Make the Most Out of YouTube: Best Practices for Advertisers

The last few months have rapidly altered how we interact with and consume media, perhaps forever. Streaming has reached an all time-high, with the pandemic accelerating the shift away from traditional pay TV―a trend that likely won’t be changing in the near future. In fact, pay TV subscriptions have seen enormous drops, with the number of pay TV households now back down to the level they were in 1995, at only 79 million. 

People are also using their screens differently to consume content. Rather than using them to watch traditional pay TV, people are now using their connected TVs to stream video. About 72% of U.S. households with wireless Internet have made this transition, and overall watch times are skyrocketing. Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends Survey cited 23% of U.S. consumers have added at least one new paid streaming service since the onset of the pandemic. This brings the amount of consumers subscribed to paid streaming video services up to 80%, with subscribers now paying for an average of four streaming video subscriptions.

Streaming provides audiences with an unprecedented level of control over content. The three key factors outlined in a recent webinar from Adweek and Pixability, “Engaging the New Living Room Audience on YouTube: What Viewers Value Now,”  are access, control, and relevance. With traditional TV, it was all about which content was popular. However, in the streaming era, personal primetime has become about each person’s individual interests and passions. Now, viewers have the ability to choose exactly what they want from a vast selection of content. Not only are there choices, but viewers also have immediate access to said content and complete control over when they want to watch it.


Access, Control, and Relevance

So why is this important to advertisers? As streaming has become an integral component of how people are consuming content, it is critical for brands to be able to reach these audiences. Currently, ads running on pay TV are running at much higher frequencies in order to meet frequency goals, and they are reaching a shrinking proportion of the population. By developing a well-thought out, balanced mix between pay TV and digital advertising, brands can maximize their reach across audiences and increase engagement with their content.

With a wide selection of streaming platforms from which to target viewers, there are four major players that account for more than 75% of streaming video content: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube. Of the four, the webinar identified YouTube as the streaming leader, being the top platform for reach and share of watch time, and allowing advertisers to reach hard-to-reach audiences at scale.


Creative Considerations and Shifts on YouTube

As with all channels, there are certain considerations that should be made when serving content to audiences on YouTube, specifically in regard to creative. Here are some key takeaways that advertisers should keep in mind when developing content. 

  • Don’t be afraid to use longer-form ads. These have been performing well, as audiences seem to be willing to to interact with longer advertisements. In fact, unlike with most social channels, on YouTube, the longer a video is, the better it tends to perform—as long as viewers are able to connect with the content.
  • Compelling content is key. It is becoming evident that content does not have to be highly produced in order to be compelling. For video content, it is much more important that the content is related to people’s interests, rather than having a high production value or featuring big-name celebrities.
  • Successful videos get to the point quickly. The content needs to grab viewer attention and introduce brand cues early on in the video in order to engage viewers. 
  • Advertisers should explore different levels of personalization with their content. Even changing small things like copy or voiceover can make ads more effective in grabbing viewer attention.
  • Brands still need an organic presence. In addition to paid advertising efforts, it is also important for brands to pay attention to their organic presence on YouTube.


YouTube Best Practices for Advertisers

Finally, here are some best practices for advertisers to keep in mind when engaging with audiences on YouTube.


Best Practice #1: Think of TV and video content as one big pool

  • Agencies are merging TV and digital teams, so it is essential to plan well and maximize reach with the right mix of TV and YouTube.
  • TV and YouTube work optimally together, due to the disparities in the demographics who are viewing the content. According to the webinar, over 60% of TV impressions are served to heavy TV viewers, who make up only 20% of the population. However, while TV over-serves the older demographics, YouTube will over deliver for the younger end of the same demographics, maximizing reach across audiences.


Best Practice #2: Don’t get stuck on contextual-only targeting

  • Brands should implement a mix of contextual and audience targeting and see what works best. Do not focus solely on contextual-only targeting—audience targeting is also effective, and it is important to find the right balance between the two.


Best Practice #3: Leverage CTV options that overcome old concerns

  • In 2019, the top 3 concerns for advertisers around connected TV (CTV) were scale, price, and metrics. Since then, there has been a 117% increase in streaming viewership. The reach of YouTube on TV delivers a much lower cost than other options, offering a cost-effective solution to reach audiences.
  • There are a lot of CTV options in terms of metrics. According to the webinar, recent results of YouTube on TV have shown that advertisers were able to track metrics such as brand lift, conversions, and revenue. Brands can also use the same targeting metrics from YouTube for ads that are being served to people on YouTube on TV.


Streaming will only continue to accelerate as we continue to adapt as a society and grow accustomed to navigating a largely virtual environment. By taking into account these creative considerations and best practices, advertisers can leverage YouTube to reach new audiences and engage them with compelling content that meets evolving viewer preferences.

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