What are YouTube Overlay Ads & Why Should Marketers Use Them?

by Stephanie Mialki in Advertising, Lead Generation This image shows YouTube overlay ads examples.

Based on the percentage of U.S. adults who use social media, YouTube has become the world’s largest social media platform. More than 1 billion hours of YouTube videos are viewed every day and more than 300 hours of videos are uploaded each minute. With that amount of content, brands can reach a massive audience through a variety of ad types. And YouTube overlay ads being a preferred ad type among advertisers.

What are YouTube in-video overlay ads?

YouTube in-video overlay ads appear across the bottom of a video on watch pages:

These video overlay ads pop up after the video starts playing, and can be as simple as text (example 1 below) or image ad (example two below):

Whether it’s text- or image-based, an ad overlay appears as a pop-up displayed across the bottom 20% of the video window, so it’s not as intrusive as other larger pop-ups. Users can see your ad while still watching the video they clicked on, and they can even close the ad at any time by clicking the “X” in the top-right corner. If they do click your ad, it takes them to your destination URL off YouTube, like a dedicated landing page to promote the offer.

Note: Advertisers only get paid when viewers click the ad overlay to expand and view the full ad campaign.

How are video overlay ads different than other YouTube ads?

In addition to these in-display ads on YouTube, there are many other ad formats available, differing primarily with placement, platform compatibility, and ad specs:

Display ads: Appear to the right of the feature video and above the video suggestions list. Availability: Display advertising is only available on desktop.

Skippable video ads: Play in the video player, either before, during, or after the main video, and viewers can choose to skip these ads after 5 seconds. Availability: Desktop, mobile, TV, and gaming consoles.

Non-skippable video ads: Must be watched in the video player before the main video can be viewed. These are 15 or 20 seconds in length, depending on regional standards. Availability: both desktop and mobile.

Bumper ads: Non-skippable video ads up to 6 seconds that must be watched in the video player before the main video can be viewed. Availability: both desktop and mobile.

Sponsored cards: Various sized-cards (2mb max) that display promotional content that may be relevant to the feature video, such as products featured in the video. Viewers will only see a teaser for the card for a few seconds (however long the creator designates), or they can click the icon in the top-right corner of the video to browse cards. Availability: both desktop and mobile.

How they work in conjunction with companion display ads

Adding an optional companion display ad to the right of the video player is a great way to supplement your overlay ad. This space is road-blocked for the same advertiser and/or campaign, so if you choose not to include a companion display ad, no other company’s ad will appear next to your overlay.

ActiveCampaign implemented both an overlay ad with a companion display ad to increase visibility and clicks:

The same goes for Disruptive Advertising and their ad overlay with a companion ad:

Ad specs

Overlay ad specs:

  • Image dimensions: 480×70
  • File type: Static .GIF, .PNG, .JPG
  • File size: 150 Kb

Companion display ad specs:

  • Image dimensions: 300×250
  • File type: .GIF, .PNG, .JPG
  • File size: 150 Kb
  • Site-served or third-party served

YouTube overlay ads and companion display ads are both only available on desktop, and won’t work in the mobile version of YouTube, or on TVs or game consoles.

Note: For the all-in-one list of advertising specs on every major platform — including more information on how to display ads on YouTube videos — refer to the Instapage digital advertising specs guide.

Two essential overlay ad campaign best practices

1. Include a compelling CTA on the overlay

Unless you’re simply trying to increase brand awareness, your ad’s click-through rate and ROI is wasted without a specific call-to-action. With such limited space available, you need to be obvious and tell viewers exactly what to do.

Marketo’s CTA button is a perfect example:

  • The “definitive guide…” headline is authoritative implies the guide is the only resource you need to master social media marketing.
  • The orange box contrasts against the purple background.
  • First-person copy (“your”) makes the offer more personalized and compelling.
  • By clicking through, prospects know they’ll receive the social media marketing guide (mentioned in the headline).

Ashford University also includes an effective CTA button on their overlay ad:

  • This CTA button tells prospects exactly what they’re doing by clicking: choosing their degree.
  • The orange box contrasts well with the rest of the ad, with a little arrow visual cue as a bonus.
  • Key benefits are highlighted: Convenient online classes for individuals looking to balance family, work, and school.
  • Including first-person copy (“your”) adds more personalization to the offer, making it more persuasive.

2. Send prospects to a dedicated landing page

To ensure your ad spend is producing positive returns, prospects need a place to complete your conversion goal. Linking to a relevant landing page is the next logical step.

Here’s how LeadMD does this:

  • The ad and landing page are message matched — the logo is prominent in both locations, the brand colors are the same, the CTA copy is similar, etc. — so there is no confusion when prospects arrive at the landing page after clicking the ad.
  • The landing page contains visual cues (the arrow and white space) to help guide visitors toward the CTA button.
  • Minimal copy with bullet points allow visitors to learn about the offer without being overwhelmed with excess copy.

Reach an even wider audience with in-video overlay ads

As the world’s second-largest social media platform, it makes sense to run ads on YouTube because you can reach an audience far beyond what most other platforms offer. Refer to the Instapage digital advertising specs guide for up to date ad specs, targeting options, and more.

Optimizing your overlay ads is only half of the equation, though; as the landing page is even more important since that is where the conversion happens. To optimize the landing page building stage for all of your YouTube overlay ads, complete your ad campaign with Instapage — the most robust landing page optimization platform. Sign up for an Instapage 14-day free trial today.

Try the world's most advanced landing page platform with a risk-free trial.

Stephanie Mialki

by Stephanie Mialki

Stephanie Mialki is a digital marketing professional with expertise in ecommerce trends, landing pages, journalism, and mass communication.

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