Devinsky:  You know, when I was younger, I used to do a lot of random videos of just whatever – I found a song that I really liked, and I would just put whatever photos I had to it or you know, video I had taken over time. So those are my like fun passion projects. I also used to have a radio show and that kind of plays into that and being able to sync those things together was always a good time.

John Tyreman:  I’m curious, what was the radio show?

Laura Devinsky:  It was called “Laura D and a Spot of Tea”. And it was a music show. And so the station I was at was in college and their slogan was “You’re only alternative”. So there was no Top 40 type of music and so think Avett Brothers, Head in the Heart, Mike Doughty – very indie, very kind of funky music. So it was a good time and it was two hours once a week and it was a great way to start my day.

John Tyreman:  That’s awesome. I love radio. Well, that’s great. Well, Laura, let’s dive into our topic at hand today. So for listeners who may be new to YouTube advertisements, can you give us an overview of some of the most common ad types?

Laura Devinsky:  Yeah, so there’s a few. So one of them is skippable in stream video ads. And those are the ads that you’re going to see where a skip button is going to pop up and you’re going to be able to skip it when you’re watching your YouTube videos. This is also assuming that you don’t have YouTube Red. YouTubeRed’s the kind of premium version of YouTube now. I don’t actually know too many folks that have it but YouTube wanted to compete with other streaming services. So skippable in stream ads are you know, ads that play for a minimum of five seconds and then you can skip them. And then these ads need to be a minimum of 12 seconds. So Silverback will usually do 12 to 15 second videos for something like this. And you know, you want to keep it under three minutes, you know, that’s a full video at that point. You got to keep the attention of the viewer. And the perk of this type of ad is that you only get charged when someone watches at least 30 seconds of the entire ad. Or if they click on it and they click through to your website or wherever that’s leading to. Another type of ad is the non skippable in stream video ads. So these ads can play right before a video or during it. You know, sometimes you’ll get interrupted mid video with another ad. And the difference is there’s no skip button. And about three quarters of people skip the ads in general that they get served on YouTube and then this non skippable ad is best when you really need to raise brand awareness. And then there’s Bumper ads. So they’re the six seconds – like that’s it. Quick videos. They play right before your actual video. Again, you can’t skip them. Great for brands. Google has said that they’ve analyzed bumper videos and that 90% create this lift in the ad recall which is awesome. It’s a great option. Discovery ads are different from anything. They’re similar to Google search ads. And they appear kind of in that like… how Google, it’s like you search for something and it’s like, oh, you can discover this. And then you have non video ads and so they’re more of just those like quick hit like banners, and, you know, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, it’s a great, great option, but you’ll definitely see bumper videos and those 15 second ads quite frequently.

John Tyreman:  You mentioned that those skippable in stream video ads can be a minimum of 12 seconds, but keep it under three minutes. Three minutes seems like a long time for an advertiser. Have you seen ads go that long?

Laura Devinsky:  I have and it’s funny because the two main types of ads I have actually seen is where it’s like almost an infomercial. And it’s usually these fitness folks who want to get you hooked on whatever their spiel is. And they just keep going on about how great whatever their thing is. Or the other one I’ve seen which is definitely for my profile anyway, geared towards me as forward, which is this new healthcare kind of setup and it’s the way the video is… I’ve watched most of the video because I was just fascinated. And it’s a tour of the facility and it’s this doctor who’s introducing himself and like how their system and practice works. And so it was very… it felt very, almost like cribs – like “Come look at our doctor’s office”. So it’s definitely… but that first six seconds is when they want to try and like really win to like get you to stay.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, that’s crazy. That really stood out to me. And it’s cool that I guess that’s just like a new creative way that folks can get… they can grab your attention and keep you – reel it in, reel it in. YouTube has been around for a long time right? I think it was purchased by Google in like 2005. A lot can change from then to now. From your perspective, how have you seen user behavior on YouTube evolve over the last 10 to 15 years?

Laura Devinsky:  So now there’s 400 hours of video uploaded every second which is bananas. To me. That is just like an obscene amount of video footage. It’s not like you can watch at all ever. That’s never gonna happen. You know, millennials are constantly on YouTube. It’s like three quarters of them are constantly watching YouTube, whether it’s watching, you know, a how to video or a creator, like, you know, a creator do a blog post or whatever it may be.  You know, user behavior in that way, people are constantly just going to YouTube. Or you’re referencing, you know, there’s the whole nostalgia movement right now, everyone’s like back in the 90s in the early 2000s. And I know a lot of millennials are like let’s go watch all of these like really strange videos from the early days of YouTube which are like, the weird things. like Charlie the unicorn or like you name it, Old Greg. Like all these things that you’re like, I forgot about that. But people want that nostalgia, so user behavior, while originally was watching these funny videos that are like pop culture references now, are now useful. It’s like, how do you do stocks? How do you fix your sink? How – you know, all of those types of tips. So users are changing in that regard, but that’s also shifting the way advertisements are done. You’re seeing yeah, you’re seeing the videos I mentioned previously, but you’re also seeing big creators be branded and have ads within, you know, they’re like, “Oh, we’re sponsoring today’s video by such and such a brand”. So you’re seeing that as well because they’re seeing user behavior like people coming back to watch their videos every week or whatever their posting schedule is.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, I’ve found that in content marketing. There’s really two ways to kind of add value to users and it’s through either education or entertainment. It  sounds like that’s what you’re talking about. People want to go to YouTube to learn something. Maybe they want to learn how to fix a sink like you mentioned, or they want to be entertained. I remember watching those Old Greg videos back in 2008, I think and that was a show that was produced like in the 70s. So it’s just like repurposing all this content. That’s crazy. Well, Laura, what goes into you know, understanding user behavior and understanding that there’s so many different ways that users interact with these YouTube videos, and why they’re there in the first place, what goes into building a strategy for advertisements on those videos? What do you need to take into account?

Laura Devinsky:  You have to remember that people who are going to YouTube and like going to watch whatever video they’ve clicked on, are going with the purpose of watching that video and not your ad, right? If you are doing, you know, a three minute video as an ad, you know, you want to really capture the user’s attention within that first six seconds before they have the chance to even skip the video. So you’re really gonna have to know what is your purpose of this video: brand awareness, product, service, like what does that look like? You really have to know what your message is. You can’t just go in blindly. Going in blindly is just, you can send this – your ad to anyone at that point. And that’s great and dandy, but you’re not going to get you know, the ROI, or whatever your end goal is. You’re not getting those click throughs. So really knowing what you want to accomplish is super important and what you have to take into account. 

John Tyreman:  It’s like knowing what you want to accomplish. It seems like that’s part of it. But it seems like you really need to know your audience enough to really make that connection between your ad and the content that they’re there to see in the first place. So how do you find that overlap? 

Laura Devinsky:  Yeah, so if you’re like, if, for example, if your goal is to reach like the parents of young kids, you know, you’re gonna select those demographics. You’re gonna select that age range, or that location, whatever that looks like. If you’re looking at like the parents of young kids, you’re probably gonna want to source those ads to things like, you know, parents are searching for like Peppa Pig or whatever the show of choice is for that kid. And so it’ll play in front of the video, so it’ll catch the parents attention, before they hand their phone back to their kid to watch whatever the video is. So that’s the goal. You have to know that as well. If you don’t know your demographics, if I’m getting an ad for, you know, a kid’s toy or something, that’s not relevant to me in the slightest. But if I’m getting an ad for, like, peloton or something, that is relevant to me. So you have to know what your demographics are and preset them. Similar to how you would do it for Facebook ads, for Google ads. It’s a very similar setup in that form.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, it pays to do your audience research and really understand what motivates your buyers. And funny enough, it’s funny that you mentioned Peppa Pig. I’m a parent of three young children and Peppa Pig is a staple in my house and they definitely advertise the toys and we hear it all the time,  “Oh, that looks cool. Mom, Dad, can we get this?” So yeah, it works. I know that there’s this concept in advertising, ad fatigue. So when folks see the same ad over and over again, it loses its effectiveness. So one way to combat that is to refresh the creative within your campaign. So I’m curious Laura, from your perspective, how often should campaigns refresh those creative elements?

Laura Devinsky:  The rule of thumb is every three months, which is more or less every quarter. I think that’s a great rule of thumb. You know, the season changes. If you’re doing a product when you’re advertising it in December for like the holidays, advertising it to be like, you know, the kids Christmas gift or whatever it is. Or, you know, “You should get the service for your parent”. It’s very different than when you’re going to be putting out this creative in the middle of July. You don’t want holiday campaigns to run in July, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense. So definitely, every three months. That’s like the best rule of thumb, four months, maybe. Yeah, that’s definitely the rule of thumb. In my opinion.

John Tyreman:  What about for B2B or service sales that have a longer sales cycle? Do you think that – is once a quarter still a good rule of thumb, because we’re still marketing to humans? Or do you think because that sales cycle is so long that maybe campaigns don’t need to be refreshed as frequently?

Laura Devinsky:  I think it could go either way. And you know, you can get more granular than that, like, what is the industry? If you know there’s a busy season coming up, then that’s where you want to push more creative and new creative? Absolutely. And then maybe the rest of the year you only refresh it once or twice. But you always want to hit whatever that cycle is in the industry. That’s the goal, right? If let’s say for like maintenance on a car or maintenance for whatever machinery, you know you want to do that before the winter. And you want to do that before like road trips in the summer. You definitely want to shift it at least a couple of times a year. 

John Tyreman:  Yeah. That’s really great. So you know, again, it pays to really understand your buyers and understand what motivates them and when those moments happen, and when they change. In the vein of understanding your buyers, understanding who holds influence to those buyers is also critical, too. So in the world of marketing, influencer marketing has become really popular. I’m curious from your perspective, what role does influencer marketing play in the world of YouTube advertising?

Laura Devinsky:  You know, it elevates brand awareness and, you know, at the end of the day increases sales. Most people who are going to YouTubers to promote something in particular know that these YouTubers and creators have you know, they hold a lot of weight, whether that’s on YouTube or cross platform which is always great. A lot of these YouTubers also have presences on Instagram, Tik Tok, you name it. Fading away from Facebook, but you know, elsewhere on the internet, there is presence for them. So going to these influencers, it can be a great driving point for a lot of brands. And I think that’s super important.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, it seems like there’s… I really think that there’s a huge opportunity for influencer marketing in B2B. And you know, maybe it’s just because I come from that background, but I mean, everyone, every single person, you and I, hold some degree of influence over an audience. A nano, micro whatever, you know, it’s still human to human. What are your thoughts on influencer marketing and B2B?

Laura Devinsky:  I think B2B, you know, equally, like you have to know your audience, right? Because I might not be able to make a, let’s say it’s like a software service. I’m not going to be able to necessarily make that decision but I might see it and think that looks cool and mention it. But it has to be able to go to the right people. So like on LinkedIn, for example, you could probably market it towards, you know, people who are in upper management. On YouTube, you can’t get that granular because this is more of a social media platform in a traditional sense and not… whereas LinkedIn is focused on professionalism. So I think for B2B, YouTube can be done but definitely is a little more niche and gets a lot more particular.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, that’s a good point. You know, it sounds like if there’s a business show, it sounds like sponsorships are kind of a way for there to be some sort of like influencer marketing. You know, it’s funny, it’s a lot like podcasts, too\, where you’ve got these podcasters who have a sponsorship deal. I listen to a sports podcast, which is regional, it covers a regional football team, and they’re sponsored by Ourisman Automotive of Virginia and they say, “We ride with them and want you to do the exact same thing”. And I think that’s cool, because it’s, you know, they found a connection – Ourisman Automotive did, because they serve a geographic area, right? And they’re associating themselves with a sports team within that same geographic area. So I guess that would be another form of influencer marketing. I don’t know, maybe I’m going off on a tangent here. 

Laura Devinskey:  No, they clearly know their market, it’s very regional based, it’s for that area. That’s perfect. That’s a great way to use marketing and clearly the people at Ourisman over there totally saw that as a great opportunity. And, in my opinion, that sounded like a smart move. So they knew what was up.

John Tyreman:  Do you have any other examples of maybe influencer marketing on YouTube?

Laura Devinsky:  Yeah, you know, I watch a lot of… I watch all sorts of strange things. I’m into pop culture a lot, but I see a lot of ads for Honey within influencers. And so you’ll see Mr. Beast, Shane Dawson… but you know, they’ll start their videos and be like, “this video is sponsored by Honey” or whoever is of the time and you see that elsewhere, too. BuzzFeed will do videos like that where the whole you know, the video was sponsored by whatever the company is, and then the whole premise of the video is almost like surrounded by that, which is a very interesting way to do videos. It’s both content that they can still put out, branded, so there’s brand awareness for whoever the advertiser is, but there’s also something just from, you know, a viewer perspective. Is it genuine? Don’t know. Like would you be creating this video if it wasn’t for the sponsor? So there’s definitely some of that debate. But then there’s also people – I watch a group called Yes Theory. Their whole theory is, you know, say yes, go try something new, go jump out of a plane, whatever thing it is of the time. But they use Audible and they always reference… and if anyone knows what Audible is, it’s, you know, like a book platform. You can listen to books on it, and so they always reference a book that is relevant to whatever the video is and how that relates back to Audible, which is probably one of the better ways I’ve ever seen someone incorporate a brand deal into their video. You know, Honey is much more generic. Some of these other fitness things also can be very generic.

John Tyreman:  Yeah, I think it works the best when it’s just naturally worked in. Well, let’s shift away from the sponsorships and influencer marketing. I’m curious from your perspective, have you seen any YouTube ads that have really piqued your interest as a marketer?

Laura Devinsky:  Yeah, so if anyone watches Hot Ones with Sean Evans… it’s pop culture, they eat hot wings. And you know, they get progressively hotter over the course of the interview. It’s a very funny show. But they actually did a sponsorship with –  I don’t know if it was Bud Light, but it was a beer company, is the point. And the video before their actual video was with Sean Evans, the interviewer, and like one of the other guys who’s a recurring kind of character. And the ad was both of them, like, you know, looking, you know, trying to get these beers in time for their show, but it was an ad. And I thought it was very meta to have the people that I’m about to watch in this video also be in the ad beforehand. So they you know, in terms of when they’re setting up the ads on the back end like you’re you’re doing that on purpose, and I thought it was very clever because I didn’t realize I was watching an ad until I saw the skip ad button show up eventually. And I was like, “Oh, this is an ad. This isn’t just like some weird intro version of the show”. So I ended up watching the whole video and I thought it was pretty amusing that they did that. I thought it was very clever. And probably one of the more well done YouTube ads I’ve seen in a while just because of the placement.

John Tyreman:  That’s really interesting because you’re there to see that individual on the show. And for him to be in that ad. That is a very good example. I’ve seen Hot Ones. I’ve seen a couple episodes. I watched… there was one with Charlie Day and gosh,I love him from It’s Always Sunny. Well, Laura, I know that we’re about at our time now. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, sharing your perspective on YouTube creative strategies. If folks want to connect with you and learn more, where can they find you?

Laura Devinsky:  You can find me on LinkedIn, Laura Devinsky or you can shoot me an email

John Tyreman:  Alright, connect with Laura on LinkedIn. And we’ll see you next time on the Digital Marketing Troop. Thank you so much, Laura?

Laura Devinsky:  Thank you so much.