Creative Ad Formats

April 2018

Orchestrate your advertising across :06 non-skip, :15 non-skip, and long (:30+) skippable videos. Take a closer look at the benefits of these formats with Unskippable Labs experiments. Push the boundaries of your content with Live Streaming and 360 Ads.

Storytelling for Greater Impact

By aligning your creative ideas across three different YouTube ad formats, you can grab viewers’ attention on mobile without limiting your freedom to experiment with more involved storytelling. Here’s a closer look at :06 non-skip, :15 non-skip, and long (:30+) skippable videos.

Bumper Ads (:06 non-skip)

These short-form videos are called bumper ads—bite-size pieces of content great for users “on-the-go” and mobile-viewing. With six seconds to get your point across, consider narrowing your message to a single focus. Bumper ads also pair well with longer-form creative to help tease, amplify or echo the main narrative.

  • In a study of over 600 campaigns, 90% of bumper ads measured globally drove a significant lift in ad recall. Across all campaigns measured, average lift was 38%.1
  • Based on 18 advertisers that leveraged both TrueView & bumpers across 400 campaigns, bumper ads increased the unique reach of TrueView campaigns by 78% on average.2
Sonos’ “PLAYBASE” bumper ad extracts a single memorable element from its “Introducing the all new PLAYBASE – The Big Lebowski Commercial” video campaign.

:15 Non-Skip

These mid-length videos are designed to match the content users watch on mobile while allowing your key message to resonate.

Sonos’ “PLAYBASE” 15 second video lets the story unfold slightly longer than a bumper ad. The scene is set first, and the product introduced second.

Long (:30+) Skippable

Long-format TrueView skippable videos give you the freedom to captivate your audience with a more involved narrative. Most of the ads on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard each month adhere to this format. When you’re creating long-form content, remember to front-load the story arc—you still need to grab viewers’ attention in the first five seconds to avoid the skip.

  • In a study of 89 U.S. brand videos, viewers who watched TrueView ads for at least 30 seconds—or to completion—were 23x more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand’s channel, watch more videos by that brand, or share the video.3
  • Even viewers who were merely exposed to TrueView ads were 10x more likely to take one of those actions.4
Sonos’ “PLAYBASE” 30 second video takes the format of a traditional commercial beginning with an intro, then a slow build up to an event and then the product info and logo.


  1. Deliver your message across :06 non-skip, :15 non-skip, and long (:30+) skippable videos. Short-form drives ad recall, and together with long-form, increases the reach your of campaigns.
  2. When creating long-form content, make sure the first six seconds are attention-grabbing so viewers don’t hit skip.

Unskippable Lab Experiments

Today’s viewers are impatient and wield considerable control over what they watch. How can advertisers break through and hold their attention? By designing content based on a hypothesis, showing it to the world, and analyzing the reaction, the Unskippable Labs project aims to find out what people pay attention to and engage with—and ultimately, what makes a video “unskippable.”

The Unskippable Labs Process

Unskippable Labs uses a four-step process to bring data to the art of storytelling.

  • Education:

Use past Unskippable Labs learnings and research to identify high potential areas for experimentation.

  • Hypothesis:

Create a hypothesis with the potential to change how effective creative work is developed. For example: Tight framing, the use of supers and faster pacing can improve video performance significantly, especially on mobile devices.

  • Launch Preparation:

Set budgets to test the hypothesis, create content, upload finished videos to YouTube.

  • Post-Analysis:

Digest viewer reaction and analyze data.

Unskippable Labs and Bumper Ads

YouTube partnered with Netflix to understand if short-form content could move people and meet brand goals the same way longer-form content does. After experimenting with different video lengths, they found that the shortest form—bumper ads—resulted in the following:

  • 56% increase in ad recall.
  • 19% increase in brand awareness.
  • 300% increase in product interest.5
James Rothwell, Director of Marketing for Netflix Asia, and Taka Osaki, Vice President of Marketing for Netflix Asia, discuss the the bumper ads experiment. Learn more on Think with Google: Testing Video Ad Lengths With Netflix.

Unskippable Labs: Go Short or Go Long

Unskippable Labs tested three different cuts of the same story using TrueView, YouTube's skippable ad format. They measured whether people chose to watch 15 seconds, 30 seconds, or a long-form ad that was 2:17. They also measured how long people watched the longer cuts, and how that impacted the brand’s ad recall and favorability. Here’s what they found:

  • The longer cuts were both watched more than the 15-second ad. The 30-second ad was the least skipped, and the 15-second ad the most skipped.
  • The 15-second ad was the only one to drive significant ad recall across all three cuts.
  • The longer cuts both delivered stronger favorability results than the :15. If you are interested in simple recall, short ads work great. If you need to persuade someone, longer ads may work better.6
Devon Hong, Creative Director at Droga5, and Emmett Schaller, Senior Associate Manager at Honey Maid, discuss the short/long experiment. Learn more on Think with Google: In Video Advertising, Is Longer Stronger?

Unskippable Labs: An Ad for the Ages

Do brands need different types of ads to reach people of different ages? Google partnered with L'Oréal Paris to find out by releasing three types of TrueView videos. Unskippable Labs measured how each age group responded to them. Here’s what they found:

  • People of all ages chose to watch the glossy, highly produced ad more than the other versions.
  • Audiences of different ages responded to the types of videos in different ways. The more direct, intimate video was most effective for younger viewers, while the older audience responded to the polished TV Ad.
  • The direct, intimate video style spurred more consumers—of all ages—to click through for more information.
Ben Jones, Creative Director at Google, discusses the Ad for the Ages experiment. Learn more on Think with Google: How Demographics and Storytelling Style Affect Video Ad Effectiveness

Unskippable Labs: The Mobile Recut

Should where we're telling stories change how we're telling stories? Unskippable Labs took a successful ad—Mountain Dew Kickstart's "Come Alive"—and recut it three ways to learn how storytelling changes on mobile. Here’s what they found:

  • The unexpected can be powerful. The recut ad called "Pure Fun" had no traditional storyline or structure, yet it was viewed at a 26% higher rate than the other cuts on mobile.
  • More viewers watched "Pure Fun" on mobile than on desktop, and they watched for a longer period of time. At 1 minute and 33 seconds, “Pure Fun” was more than three times as long as the other ads. With the chance to watch more, people did.7
David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer of BBDO Worldwide, John Osborne, President and CEO of BBDO New York, and Tim Bayne, ECD at BBDO New York discuss the mobile recut experiment. Learn more on Think with Google: Mobile Video Advertising: Making Unskippable Ads


  1. After experimenting with bumper ads, YouTube and Netflix discovered that the short-form videos can increase ad recall, brand awareness, and product interest.
  2. A great story can still grab and hold an audience, even with the temptation of the skip button. Front-loading your story arc and putting your brand on the screen early encourages viewers to stay.
  3. Viewers of all ages gravitated toward a glossier ad over other versions, and younger audiences favored the more intimate version.
  4. Attention spans might be getting shorter, but viewers still watch long-form content —even choosing it over short-form—if given the chance.

Emerging Video Ad Formats

While you’re experimenting with different ad lengths to increase watch time and drive engagement, consider formats that can help you connect with your audience and immerse viewers in your brand’s story. Stream video in real-time with YouTube Live—share unscripted responses to events, news, and unboxings. And if your ideas lend themselves to interactive experiences, 360º Video lets your viewers explore the environments you create.

Live Streaming: Set Up Your Event

  • Schedule.

Create your broadcast URL in advance—at least 48 hours before your event. Share the broadcast link on your own social media platforms.

  • Organize.

Set up your event features and metadata—title, description, tags—so people can find your video. Make use of the richest keywords and add a custom thumbnail.

  • Promote.

Update your channel art, create an event trailer, add a live stream section to your channel, and use featured content to promote your stream.

Live Streaming: Manage Your Event

  • Inform.

Use slates, lower thirds, and watermarks to inform your audience. Start the broadcast a few minutes early with a pre-event slate.

  • Engage.

Invite viewers to participate in the broadcast, offer backstage coverage, and use cards. Include questions and audience interactions in your script.

  • Chat.

Pay close attention to what people are saying and dedicate resources to moderation and community management.

Live Streaming: Measure the Impact of Your Event

  • Measure.

Use Live Control Room & YouTube Analytics to gather data, and use what you find out to inform upcoming events. Check traffic source reports, display locations, and devices to help you plan future promotions.

  • Feature.

YouTube archives live events for up to 8 hours (4 hours for 360º Live). Consider a local archive solution for longer events. Use Highlight Clips to upload highlights while broadcasting.

  • Promote.

Post highlights featuring unique themes or topics, such as behind-the-scenes clips or videos that complement the original live stream.

360º Video Ads

360º ads put viewers inside your videos, allowing them to control the view from inside the frame. It’s an active experience: they can explore far-flung terrain and ride (or ski) along with the faces of your campaign. But do these ads actually drive more engagement than standard video ads? Google partnered with Columbia Sportswear to find out, and created two similar campaigns using TrueView. Each campaign featured a 60-second spot for Columbia Sportswear, one presented in 360º video, the other a standard format video ad. Both ads included CTAs that drove to an extended version.

The results? The 360º video ad had a lower retention rate than the standard ad. But it had a higher click-through rate, meaning that viewers were more interested in watching the full-length version of the video after viewing it. In total, the 360º ad drove 41% more earned actions than the standard ad, and more engagement with Columbia's YouTube channel.Learn more on Think with Google: Is 360 Video Worth It?

The standard version of the ad was visually framed around the skiers, with aerial and wide-angle shots of their runs and the landscape.
The 360º version of the ad planted the audience within the terrain, allowing viewers to explore independently.


  1. Live streaming gives you the opportunity to broadcast to your audience in real-time and interact with your viewers in an authentic way.
  2. 360º video immerses your audience in your brand’s story by giving them the opportunity to navigate within your videos.
Guidelines for Great Creative