A couple of weeks ago, early participants in the new AdWords for Video program gathered at the YouTube offices. The ostensible justification for the meeting was a fancy photo shoot, but YouTube executives also gave a little pep talk, laying out their vision to make video advertising available to small businesses. They even let themselves get a little dreamy, imagining a day when video might become as lucrative for Google as search.
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So what is AdWords for Video? It integrates video campaigns into the AdWords dashboard, where Google’s search and display advertisers are already bidding for and managing their campaign. So small businesses can treat video ads as just another campaign that they’re running with Google, rather than something big and scary. It could be particularly useful for the ones that already have a big presence on YouTube that they’d like to promote. Specifically, AdWords for Video allows you to buy Google’s TrueView ad units, which can appear in YouTube videos, alongside search results, and in the company’s display network.
The program was first announced publicly in September and has been beta testing with select advertisers. Today, however, AdWords for Video is having its official launch, and the program is opening to everyone.
For Group Product Manager Baljeet Singh, the program began two years ago, when he was talking with business-owning friends. Singh suggested that they advertise on YouTube, but they said it had never even occurred to them as a possibility. Naturally, Singh decided that he had to build an ad service that his friends would use, and today is the culmination of those efforts. The product has evolved over those two years, but Singh says there has been “a common thread of trying to make it easy and democratize the flow for our advertisers.” In other words, he says the aim was to continue simplifying the ad-buying process as much as possible.
The program could also become a key way for Google to monetize YouTube. The video site’s finances are the subject of ongoing speculation, with one of the challenges being user-generated content that could scare away advertisers. Singh says that by enlisting advertisers through AdWords, Google should be able to fill more of YouTube’s ad inventory — but that doesn’t mean Google will be sticking ads in front of any random video.
“There’s a set of videos that are monetizable,” Singh says. “Clearly, with more demand, that’s going to imply that more of those videos … are going to be monetized. But it won’t change the set of videos that are monetizable.”
To help get the word out, Google has appointed nine Ambassadors — businesses who have already had success with AdWords for Video, who have chosen to each mentor a nonprofit on getting started on YouTube, and who will be hosting Google+ Hangouts to share their strategies. The Ambassadors cover a pretty broad range of businesses (albeit usually ones with a strong online presence and lots YouTube videos to promote) including Berkleemusic.com (the online arm of the Berklee College of Music), online clothing retailer ModCloth, and RevZilla, a site that sells motorcycle gear. I talked to representatives from each of those three companies, and they all talked about how the program had opened their eyes to what they can do with video ads at a relatively low cost. They also had suggestions for future improvements — mainly ways to track how each video led not just to views and clicks to a website, but actual purchases.