Matthew Soakell
Matthew Soakell 6 December 2019

How To Be Unskippable - The Past, Present & Future of Video Advertising

YouTube advertising is quickly becoming a huge part of an online advertiser's digital marketing mix. But why has this happened and how do you best make use of this channel? Matthew Soakell will answer these questions for you.

Do you know why people love Netflix?

There are no adverts.

You pay your monthly subscription fee, get access to a ridiculous amount of films, TV shows and documentaries, and you don’t see a single advert whilst using it.

Compare that to TV and YouTube, and we either watch our favourite series’ on-demand and skip through the adverts, or we absolutely detest the dreaded ads we face before the video we’re about to watch on YouTube. 

You know the ones I’m referring to.

You can’t wait to skip.

You know where to place your mouse as the countdown is heading towards ‘Skip ad’ so that you don’t have to waste another millisecond seeing the latest model of Jaguar you can’t afford or skinny people with questionable eyebrows modelling designer makeup. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

If you work in online advertising or have a general interest in advertising, strap yourself in for a brief history of YouTube and its ads, the fortune that could be being wasted on traditional methods of advertising and how to create kick-ass, unskippable video content.

A Brief History of YouTube

Fast forward to the present day and YouTube have tens of thousands of partners, with YouTube personalities sometimes making hundreds of thousands of pounds a year - sometimes millions. It is believed that more video is uploaded to YouTube in a 60-day date range than the video that the three major US television networks have created in the last 60 years. Staggering.

What’s even more intriguing is that users tend to pay attention to online video ads three times more than they do TV ads.

A Case For YouTube

Let’s take a step back and evaluate some traditional methods of advertising; my main concern is the measurement. When I got into the paid search industry, it was clear from the outset that you can measure what your return quite easily. Set a budget, create some ads, apply conversion tracking, optimise the bids and you have a relatively fool-proof way of making sure you know what you’ve spent and what you’ve got back; even if that’s absolutely nothing, at least you’re not in the dark about it.

When we compare this rigid, tracking-orientated way of doing things to how the world of television advertising works, or radio for that matter, there are quite a few holes you can pick with the reasoning and justification of advertising on these more traditional mediums.

Whether it’s radio or TV, there are a few combined flaws, which YouTube doesn’t lend itself to too badly. Firstly, the cost. Both TV ads and YouTube ads have potentially substantial production costs, although typically YouTube production costs will be less. However, once you get production costs out the way,  daytime slots on major TV shows in the UK can easily be £3,000+. Yes, the reach of these adverts is huge - potentially millions of people - but there's something for us to address in terms of who gives a flying… a little later.

Where peak evening viewing is concerned, we can see from the graphic below just how costly a 30-second advertisement can set you back:


And it’s this, the measurement, where I’m most sceptical. If you spend £25,000 on a series of TV & radio ads, both aimed at the same core demographic, how do you know what you’ve attained from this?

Did you see an increase in footfall in your local store?

Did your website get more traffic during this period?

Was it the radio ad or the TV ad that brought about that spike in traffic?

How do you measure the increase in sales without possibly being too generous or optimistic when accrediting the revenue generated from the various sources of advertising?

Whilst you can track and measure certain success to a degree, it can become hard to quantify precise amounts of data with traditional methods of advertising. Let’s say 100,000 people see or hear your ad; out of that number what percentage are interested in your product/offering? Granted you can target specific channels and listeners, but how many of them are truly interested and will action something off the back of it?

When was the last time you heard an advert on the radio and bought something straight after hearing it? Or think about TV ads - there are some amazingly clever and catchy TV adverts - but how frequently do you see something and buy it immediately after seeing an advert during Tenable, Tipping Point or Take Me Out?

Creating Killer Content

I totally appreciate that some of you have got to this point and are saying “Yes, but I also can’t remember the last time I bought something from a YouTube ad”, and that’s fair enough, but there could be a very good reason for that. That very good reason is often as simple as advertisers and agencies not doing it right.

Where YouTube ads are concerned, you can choose to target specific keywords, topics, placements, audiences, demographics, the list goes on. Within audiences, you can target videos to only show to in-market audiences, so if you know someone is interested in renovating their home and you sell decorating supplies or home furnishings, then these are the people you need to be showing your ads to.

While the pot of people who will see your ads is smaller than those watching TV or listening on radios, they’re also much more likely to be interested, engaged and therefore more likely to action something off the back of your ad.

The key to creating good YouTube ads is actually easier than it might sound. Your ad needs to explain who you are and show off your business, whilst giving viewers a way to take action - this can be easily done by adding a call to action like 'Shop Now' or 'Learn More' when creating the ads in Google Ads.


According to Google/Ipsos, users are two times more likely to pay attention to ads on YouTube than other social media - I think partially because they expect them more and are more comfortable and accepting of them on YouTube. Despite this though, you need to win the first five seconds and make your ad unskippable. Once, reach was scare and attention was plentiful, however in the world, we live in reach is plentiful but attention is scarce.

Since it's believed Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 73% of internet traffic by 2021, make sure your content looks good on a range of screens. Not only that, but ensure your creative matches the objectives of the ad campaign.

For example, if you are wanting to increase awareness of your brand:

  • Have the brand mentioned and shown early and often in the video

If you are wanting someone to consider an action:

  • Integrate brand cues in a subtle way, and keep the full reveal of your brand until later on in the ad

To drive active intent:

  • Open with a problem statement or question and then explain that you have the solution to that and make sure to include a very clear call to action (CTA) towards the end of the video. 

If you want someone to take action after seeing your video:

  • Have an offer at the start of the video, but make sure you repeat this later in the video so that those who haven't skipped the video are reminded of what you want them to do. Again, having a clear CTA is extremely important.

Now Is The Time To Take Advantage

When we look at the TV shows that pulled in the biggest audience on Christmas Day in the last 20 years, we see a huge shift in viewing behaviour:

It turns out that TV cannot deliver in the same way it did previously, purely because user behaviour has changed. Cisco expects that by 2021 video will make up 82% of the global data traffic. This will be up from 73% in 2016, which shows the incredible rate at which online video is growing. Since YouTube currently reaches 82% of the UK online population, there's never been a better time to not only question traditional mediums of advertising but to also consider the YouTube audience that is already out there and waiting for you.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to read more of my thoughts and opinions on all things PPC, then please visit the Mabo Blog or follow me via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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