How To Set Up a Killer YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Campaign

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If you want to gain exposure to a new audience, then advertising on YouTube is a great ad platform to experiment with. With more than 1 billion unique visitors each month, you’re going to get your message across to your intended target.  DigitalSherpa also collected a lot of great stats about video including the following.

  • Video increases people’s understanding about a product or service by 74%.
  • An average video consumer spends 16 minutes watching video ads each month.
  • 80% of Internet users remember the video ads they watch online.

One of the best statistics about video advertisements was shared on – consumers are 27 times more likely to click on a video ad than a banner ad. This means that you might want to skip the banner display ads this month and try out YouTube instead.

What Are Pre-Roll Ads

If you’ve watched a video anywhere lately, especially on YouTube, you’ve likely already experienced a pre-roll ad. It’s simply the commercial-like video that precedes the video you want to watch. YouTube refers to them as In-Stream video advertisements.

In-stream ads are generally 15, 30, or 60 seconds in length and are inserted into videos by YouTube partners. You can choose from a variety of in-stream ad options based on your goals and budget. Popular choices that are mobile-friendly include the following.

  • TrueView in-stream ads – Ads that let viewers choose to view or skip after five seconds. Advertisers pay only when a viewer has watched the full ad, or a minimum of 30 seconds of it.
  • In-stream select ads – Ads that let viewers choose to view or skip after five seconds. Advertisers reserve the ad inventory and are charged whenever their ad loads, regardless of whether a viewer skips it after five seconds.
  • Standard in-stream ads – Ads that are not skippable and generally are 15 – 30 seconds long, depending on the length of the video they are preceding.

You can learn about additional in-stream ad options in the YouTube In-Stream Ads sales document.

Specifications for Pre-Roll Video Ads

The basic specification for using a new or previously uploaded YouTube video as a pre-roll ad is that the video that is public and embeddable with a minimum resolution of 480×360 (4:3 aspect ratio) or 640×360 (16:9 aspect ratio), and filmed at a 30 FPS. Ads must be family safe, and the destination URLs they promote must not contain non-family or adult content.

How to Create Your Pre-Roll Ad Video

YouTube offers a guide on how to create a great pre-roll ad video, which includes a checklist of equipment you will need plus nine tips on creating a great video. The best tip out of the bunch is to make sure you grab your audience’s attention within the first five seconds so they don’t skip your ad.

How to Create a Pre-Roll Ad Campaign

To create a video pre-roll ad campaign, you will want to create your video ad, upload it to YouTube, and then set up your campaign in your Google AdWords account by creating a new Online Video campaign.

create preroll ad campaign adwords

If you are familiar with a Google AdWords ad campaign setup, this is going to be a familiar process. You will choose standard or accelerated delivery of your ad, specific networks to show your ad upon (YouTube Search, YouTube Videos, and/or the Google Display Network), and the language / location of your targeted audience. The ad creative in this case will be a link to your YouTube video.


You will also want to configure the Advanced Settings to specify the duration of your ad, the goal of your ad (views or conversions), number of impressions for each unique viewer, and device targeting.

create preroll ad campaign adwords


Following this, you will be able to set up your targeting groups based on age, gender, interests, videos on specific topics, remarketing (people who have visited your website), keywords, and specific video placements on YouTube and the Google Display Network.

YouTube Advertiser Case Studies

Want to hear how brands like GoPro, HGTV, Dove, ModCloth, and others have leveraged YouTube? Watch this selection of YouTube Advertiser Case Studies to find out, and apply some of their tips to your own video campaigns!


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  • AnaCe’

    Thank you for this.
    I have to develop a presentation for Video Production class (related to my advertising & marketing communications) and I’ve had great difficulty in sourcing adequate detailed guides on how to set up a pre-roll video.

    This example is clean and clear. Perfect.