The best YouTube video ad examples for 2020

Yael Klass
By Yael Klass
November 27, 2019 · 14 min read

When you think “video,” you think YouTube, right?

So, it probably seems obvious that if you’re running video ads, you should also be thinking about YouTube as a channel that can help grow your business. YouTube advertising can be one of the most effective ways for brands to reach all types of consumers online. 

But, not all YouTube ads are created equal.

We’ve all had our favorite music videos or vlog interrupted by an annoying ad — and it sucks. But, chances are you’ve also seen at least one ad on YouTube that you actually found yourself watching all the way through — even after it let you click “skip”!

The best YouTube pre-roll ads are skip-proof. That means people won’t be hammering the “skip” button as soon as it pops up. They might even stick around to watch the whole thing.

So, how do you create skip-proof video ads for YouTube?

You know, the ones that capture the audience’s attention, pique their interest, and keep them engaged long enough to actually ask them to take the next step?

That’s what we’ll learn in this article.

Today, we’re going to look at why video ads on YouTube are an important part of the marketing strategy for all kinds of businesses, look at some examples of YouTube ads that are sure to offer some inspiration, and unpack best practices that top YouTube ads use to capture a viewer’s attention and get them to take action.

Let’s start by discussing what makes video ads so important in the first place.

Why Video Ads?

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already sold on the power of video ads generally.

But, just in case, let’s look at the numbers. (Numbers never lie!)

We compiled some key statistics about the power of social video that found:

  • People retain 85% more of a video message versus reading it in text
  • 70% of people say they “often visit” a publisher’s website after viewing a video
  • 4 out of 5 millennials say that video content factors into their research when making a buying decision
  • Branded video boosts purchase intent by up to 97%

That’s all to say that videos are not only popular with consumers, but they make a big splash for businesses, too. Across nearly every marketing channel, video ads outperform other formats in terms of reach, engagement, and conversion rate.

Video versus Photo Ads

On YouTube, advertisers can, of course, choose to deploy video ads. But they can also run image ads–banners the run alongside videos or even overlay on top video content.

As an advertiser, you can utilize both formats to your advantage. But, in many cases, the best YouTube ads are–unsurprisingly–videos. 

If your target audience is on YouTube already, then you can bet that they’re there to watch video content. So, banners to them–even more so than other audiences–are just a distraction from what they’ve come to see. 

We all know how annoying it can be to see the banner for a mattress floating on top of a cooking video that we’re trying to watch!

On top of that, advertisers on YouTube are only charged for a video view if the user watches at least 30 seconds of the ad. This means that, as an advertiser, you can be sure that when you’re paying for a video view, you are likely to be paying only for someone to actually watch and pay attention to your ad.

YouTube Video Ads: 8 Killer Examples

Now that we’ve unpacked the power of video ads on YouTube, let’s look at some of the best examples of a great video for the channel, what makes it so effective, and what you can learn about creating your own unforgettable video ad for YouTube.

Check out these 8 YouTube ads examples.

1. It’s a Tide ad

Why this video ad works

Ads are boring, right?

They’re the same tired cliches, tropes, and slogans–over and over and….wait a minute!

This ad is calling itself…an ad? That’s not part of the script! Who said they can do that?

This video ad from Tide is smart and savvy. It breaks the 4th wall by acknowledging–nay, proclaiming–that it is, without a doubt, an ad for Tide. Although this may feel obvious, just the fact that the brand has acknowledged that they’re advertising to the viewer breaks pretty much every advertising rule.

Oh, by the way, are you worried that your product is boring and not “fun” and “creative” like other products? We’re talking about freaking laundry soap here. It’s not the sexiest product in the world, but Tide uses surprise and humor to their advantage to pull the viewer in on the joke.

But they take it even a step further.

This isn’t just one ad–it’s a series. And each ad in the series plays on the same joke. It makes fun of the common tropes and keeps the joke going. Rather than hitting the viewer over the head with the same exact video over and over again, Tide builds a whole story, narrative, and universe!

2. Mountain Dew’s “Puppy Monkey Baby”

Why this video ad works

If you had money to invest in a Super Bowl spot, you’d want to really make it worth the money, right? Well, here’s your chance to learn from the experience. 

In this video ad from Mountain Dew, which originally aired during Super Bowl 50, you get an instant dose of, “huh?” As a viewer, you’re immediately hooked by the odd visuals (a puppy + monkey + baby?) and the catchy tune. But, you really have no clue how or why it relates to Mountain Dew until the end of the video.

Because of the extra mystery, there’s no way you’d skip this ad–you’d be too busy trying to figure out what’s going on! 

It’s weird. It’s catchy. It’s unforgettable. 

3. Deliveroo for business

Why this video ad works

At first blush, this 30-second spot for Deliveroo may seem like just another ad. But, what makes it effective for YouTube is the combination of quick-hit promotion (you know right away that you’re watching an ad from Deliveroo) and the quirky humor deployed here. 

As with many forms of advertising, the key to an effective YouTube ad is to break the viewer’s normal pattern of thought–surprise and delight them in a novel way.

It may not even be apparent the first time you see the ad, but they’ve turned food–like the kind you may have delivered by Deliveroo–into the stars of the show. No, there aren’t smiling office workers taking a big bite of a burrito. The whole ad is framed as if the food itself as employees–a play on their tagline, “food that works for you.”

It’s a bit strange, admittedly. 

But, once you catch on to the humor at play, it’s clear why this is one of the best YouTube pre-roll ads examples around.

4. HomePod

Why this video ad works

The video begins by thrusting you–the viewer–into a story. You’re not exactly sure what’s happening, but you instantly resonate with the feeling of isolation and loneliness that the character is feeling. 

This works so beautifully because it taps into our collective feeling of being surrounded by people and yet somehow alone–invisible. It’s story-driven and relatable.

Of course, coming home to an Apple HomePod that listens to you and knows what kind of music you like feels like an oasis. Cue the product–now it’s a promotion. 

But, just when it starts to feel like an ad, it kicks into phase 2 and keeps the viewer hooked with the wild visual journey and catchy music. What begins as a simple look at how Apple’s HomePod can feel like more than just a piece of technology becomes more like a trippy music video.

Finally, just as you’re really into the performance that’s unfolding, everything comes full circle. We’re reminded that the experience was created by the product–HomePod–and left with a sense of joy and wonder that just might have you ready to order your own smart speaker.

So, what’s the takeaway here? 

First — using a story-driven narrative can instantly hook your viewer. Secondly, as the viewer’s attention begins to wane, there’s something new and different around the corner–another twist to keep them engaged. Great video ads use timing and pacing to keep the viewer hanging on until the end.

5. H&M

Why this video ad works

Who says your video ad has to be all about your product?

H&M plays it cool with a cozy, holiday-themed spot. It feels more like a short firm (and by Wes Anderson, the master of aesthetic) than a pushy marketing message. The concept and the execution are pretty simple, but it feels both entertaining and unique — not two words that describe most ads out there.

For your purposes, you might consider this a lesson on how you can lead with interesting content rather than a heavy-handed marketing message.

6. Ikea’s lamp ad

Why this video ad works

Here we have a classic heart-string-tugging ad–but with a twist!

Ikea’s iconic ad uses an interesting story and perfectly-placed music to set the mood. The combination of visuals and sounds make it impossible for you to feel anything but sadness about the lamp being put out to the curb.

Then, just as you’re looking for the resolution in the story, your entire thought process is interrupted — you’re jarred out of the scene and reminded what you’re actually watching. It’s surprising at first, but you can’t help but chuckle at the message — and yourself, for being so attached an inanimate lamp. 

Story rules the day here, and then the added twist makes the ad memorable.

7. Mac vs PC

Why this video ad works

Probably one of the most famous video ad examples of all time is the Mac vs PC series.

In each video, they quickly set the stage for what’s happening — one character represents a Mac computer (or another Apple device) and the other represents a PC (or another Windows device).

Right away, the two characters are visually distinct. It’s clear the PC feels a bit outdated and stiff–maybe boring–while the Mac character is hip, casual, and comfortable.

This is, of course, an iconic series of ads. Once the pattern has been established, the videos follow a very similar format, but the message changes. From Mac’s integrations with other devices to its reliability, the same video format can be used over and over again — but without necessarily feeling boring and repetitive. 

As a viewer, you instinctively know there will be a punchline to each ad, even if you aren’t sure what it means.

This repetition is what draws you in. Because you feel like part of the inside-crowd that gets the message, you’re excited for each new version to unravel. 

As an advertiser, you can create your own series of ads that slowly reveal a full narrative to the viewer, keeping them engaged and building more brand awareness and loyalty over time. 

8. Seriously strong cheddar

Why this video ad works

Have you ever thought you’d feel the emotions of a mouse? Probably not!

But, this ad does a great job of making you feel a range of emotions. It also almost feels like you are the mouse in the ad.

First, you’re filled with a mix of dread, anticipation, and anxiety. The music sounds happy, but you know that a mouse eating cheese from a trap is a recipe for disaster.

Then, it happens. Snap!

The music changes. The mood shifts. You feel sad for the mouse–stuck, helpless.

Then, just as quickly, the music changes again. The story has come full circle and the mouse, it turns out, was never in any danger at all. You breathe a sigh of relief, chuckle, and finally, it all makes sense. The ad was for cheese that’s just as strong as the mouse that can make its way out of a trap.

Nolan’s plays on the power of music, timing, and anticipation to create an ad that hooks you instantly and leaves you thinking about it all day.

Best Practices for Creating Awesome YouTube Video Ads

Now that we’ve looked at some awesome examples for creative video ads, let’s look at how you can execute your own campaign for maximum success.

Here are some YouTube ads best practices for creating skip-proof videos

1. You’ve got 5 seconds to hook me

There’s a 5-second window when every ad starts that will either make or break its success.

It’s the time before the “Skip” button lets them pass right over your ad without a second thought.

This is your window and your opportunity to hook the viewer. You need to convince them that whatever video they are able to watch (or already watching) can wait.

Admittedly, this is a tough feat.

We’ve all been conditioned to ignore, skip, and tune-out ads.

So, you need to use something that shocks, entertains, delights, or confuses (in a good way!) the viewer just enough to pass the Skip-test. If your ad can survive those initial 5 seconds, then you’re on your way to success!

2. Create a clear call-to-action

Chances are, if you’re paying money to run a video ad, you want the viewer to do something, right? 

Ideally, the person will watch the video and then click a link or visit your website to make a purchase, book a demo, or request more information. But, chances are they’ll never take that step if you don’t ask them to do it!

Make sure you include a clear call to action within your video and give the viewer the next step. It could be to click a link, visit a website, subscribe to your channel, or just watch another video!

3. Generate brand awareness by showing your name and logo early

Even if someone doesn’t watch your entire video or click on your call to action, you want them at least to remember your brand. Brand awareness is a great primary goal or secondary objective for most video ad campaigns

Data from Facebook found that videos that revealed the brand name and logo within the first 3 seconds led to a 23% lift in aided brand recall (a measure of brand awareness) compared to ads that didn’t include the brand name and logo.

4. Make your video short (but not too short)

It may not be necessary for your video to be super short!

In fact, if you do a good job of hooking and engaging the viewer, longer videos can actually drive more action and engagement than shorter videos. 

In an analysis conducted by Wistia, they found that 2-minute videos were the cut-off in most cases. Videos 2 minutes and under received the maximum level of engagement and anything longer leads to a significant drop-off.

So, you want your video to be short. But it doesn’t need to be so short that you can’t communicate a clear message. If you nail all of the other parts, then you can get away with a longer video that goes more in-depth and creates more value for your viewer!

Kick-Start Your YouTube Video Ads with Promo Templates

Ready to jump in?

Check out these 3 ready-to-use templates from and you’ll be half-way home to creating engaging, skip-proof videos for your own ad campaign!

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About the author

Yael Klass

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