How to Serve Video Ads with Google Ad Manager?

Updated on: December 21, 2023
Video ads are a great way to catch users' attention and increase CPMs and revenue.

Video ads are awesome because they get people to pay attention to a brand message immediately. Video is fun and exciting to watch, but it can also be intimidating as an advertising technique if you’re unsure how to run videos. 

Running video ads in Google Ad Manager used to be pretty limited, but now you can show video ads to your audience easily. This blog post shows how to use these video features to achieve more views and increase engagement. But before diving into the video ad creation process, let’s look at the video ad types supported in Google’s ad server.

Types of Video Ads in Google Ad Manager

First thing first. Before setting up video ads on Google Ad Manager, you must know what type of ad you want to run. You can serve three types of video ads:

  1. Linear ads – Pre-roll, Mid-roll, and Post-roll,
  2. Non-linear ads – Overlay, Non-overlay, and
  3. Companion ads.

Linear Ad – A linear ad is one of the types of in-stream video ads that run sequentially in line with the video content and can be displayed before, after, or during a break in the video content. Also, these video ads require a video player to play the ad content.

Non-linear Ad – A non-linear video ad is also an in-stream ad displayed with video content without disturbing the playback. Such types of ads can take the form of images, text, or rich media. 

Also, it is of two types – an overlay and a non-overlay ad. Overlay ads run on top of a video ad covering 20% of the video content on a streaming service like YouTube. In contrast, non-overlay ads run with the video content concurrently without overlaying the content.

Companion Ad – Companion ads are the display ads that get displayed around the video player, website content, or anything else that is present on the given web page. Such ads run on the website without overwhelming the site’s existing content.

However, to get started with Ad Manager video ads, there are a few prerequisites that should be considered:

  1. The website URL should be secured and supports both HTTP and HTTPS.
  2. Suppose you aren’t using Google IMA SDK (to put it another way, a player integrated with Google IMA SDK). In that case, you have to insert the following macros in the ad tag (master video ad tag) manually:
  • Url = [referrer_url] that defines the web page URL where the video ad will appear.
  • Correlator = [timestamp], which shows the timestamp of the page view.

Also, if you want to serve video ads via Ad Exchange, you must have Google IMA SDK, responsible for requesting and parsing the VAST response from Google Ad Manager. The optimal way is to get a player that supports IMA SDK; in fact, many do

Now, let’s start setting up video ads in Google Ad Manager.

How to Get Started with Video Ads in Google Ad Manager?

  • Create a video ad unit
  • Generate video ad tags
  • Create a video line item
  • Add creative sets to video line items

While basic features for video advertising are available for Ad Manager, advanced features are available for Google Ad Manager 360 publishers. Also, a few features can only be used by Google Ad Manager 360 Advanced publishers. As we mentioned, contact your account manager to enable it. 

Step #1: Create a Video Ad Unit

This is a quite straightforward process.

  • Sign in to your Google Ad Manager account, and go to Inventory > Ad units. Then, click on New ad unit, and select either One level below network or Current level to create an ad unit below a selected ad unit or at the same hierarchy level.
  • Enter a code that helps to identify the ad unit in the associated ad tag—for example, mywebsite_sports_home. 
  • Then, enter a Name and Description for the ad unit. Select the ad unit size, i.e., Fixed size or Smart banner. (Smart banner is for mobile app inventories).

Select Ad Unit Size

  • Click on the Video (VAST) sizes and enter the master and companion sizes. While master size is mandatory to select, you can skip companion size. Master size is a video ad player’s default resolution (i.e., 640x480v or 400x300v). Here, “v” indicates that the ad unit can play video ad units. Also, companion size is available on the same web page for companion ad slots.

Select Video Ad Size

  • Select the target window, which defines the browser’s opening of the landing page. Select top if you want to open the landing page in the same window or blank to get it opened in a new window.
  • Then go to the Frequency caps. You can set capping value at ad unit and creative (label) levels here.

Select Frequency of Ads

Step # 2: Generate Ad Manager

 Video Ad Tags.

  • Select the ad units for which you want to generate ad tags. After selecting all the video ad units, click on Generate tags
  • Select the tag type—for instance, Google Publisher Tags for Video.
  • Select the Player SDK type. Select the option from the drop-down menu using Google IMA SDK. In the adapter, you can choose the adapter. If you don’t monetize your Ad Exchange traffic and don’t have an SDK, go with no SDK.
  • And then click continue
  • From targeting the Description URL (the page where the video will be rendered) to companion sizes, you can add the tag parameters in this step. Here, you must enable Content targeting to serve relevant video ads based on the content. While the rest of the settings are optional, ensure Child-directed and Limit to non-personalized ads to comply with COPPA and other privacy laws.
  • At last, you’ll be provided with a Video master tag and a Companion tag* (if the Companion sizes are selected while creating the ad units).

These tags help the server to display linear, non-linear, and companion video ads. Now, share the master video ad tag with your video player, which will help it to retrieve the video ad.

Step # 3: Create a Video line item.

To create a line item, you need to define orders first. So, create the orders as explained in this article. After this, follow the below steps to create line items: 

  • Enter a name for the line item and select Video VAST.
  • Then, select the master size and companion size for the video ads. After this, define the line item priority and type.
  • Set the frequency cap. And define the targeting criteria for the line item.

You can use Content, Position, and Request platform targeting for video ads. Since targeting is the factor that decides where and how your video ad content is going to be served, we’ll explain this in detail.

Content Targeting: Through content targeting, publishers can display and target video ads to the video content based on the information collected through metadata or content bundles*. Metadata acts as keywords with the help of which publishers can target their video ads to the specific video content. In contrast, bundles help publishers group videos into bundles and target the ads to the bundles.

*Note that you need to connect your content source (CMS) to Google Ad Manager and create metadata/bundles for targeting while creating video line items. 

How to Connect Your Video Content to Google Ad Manager?

To access the content ingestion feature, a publisher needs to connect the Ad Manager account with the video content source or content management system. Once this step is done, follow the below steps to define your content source.

  • Go to the Video > Content sources > New source.
  • Enter the source name and select the content source type. Select MRSS Feed, Ooyala, and Brightcove. If you’re working with Brightcove or Ooyala, enter credentials provided by the player, such as Client ID, Account ID, etc. If you’re working with other players, select MRSS Feed.
  • Select the Sync rule, i.e., Automatic or Manual

Position Targeting: Position targeting helps publishers target video line items to specific video positions (before, mid, or after video content), determine when the video ads play during a session, for how long it will be played, etc. If you don’t define position targeting, the video ads can be displayed in any position according to the specified ad rules. 

Ad rules

So, if you haven’t created ad rules, follow the steps below to do the same.

  • Go to Google Ad Manager and click Video > Ad rules > New ad rule.
  • Then, select a name for the ad rule and the type of ad rule, i.e., Standard or Session. Session ad rules are applied to a user’s entire visit to your content and are meant for pre-roll video ads only, while standard rules are applied to a single stream of the content and cover pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll video ads. Selecting the ad rule type will open a new section on the same page where you can enter the details for the video ads.
  • Go to the Settings section on the same page and select the time for the ad rule to begin and end.
  • In the next section, you can select targeting capabilities such as video content, inventory, geography, browsing, user domains, etc.
  • At last, select Save.

Now that you have defined ad rules, it’s time to enable these rules for the video ad inventories. To do it, follow the steps given below:

  • Go to the Google Ad Manager home page, then Admin > Video > Video setting.
  • Then, enable Ad rules. And click Save.

Note: If you cannot see content ingestions and ad rule options in your Ad Manager interface, contact your Google account manager to enable these services.

Request Platform Targeting: This feature enables publishers to target video line items to specific request platforms. With the help of this, you can choose to display video ads in a video player (in-stream video ads) or render them as in-banner video ads (out-stream video ads).

Note: You can also do this [request platform targeting] via “Inventory type” in the new Google Ad Manager UI. 

Step # 4: Add creative sets to video line items.

Once you finish line items, you must add creative sets to them. To do that, follow the steps given below:

  • Go to Delivery > Line item. Select the video line item you created and want to add a creative set here.
  • Click on Add creative sets > New creative set. After this, select the desired advertiser. Then, select Video VAST, and enter the master size. Companion ad size is optional, as we said before. Then, click Continue.
  • Now, enter a name for the creative set and select the creative set type as “Redirect, ” a third-party hosted ad creative that can serve linear, non-linear, or overlay ads.
  • And, then, Save.

This will expand the creative section where you can enter the details such as VAST tag URL, duration, third-party tracking URLs, etc., provided by the advertiser (or a video player – if you’re selling your impressions via video player bidding or video header bidding). Then, upload the creative in the field.

After saving the details and uploading the creative, you can preview the video line item. Also, you can confirm the association of creative sets with a particular line item by clicking on the tab Associations.

Further, linear video ad creatives can be hosted by Google Ad Manager or done by an external host.

Adding creatives using Google Ad Manager’s new UI:

In the new UI (refer to below), you can select “Redirect” after selecting the advertiser. 

Once you select Redirect, you’ll be taken to a page where you can add VAST Tag URL, video ad sizes, redirect type (video or overlay or both), and add companion ads.

Once you finish the abovementioned steps, you can serve video ads through Google’s ad server. However, there is one more task we didn’t discuss before, i.e., the insertion of video ad tags into a Google IMA SDK-compliant player.

How to Run Video Ads in Google Ad Manager?

To run Video Ads or Video content on the website, Publishers must have enabled a Video Player. Indeed, Integrating video players with Google IMA SDK will be highly beneficial for the publishers, as it supports all types of video templates by IAB, i.e., VAST, VPAID & VMAP.

How Do Google Ad Manager and Video Player Work Together?

Google IMA SDK is necessary to serve Ad exchange ads and enable exchange bidding in dynamic allocation for video line items. The SDK is responsible for interacting with the video player and Ad Manager. So, let’s try to understand how the ad server and video player interact and serve video ads on the page.

  1. After the web page gets loaded, the script tag embedded into the video player loads the IMA SDK for the web page. This IMA SDK requests the Ad Manager to return a VAST response* for the specific ad unit.
  2. Ad Manager sends the VAST response with its URL to the IMA SDK. Then, the SDK parses the returned VAST response and selects the best media type based on the surrounding. After this, the SDK retrieves the video ad creative.
  3. After negotiating the details with the IMA SDK, the video player plays the ad, and then the SDK fires an impression ping.

*Google Ad Manager then passes the requests to Google Ad Exchange or other third-party exchanges (via Open Bidding) to get VAST responses, and then it passes the best VAST response to the SDK (highest paying ad).

Google recommends publishers use their own IMA SDKs, and besides, a few video players, such as Brightcove, Ooyala, etc., are compliant with VAST/VPAID or already have integrated SDKs to the player. So, in such cases, to begin with video advertising, all you need is a valid master video ad tag and a player that has turned on advertising. 

Sidenote: To monetize Google AdX video inventory, Google IMA SDK is mandatory.

Also, read Video Ad Standards by IAB

What’s Next?

Google Ad Manager video ad setup and implementation can get complicated, especially because error rates and page latency could hamper your UX. That being said, it is worth a try. By being here, we can see that you are already taking the right steps to increase the revenue. Many large and mid-sized publishers, including BuzzFeed, Pitchfork, and The New York Times, have already added programmatic video ads to their programmatic ad strategy, increasing the overall yield.

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