Video marketing

YouTube Marketing: Your Ultimate Creative Guide

This guide to YouTube Marketing is part of our Ultimate Guide series on social media video marketing best practices. Learn more about how harnessing the power of video marketing helps brand’s stand out on other platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Take a moment and think: how much time have you spent on YouTube this week?

According to YouTube, it may be more than you think. On average, 1 billion hours of video content are consumed every day on YouTube, with American adults spending 24 minutes daily on the platform.

The numbers don’t lie. More than 2 billion users log in to YouTube a month, making it the second largest website today. Those numbers may not quite reach the monthly active users of Facebook, but people don’t go to YouTube expecting the same experience they get on conventional social platforms. YouTube isn’t a place to share memes and status updates but rather, as their mission statement says, a space “to give everyone a voice and show them the world.”

For the last 15 years, YouTube has been the preeminent video-sharing platform, inspiring the next generation of content creators to produce fun, informative, and engaging content for its massive audience. 

It’s extremely popular with users of all ages, making it a powerful channel for brands to reach a wide array of audiences:

  • 75% of Gen-Z and Milliennials are on the platform
  • 70% of Americans aged 46 to 55 use YouTube
  • 67% of the 56+ population consumer YouTube content

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2021 Guide to Social Media Video Marketing

With one-third of our total time online now spent watching videos, it should be abundantly clear why YouTube must be a central pillar for your brand’s social media strategy to break through the noise and make a mark. And now that it’s easier than ever for organizations like yours to create glossy, high-performing video ads, it’s time you refocus your efforts on YouTube marketing to stand out. 

This ultimate creative guide will give you an overview of YouTube, the suite of ad placements you can leverage, as well as some best practices and tips to help you succeed in raising brand awareness, growing your community, and driving action on the video-dominated platform.

YouTube: Platform Overview
YouTube Marketing: Ad Placements and Specs
YouTube Marketing: Creative Best Practices


Platform Overview

What was the first YouTube video you watched? I can track mine way back to high school. A friend had sent me a link to a new website that was hosting a viral video from Saturday Night Live, featuring comedians Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell rapping about muffins and The Lord of the Rings. The skit had me cracking up, but what truly blew my mind was that I was able to instantly stream a video, even though the only internet access I had was incredibly slow dial-up. 

The initial idea for YouTube came when creators Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim realized it was difficult to find videos of current events online, so they wanted to create a platform that streamlined the process of uploading, sharing, and viewing video content. YouTube’s simple interface stripped away the complexities of uploading videos online, making it easy for everyday users to seamlessly share their content. 

What’s so incredible about YouTube’s evolution is how the user experience of its early days has hardly changed. Today, YouTube is still a destination for audiences to seek out and share entertainment, information, and inspiration. It’s where we go to research projects, teach ourselves new skills, or catch up on the latest news, from politics and technology to gaming. YouTube continues to expand features to make it easier for users to find videos they love. YouTubers can create their own channels that act as hubs for all of their video content, that can be catalogued even further into playlists. YouTubers can extend their content’s reach by adding description text, keyword tags, and programming their videos into unique Categories, like Science & Technology or Pets & Animals.

YouTube is a great avenue to build a community and content hub focusing on your brand’s niche. Just take the success story of Ryan Kaji. He made over $20 million dollars in 2019 alone for his channel where he reviews children’s toys. The craziest part of all? He’s nine. 

So YouTube is a powerful channel for entertainment, education, and community; but how does that translate into a tool for digital marketers looking to grow their brands? By leaning into the platform’s creative, educational ethos–as well as a robust suite of ad placements–you can take potential consumers on a journey with your content that ticks the boxes for everything a user comes to the platform for. 

For example, healthcare brand NURX created video ads that were both educational and uplifting, two of the hallmark feelings you look for in a YouTube video. These ads used real customer testimonials to illustrate how their service made healthcare more accessible, while taking the viewer on a journey of how to use their product, and the benefits it provides.

With clear objectives, YouTube can be an incredible channel to grow brand awareness (through organic or paid video content) and push potential consumers down the path to purchase. And as YouTube has a lot of insight into audiences based on viewing habits,, the channel can be an effective new tool to target consumers that are becoming increasingly harder to reach.

Let’s dive deeper into the YouTube marketing ad placements to help give you a clearer picture of everything you can do to cost-effectively execute a successful video marketing strategy on the platform.


YouTube Marketing Ad Placements and Specs

YouTube video ads can live in three distinct placements:


Skippable Video Ads

Skippable ads play before, during, or after videos on YouTube. Viewers have the option to skip the ad after 5 seconds, so you must frontload an attention-grabbing hook in your creative to keep viewers engaged and discourage skipping. These ads are shown on desktops, mobile devices, TVs, and game consoles.

Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3. We recommend 16:9 as more and more viewers are consuming YouTube on their CTVs. 
  • Max File Size: 1GB
  • Video length: up to 6 minutes or 60 seconds for YouTube Kids
  • Frame Rate: 30fps
  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .avi, or .asf


Non-Skippable Video Ads

As the name suggests, Non-Skippable ads cannot be skipped and must be watched before a YouTube video starts or continues. Because of this you have the opportunity to focus your creative less on that immediate hook, and more on taking the viewer through a longer narrative arc. Like with Skippable ads, these videos will play before, during, or after the content you clicked on. These assets are shown on desktops, mobile devices, TVs, and game consoles.

Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3. We recommend 16:9 as more and more viewers are consuming YouTube on their CTVs. 
  • Max File Size: 1GB
  • Video length: must be at least 12 seconds long, but are capped at 15 seconds.
  • Frame Rate: 30fps
  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .avi, or .asf


Bumper Ads

Bumper ads, also called pre-roll ads, are non-skippable short messages delivered before, during, or after YouTube video plays. Even though bumper ads cannot be skipped, still aim to capture attention in the first few seconds of your ad to keep your viewer engaged as they wait for their video to begin. Bumper ads are shown on desktop, mobile devices, TV, and game consoles.

Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3. We recommend 16:9 as more and more viewers are consuming YouTube on their CTVs. 
  • Max File Size: 1GB
  • Max length: 6 seconds
  • Frame Rate: 30fps
  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .avi, or .asf


YouTube Marketing Creative Best Practices

There are two core themes to keep in mind when creating video for YouTube: sound on and mobile-first. 95% of videos seen on YouTube are played with sound on and 70% of watch time takes place on mobile devices.

Text is also an important factor to consider when producing YouTube video ads. You have flexibility in your options, but you should keep primary text and animations near the center of the screen. This is because certain sections of the YouTube interface can overshadow the text assets.

EXPLORE: Best Video Formats for Performance Marketing

We’ve compiled a few key additional best practices to consider when conceptualizing your video ads for YouTube marketing


Hook Your Audience Immediately

Ask yourself: what will catch the user’s attention? Audiences increasingly have dispersed attention spans, so your video ad should immediately grab your audience with a captivating hook. Edit your videos to maintain a fast pace, aiming for at least two shots in the first 3-5 seconds to energize your audience.

Use tight framing—which is when you put a frame very close around your subject—regardless of whether your video stars a product or a person. If real people are in the video, open with them on screen. If it fits your concept’s narrative arc, have the talent address the audience directly as a way to facilitate connection and further draw in the viewer. 

These approaches help your video ad conform to the visual styles adopted by most YouTube creators so that your creative feels native to the platform. 

Here’s another standout  example from NURX. In this spot, a provocative script immediately grabs the viewer’s attention to keep eyes on the screen.

Use Narrative Storytelling

Human psychology inherently resonates with narrative storytelling, so craft a clear story that grabs viewers attention and leaves a lasting impression. Take your audience on an emotional journey–with a beginning, middle, and end–where your brand (or product) is the star.

That said, a fuller story doesn’t mean a more complex one. Don’t be afraid to keep your narrative simple, building towards a creative payoff to drive action in the viewer, enticing them to learn more about your brand and your products.

This ad from Backcountry illustrates how even in 30-seconds you can effectively tell a simple, engaging story.

Branding, Branding, Branding

When it comes to the presence of branding, the YouTube landscape is aligned with that of other social platforms like Facebook. To drive views, you’ll need to incorporate branding. According to QuickFrame analysis, videos on YouTube with visible branding had an average view count that was 76% higher than videos without. 

If your goal is to drive engagement however, you’ll want to omit branding. Our analysis shows that unbranded videos had an average engagement rate that was 145% higher than videos with branding.

Aim to show your product or brand logo within the first 5 seconds of your video ad. Our analysis found that audio mentions of brands by on-screen talent also performs higher than mentions by off-screen talent.

This ad from Mars Candy opens and closes with a shot of their branding, while using their product to drive the videos eye-catching motion.

Drive Action

The whole purpose of a video ad is to drive your viewer to complete some action, like purchasing a product or visiting your website. So ask yourself: how am I convincing them to do this?

The best way to drive action on a YouTube video is through strategic CTAs that inspire urgency, like a limited time offer for a subscription food delivery service, or a limited edition run on collector sneakers. Another way to drive action is to include call-out links at the end of your organic YouTube video, directing viewers to subscribe to your channel, watch more videos, or visit an external website. These can appear as end cards, simple animations, or through voice over. 

You can find the most effective CTAs through a targeted performance marketing testing plan. Taking a testing approach to your YouTube creative will surface insights about your audience and sharpen your creative approach.

LEARN MORE: Multivariate Testing in 7 Steps

Cast Relatable Talent

Consider what audience you are trying to reach when casting your on-screen talent. You want your audience to relate to your brand, and you can do that by casting talent that reminds them of themselves.

Beyond the authenticity you will build, our video analysis of organic best practices tips for YouTube found that using on-screen talent drives organic performance, leading to more views and engagement.

In a departure from those platforms, however, videos with just one person drove the highest engagement rate on YouTube. The dominance of vloggers on YouTube has likely conditioned audiences on the platform to connect with a single on-screen talent. That said, visual diversity still wins out. Videos with 3 or more people sustained attention, and drove more views in our analysis.


YouTube Marketing: The Takeaway

YouTube completely changed the online video game in 2005. The platform continues to unlock ways brands can better reach their target audiences, which will be vitally important as data privacy regulations go into effect in 2021. In November 2020, YouTube expanded its ad supported content, increasing the ad inventory on the platform. Before then, on channels with at least 1K subscribers and other requirements had ads.

Compared to the glut of social platforms on the internet, it should come as no surprise that YouTube, the number one video sharing platform around, is the best channel to get your mesmerizing video content seen and shared. Video is simply the most effective way we communicate today, and as video consumption continues to rise, YouTube marketing can be a cost-efficient way to stand out.

Combine the platform’s power with a creative eye hungry for innovation and you can start generating mesmerizing, high-performing video content that will give your organization an advantage in our rapidly evolving digital world.

GET ORIGINAL DATA-DRIVEN YOUTUBE ADS: Learn About the QuickFrame + YouTube Partnership


Check Out All of Our Social Media Marketing Creative Guides


New call-to-action

Related Articles

Video marketing

What Platforms Are Right for Your Ads?

Jan 20, 2022
Video marketing

Why Empathy is Vital in the Future of Advertising

Jan 19, 2022
Video marketing

WTF is Creative Analytics?

Jan 19, 2022
Video marketing

The Necessity of Video in Hybrid Workspaces

Jan 18, 2022

Do More with Video

Learn how we can help you produce more quality videos affordably and at scale.