Five years of TrueView: How ads became the ones to watch

April 2015

Five years ago, YouTube launched its 'skippable' ads, prompting brands to create videos that people would enjoy and choose to watch.

With video ads on YouTube, brands have the tools to connect creatively and effectively with the right people at the right moments. Since the launch of skippable TrueView ads five years ago, ads have moved from background noise to content, with YouTube featuring many iconic campaigns from the Old Spice Man to the epic split that launched a thousand splits.

Why? Because brands have rapidly upped their game to encourage viewers to engage with their content. As a result, it's now common to see videos that feel less like ads and more like entertainment. It's content that people enjoy, share and actively seek out - in fact, last year four of the top 10 trending videos were created by brands.

Enjoying the views

This burst in creativity from brands on YouTube has been rewarded with users watching ads far more than before. In the last year alone, the top 100 global brands generated 42% more views per month on YouTube1.

All 100 of these brands have run TrueView ads2 in the past year. New advertisers are also flocking to join the party; the number of advertisers using TrueView shot up by 45% in 20143.

It seems the model works well for everyone. Viewers can choose what they want to watch, advertisers can find the audiences they want, and content creators continue to fund great content with an ad experience based on user choice.

"We can see this pattern across video advertising in general," says Derek Scobie, Google's Head of Brand Propositions. "The choice and control that people now have over what they view has actually opened up new opportunities for brands — that's why we're seeing so many creative ads, ones that actually entertain and are shared. By recognising that viewers can choose, and by stepping up to this challenge with engaging and relevant content, brands are winning more of the moments that matter for consumers."

Earning more interest

So what are the tangible benefits for these advertisers? Although being able to measure views was a unique differentiator when TrueView launched, viewing figures are now only part of the story. The last five years have brought new measurement tools that provide greater accountability, helping marketers make better-informed decisions.

December 2013 saw the introduction of Earned Actions, which enables brands to track the actions people take after the initial view, such as subscribing or sharing. And in February 2014 came Brand Lift, which measures brand metrics such as ad recall, brand awareness and 'brand interest'.

Using the number of Google searches for a brand as a benchmark, the Brand Lift tool can measure TrueView's impact on brand interest. A study of 800 YouTube campaigns showed that 65% of them boosted interest significantly, with an average lift of 13%.

"By giving users control of their viewing experience on Youtube, TrueView has allowed millions of potential UK viewers to engage with our best content," confirms Gareth Davies, Head of Digital and Social Media at Sky. "It has played a key role in the overall success of shows like Fortitude."

Upwardly mobile

TrueView campaigns work across all platforms and 95% of TrueView advertisers have run campaigns across screens. Mobile is helping brands to reach more people in the right place at the right time — and with half of all YouTube views now on mobile devices, it has become central to almost every campaign.

What's more, YouTube has found that mobile campaigns perform just as well as desktop and that users are highly engaged with the content. It's also introducing new ways for brands to take advantage of mobile's unique attributes, such as the App promotion feature that allows brands to promote their apps directly from their TrueView videos. As more and more businesses are being built mobile-first, video is emerging as a great way to tell their story.

In the past 5 years, ads have gone from something that people fast forward to something they choose to watch. For the proof, go to the YouTube Ads Leaderboard. A round-up of the UK's most popular YouTube ads each month, it's a rich source of entertainment, creative inspiration and insight into what's working for brands right now.


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