See the live video ad below.Videos are among the most engaging forms of dynamic content on the Web. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good video is probably worth a million (maybe even more). The last decade has seen embeddable video, primarily hosted on YouTube, proliferate across all sorts of online media, including ads. Online ads incorporating video ("in-banner") continues to grow, apparently with good reason. A study by Dynamic Logic suggests that online video ads are considerably more influential in driving purchase intent than other rich media ads, particularly if they were designed specifically for online media. Even repurposed TV ads aided brand awareness among viewers.

And while it's become increasingly easy to include video content in ads, the capacity for autoplay video to annoy users has also forced advertisers to think carefully about how to surface it delicately. In particular, audio that isn't user-initiated is a big no-no; in fact, it's prohibited under the IAB Display Advertising guidelines. But there are a few ways to encourage audio initiation and interaction that strengthens the quality of engagement.

YouTube in Display Ads

I've turned to my trusted Talk Like Shakespeare Day ad template to show an ad unit with three YouTube videos. Using Flite Ad Studio 3, it took about 10 minutes to transform it into a YouTube video ad.

Here are some of the display and playback options I had to choose from:

  • Resizing: The default mode is to fit the playback window within the Tab Set box, and I chose this. Other options are to fix the width or height (height and width would scale proportionally, respectively), fill, scale, or crop.
  • Poster image: I used the default supplied by YouTube, but Ad Studio does allow you to upload a custom image to replace it.
  • Show controls: Playback controls, including the scrub bar, show always by default. I chose to show them only on hover. You can also choose to hide them altogether.
  • Autoplay: The default is to have autoplay off, but in the default tab, I chose to autoplay the video (in the other two tabs, I turned off autoplay). The autoplay begins without a delay (although you can specify the number of seconds to delay playback by). Audio is muted, with a "play with sound" button enabled. My goal in these selections is to make the video playback noticeable, but leave control over audio with the user.
  • Looping: I went with the default setting, no looping. You can specify the number of loops, or for it to loop forever.
  • Video title: I chose to not display a title, but there's an option to show a title, which overlays the top portion of the video, and specify what that title is. There are font formatting controls for this, too.

YouTube in Mobile Ads

Creating a YouTube embedded video ad using Touch Ad Studio, the creative suite for creating mobile web and in-app ads, was similar, since Ad Studio 3 (for display ads) and Touch Ad Studio are almost identical in terms of their interface. To deal with the reduced footprint of a mobile screen, most ads involve expansion. In the example I created below, the 320x50 banner expands to a 320x250 YouTube on touch. (You must use a WebKit-enabled browser, like Apple's Safari or Google's Chrome, if viewing in a desktop environment)

The available display and playback options for mobile video ads is more limited, and playback controls show always. Autoplay is not possible, and video and audio play must be user initiated through a tap on the play icon.

With a number of options available, the playback and display permutations are endless. However, respect for the viewer demands that video advertisers adhere to some best practices to avoid associating the advertiser with aggravation.