Feb 7 2023
Ben Larrison

How to Create Effective Digital Video Ads


These days, there’s no escaping digital video. In fact, research shows that US adults spend nearly over three hours per day watching digital video, and that number is only going to grow in the years ahead. There’s even a decent chance that before, after, or possibly even while you read this blog post, you will find yourself watching some digital video (like, say, this one of a turtle eating a strawberry).

For advertisers, this voraciousness for video represents an incredible opportunity to reach audiences in the form of digital video advertising. To help you on your journey, here are some useful digital video-related facts and tips for creating effective digital video ads: 

Where are people watching digital video?

On average, US adults spend 24 minutes of video a day watching videos on their laptops or desktops, an hour and six minutes per day viewing videos on their mobile devices, and over an hour and a half streaming on connected devices such as CTVs.

What are some types of digital video ads? 

There are three primary types of digital video ad units: in-stream, out-stream, and interstitial. Let's take a closer look at each: 

What are in-stream video ads?

In-stream video ads are ads that run before, during, or after other video content (aka pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll). In-stream video ads are displayed within the context of streaming video and often used to monetize video content delivered by the publisher. In other words, think of them as the digital video equivalent of a TV commercial.

What are out-stream video ads?

Out-stream video ads show up outside of video player environments. This type of ad unit typically includes less traditional video placements, such as in-article, native, in-feed, or interstitial videos. For example, a site visitor may be reading a cooking recipe article on a lifestyle website, and then a video ad may load in-feed or alongside the content. Depending on the environment, out-stream video ads can be auto-play or viewer-enabled play.

What are interstitial video ads?

Interstitial ads are a type of high-impact, full-screen video advertising that cover the interface of the host app or website. Interstitial ads are typically displayed at natural transition points within the flow of an appear website—such as between activities or as a screen takeover when opening an app or web page— and they usually auto-retract after a short period of time (say, 15 seconds) or via a close button.

How long is a typical in-stream video ad?

Typically, an in-stream video ad is either 15 or 30 seconds, with 15 seconds the oft-recommended length. However, there is some flexibility depending on the channel— we’ve seen successful ads that are as short as five seconds and as long as several minutes.

What about in-banner video ads? What are those?

Well, as you might guess from the name, in-banner video ads are digital video advertisements that play “within” a banner advertisement. You might see one at the top of a webpage, in the middle of an article, or on a sidebar.

Great! So, where can I place a digital video ad?

Honestly, at this point, it’s probably more practical to ask where you can’t place a digital video ad (inside a medical textbook, maybe?) Digital video ads are widely used on streaming video platforms like YouTube and Hulu, social media giants like Facebook and Instagram, gaming and streaming audio platforms like Twitch or Pandora, news and information sites, and seemingly everywhere in between. In short, if a website has video content, it almost certainly has the ability to show digital video advertisements.

What are some tips for creating effective digital video ads?

Want to create ads that will appeal to and engage digital video viewers? Here are five tips to inform and inspire:

Tip #1: Grab their attention early

According to both YouTube and Facebook, among others, it’s absolutely critical to grab a viewer’s attention in the first five seconds of an ad—before they either tune out or skip the remainder of the advertisement. This is especially important for mobile users and younger audiences (who, incidentally, are often one and the same.) Think of it as the new “five second rule”—only instead of determining the safety of food that you should probably just throw away because the floor is covered in pet hair, it’s about determining the effectiveness of digital video advertising.

Tip #2: Show, don’t tell

Video is a unique medium in its ability to quite literally show someone your product, service and/or organization in action. Don’t let that opportunity go to waste! After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and 4K video captures 60 frames per second...well, you get the idea. One thing you absolutely need to show? Your brand name/logo. This is particularly important in coordination with tip #1: a Facebook study found that consumers were 23% more likely to remember which brand made a given video ad if the brand was featured in the first three seconds of that ad. So don’t be modest: give yourself an early shoutout!

Tip #3 Don’t forget mobile!

Remember: your ad has to work and feel native on any device, so keep mobile users in mind when developing your video. Additionally, mobile users are likely to have their sound off if they come across your ad on many platforms—particularly social media—so make sure the ad is compelling and that the core message still “translates,” regardless of whether the audio is on.

Tip #4: Respect your surroundings

When making a digital video ad, be sure to take the channel/platform into account for that particular cut of the video. Your ad should ideally match the “vibe” of a specific channel, with the video feeling native to that platform, while staying mindful of what likely brought a viewer there in the first place. For example, a video ad that shows up in the middle of a Facebook feed should feel a little different to, say, one running in the middle of a bingeable show on Hulu.

Tip #5: Know your audience

Lastly, before you advertise anywhere—be it with digital video or otherwise—take the time to get to know your audience as much as you can, and then take advantage of any platform-based targeting at your disposal to better reach them. And it’s a digital video, after all, so be sure to use the digital CTAs at your disposal to send viewers directly to your website or app of choice.

How can I get even more tips on effective digital video advertising?

Want to dig deeper? Download our Video Unleashed guide to see tips for how to run a strategic video campaign, gain more digital video advertising insights, and a whole lot more.