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How to Get Started with Google Ad Manager Video Ads?

Google Ad Manager Video Ads
Programmatic video ads are poised to grow. Are you ready to capitalize on the increasing demand? If so, here's a comprehensive guide to help you set up and run video ads via Google Ad Manager.

According to a report by eMarketer, advertisers will spend approximately $34.92 billion on programmatic video ads. In fact, video ads will account for 49.9% of the total US digital display ad spending. So, if you haven’t started with video ads, then it’s high time to do it. If you already have a Google Ad Manager account with video solutions enabled, then you can go ahead with the following setup to start serving video ads on the website.

Table of Content

How Many Types of Video Ads Supported in Google Ad Manager?

First thing first. Before setting up video ads on Google DFP, it is necessary to know what type of video ad you would like to run. With Google Ad Manager (DFP), you can serve three types of video ads:

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

Linear Ad – A linear ad is one of the types of in-stream video ads that runs in line with the video content sequentially 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.

Linear Video Ad

Non-linear Ad – A non-linear video ad is also an in-stream video ad that gets displayed along 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 the top of a video ad covering 20% of the video content present on a streaming service like YouTube. Whereas non-overlay ads run with the video content concurrently without overlaying the content.

Non-linear Video Ad

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 existing content of the site.

Companion Ads

However, to get started with DFP 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. If you aren’t using Google IMA SDK (to put it another way, a player integrated with Google IMA SDK), you have to insert the following macros in the ad tag (master video ad tag) manually:
  • Url = [referrer_url] that defines the URL of the web page 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, then it is mandatory to have Google IMA SDK which is responsible for requesting and parsing the VAST response from Google Ad Manager. The optimal way is to get a player that supports IMA SDK and in fact, many do

Now, let’s start with the setup of video ads in Google Ad Manager.

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

  • 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 DFP Small Business publishers, advanced features are available for Google Ad Manager 360 publishers. Also, there are a few features that can only be used by Google Ad Manager 360 Advanced publishers. As we mentioned previously, get in touch with your account manager to have it enabled. 

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 Video 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 if you want. Master size is the size of a video ad player in its default resolution (i.e. 640x480v or 400x300v). Here, “v” indicates that the ad unit is capable of playing video ad units. Also, companion size is for companion ad slots available on the same web page.

Select Master Video Ad Size

  • Select target window which defines the opening of the landing page in the browser. 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. Here, you can set capping value at ad unit level and ad creative (label) level.

Add A Labeling Rule For Video Ads

Step # 2: Generate DFP 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.

  • Now, select the Player SDK type. If you’re using Google IMA SDK, select the option from the drop-down menu. In the case of the adapter, you can choose the adapter. If you don’t want to monetize your traffic via Ad Exchange and you don’t have an SDK, then go with no SDK.


  • And, then click continue
  • From targeting to 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 if you want to serve relevant video ads based on the video content. While rest of the settings are optional, ensure Child-directed and Limit to non-personalized ads in order to comply with COPPA and other privacy laws.

Content Targeting

  • 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.

In order 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.

Video ad targeting dfp

For video ads, you can use Content targeting, Position targeting, and Request platform targeting. 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 while bundles help publishers to 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 to use them for targeting while creating video line items. 

Metadata for Content Ingestion

Content Bundles for Content Ingestion

How to Connect Your Video Content to Google Ad Manager?

To get access to 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.
  • Then, enter the source name and select the content source type. Select one out of the three options available – MRSS Feed, Ooyala, and Brightcove. So, if you’re working with Brightcove or Ooyala, enter the credentials such as Client ID, Account ID, etc. provided to you by the player. If you’re working with any other player or have your own, then 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 is going to be played, etc. If you don’t define position targeting, then the video ads can be displayed in any position according to the ad rules specified. 

Ad rules

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

  • Go to Google Ad Manager and click on Video > Ad rules > New ad rule.
  • Then, select a name for the ad rule and select 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 Google Ad Manager home page, and then Admin > Video > Video setting.
  • Then, enable Ad rules. And click Save.

Note: If you are not able to see content ingestions and ad rule options in your DFP interface, then contact your Google account manager to enable these services for your account.

Request Platform Targeting: This targeting feature enables a publisher 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. 

Inventory type

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

Once you are done with line items, you’re required to add creative sets to them. To do that, follow the steps given below:

  • Go to Delivery > Line item. Here, select the video line item you created and want to add a creative set.
  • 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” which is a third-party hosted ad creative and can serve linear, non-linear ads 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’ll be able to 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 either be hosted by Google Ad Manager (DFP) or it can be done by an external host.

Video hosting in Google Ad Manager

Adding creatives using Google Ad Manager’s new UI:

In the new UI (refer below), you can directly select “Redirect” once you’ve selected the advertiser. 

Add Video Creatives

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.

VAST Tag URL in Google Ad Manager

Once you’re done with the above-mentioned steps, you’re ready to serve video ads through Google’s ad server. However, there is one more task to do which we didn’t talk about before i.e. insertion of video ad tags into a Google IMA SDK compliant player.

How Video Ads are Run in Google Ad Manager?

In order 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 Google Ad Manager and Video Player work together with the help of IMA SDK?

To serve Ad exchange ads and enable exchange bidding in dynamic allocation for video line items, Google IMA SDK is necessary. The SDK is responsible for the interaction between 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 (DFP) 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 to use its 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 and especially, 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 and increased the overall yield.

If you get stuck in the middle or want to outsource the entire monetization to an expert, give us a shout. We’ve worked with hundreds of publishers and ran both in-stream and out-stream ads using Google Ad Manager and a customizable video player. 

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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  • May 25, 2020 at 1:40 pm
    Basel AlMasri

    I am shocked I didn’t see any comments here! this website just helped an ad network to grow! thank you so much! it’s really amazing 🙂

  • July 19, 2020 at 1:58 am

    This is the first up to date guide I have seen. However, I ran into one problem during the setup. When I generated the video tags, I didn’t get a head tag, video master tag, and companion tag. I only recieved 1 video tag and it didn’t tell me where to paste it. I don’t think I missed a step. When I generate display tags I normally get a head and body tag, but with the video it only gave me 1 tag

    • July 21, 2020 at 4:47 am

      Hi Jide,

      There has been a mistake while writing this article.

      When setting up video ads in Google Ad Manager, the user is supposed to get only one tag i.e. Video tag.

      The Companion tag will be generated if you select the “Companion sizes” for Companion ads. So, we believe you didn’t get the Companion tag because you skipped the step when creating the video ad units.

      We’re really sorry for the misunderstanding and hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.


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