13 minutes read

Everyone’s talking about audio advertising, and we’re all ears.

So when Google announced the launch of YouTube audio ads (it’s still in BETA, so you need to reach out to your Google sales representative if you don’t have access to it), we knew what we had to do: test it.

Our goal was to see how the latest ad type compares to the one we have used before (YouTube video ads). Because we didn’t find any case studies on this topic, we wanted to be the first ones to run this experiment.

We hope that you’ll find this case study useful and practical.


1. Overview of the experiment

2. The main differences between YouTube audio ads and YouTube video ads

3. Experiment duration & variables

4. Breakdown by locations, devices, placements, and days

5. The results

6. How to create YouTube audio ads

7. How we can improve our next campaign

8. Key takeaways


1. Overview of the Experiment

From April 13, 2021, until May 16, 2021, we ran a YouTube audio and a YouTube video ad campaign. We allocated the same budget for each campaign, using the same settings and audiences.

The message for the two ads was the same as well as the length. The only thing that was different was the design asset. This was a great opportunity for us because the main goal for these types of campaigns is brand awareness.

Since we launched the rebranding in February 2021, we wanted to continue raising awareness about Creatopy and our new positioning.

What we learned from this experiment:

  • You don’t necessarily need to find an absolute winner—try to focus on the pros of each ad type and build your campaign further based on those results;
  • Work more on the parts that didn’t perform as expected, or adjust your strategy according to those;
  • The results may vary depending on your advertising goals, so try to keep your expectations realistic.

2. What Are the Main Differences Between YouTube Audio Ads and YouTube Video Ads? 

It’s pretty simple.

With YouTube video ads, you can promote a video material, while YouTube audio ads give advertisers the option to reach their target audience through audio. You should still use images or animations, but the main focus is on the voiceover, so the audio quality should be a top priority.

Another difference between audio ads and video ads is that audio ads mostly show on music or podcast content, while video ads can appear on various channels. However, we’ll see later that the audio ads appeared on other types of channels as well.

When we talk about the differences between the two ad types, it’s important to talk a bit about the creative process as well.

The ad creation was challenging for our designers, too, since they had to consider certain aspects when creating a video ad vs. an audio ad.

According to our Brand Design Team Leader, Robert Andor, one common thing is that you need a script that is well-written before you start the ad creation.

Also, Robert’s creative thought process includes some useful insights regarding the creative steps:

For the audio ad: 

  • Ensure that the CTA and message are clearly heard, so the focus on the voiceover is crucial. In our case, we started by writing a script, paying attention to the length (15 seconds), and focusing on the main message.
  • From a creative standpoint, an audio ad is easier to make once the voiceover is done because all you need to do next is animate a few elements.
  • Creating the voiceover can be a lot of work since you need professional voice-recording hardware to make sure that you have the best audio quality.

For the video ad:

  • The design procedure needs to be more specific because the video has to be in harmony with the voiceover and captivate the viewer’s attention.
  • The focus is on the visual part since it can strengthen the audio and support your message much easier.
  • When creating a video ad, it’s easier to wow your audience, as you have both audio and video elements and transitions that help you with that.
  • With a video, you can be more creative, expressive, show the product better, as well as highlight/showcase your brand.

3. Experiment Duration & Variables

Settings YouTube audio ad YouTube video ad
Duration April 13, 2021 – May 16, 2021 April 13, 2021 – May 16, 2021
Goal Brand awareness and reach Brand awareness and reach
Daily budget $100 $100
Bidding strategy Target CPM Target CPM
Total budget spent $3,399.05 $3,398.96
Targeted audience Advertising specialists Advertising specialists
Top content bid adjustment +20% +20%
Landing page creatopy.com/create/ad-builder/ creatopy.com/create/ad-builder/
The ads  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyV-aoiX2fQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGP-xxHUaD0
Duration 15 sec, non-skippable 15 sec, non-skippable
File size (recommended) Max 128 GB Max 128 GB
Aspect ratio 16:9 16:9
Resolution 3840 x 2160 (2160p) 3840 x 2160 (2160p)

As you can see, we set up the campaigns identically, using the same daily budget, audience type, voiceover, and duration for the ads. Those who clicked on the ads arrived on the same landing page.

We also added a 20% bid adjustment for our ads to appear on content that Google considers of higher quality.

According to the official Google support, on YouTube and the Display Network, you can set bid adjustments for content that has been measured by their system to be more popular. Because of this, it tends to have a greater number of impressions per day and gets a higher level of traffic and viewer engagement.

When your ad is eligible to appear on this type of content, Google Ads will use your bid adjustment to raise your bid.

What’s also worth mentioning is that the campaigns didn’t run exactly for one month, as we allowed a few days for them to start rolling.

It’s well-known that every new campaign needs some time until it gets reviewed, approved, and distributed. That’s why the date of the experiment is from April 13th until May 16th.

Some important notes:

  • Our target audience is formed by advertising specialists; more precisely, we used Custom audiences to create a list.
  • Since we’re talking about a brand awareness campaign using Google Display Network, more precisely, YouTube as a means of raising awareness, we cannot expect to focus on direct conversions—that would be the main goal for a lead generation campaign. That is why the main KPIs in this experiment are the number of impressions, reach, and frequency, as well as user engagement, which we will measure by the CTR.

4. Breakdown by Locations, Devices, Placements, and Days

Considering that brand awareness is the main goal for these types of campaigns, it’s important to mention that we did not expect many conversions. We will take a look at view-through conversions as well.

However, what’s important to measure in this case are the following: impressions, clicks, and customer engagement, meaning how many users have taken action after seeing our ad, such as clicking on an ad and getting to our landing page (CTR).

With the same setups, only the campaign type hence, the ad format being different, we wanted to see how our ads performed in terms of certain aspects.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the location.

4.1. Breakdown by locations. Top 5 countries with the most impressions

For audio ads:

Country Impressions Clicks CTR Avg CPC Avg CPM
United Kingdom 416,920 155 0.04% $10.38 $3.86
United States 247,186 102 0.04% $13.25 $5.47
Denmark 59,440 30 0.05% $7.84 $3.96
Netherlands 24,789 22 0.09% $4.80 $4.26
Switzerland 17,115 6 0.04% $11.31 $3.97

For video ads:

Country Impressions Clicks CTR Avg CPC Avg CPM
United Kingdom 327,053 537 0.16% $4.39 $7.21
Netherlands 47,320 107 0.23% $3.56 $8.04
Denmark 32,577 49 0.15% $4.97 $7.48
Canada 27,890 35 0.13% $6.86 $8.60
Switzerland 17,607 41 0.23% $2.93 $6.83

As we can see, the United Kingdom is the best-performing country when it comes to impressions, both for audio and video ads. Interestingly, there is a huge difference between the average CPC.

In the case of audio ads, the CPCs are much higher, but the average CPM is more favorable. For the video ads, it is quite the opposite—this campaign had quite high cost-per-thousand-impressions, but it cost us less for a user to click on the ad. 

Our video ad received more clicks; hence the CTR is also better. This is somehow understandable, as the main goal for a video ad is to give users an audiovisual experience, and they are more likely to click on it after watching.

The audio ads, however, work a little bit differently. That could be why we got more view-through conversions from users who heard the audio ad—they remembered the brand name or other elements and later converted.

4.2. Breakdown by device

For audio ads:

Device Impressions Clicks CTR Avg CPC Avg CPM
Mobile phones 342,287 275 0.08% $4.75 $3.82
Computers 307,381 22 0.01% $74.71 $5.35
Tablets 117,289 18 0.02% $23.51 $3.61
TV screens 5,117 0 $5.01

For video ads:

Device Impressions Clicks CTR Avg CPC Avg CPM
Mobile phones 216,411 682 0.32% $2.42 $7.63
TV screens 119,694 0 $6.64
Tablets 78,916 51 0.06% $12.23 $7.90
Computers 43,606 45 0.10% $7.28 $7.51

Since we’re living in a mobile-first era, it was no surprise that the ads received the most impressions on mobile devices in both cases. These brought us the most clicks as well, underlined by the CTRs that are highest on mobile. 

In the case of audio ads, we had an expensive average CPC on computers ($74.71), which cannot compare to the average CPC for the video ad ($7.28). Also, the CPCs are higher on all devices for the audio ad, so there’s no question that the video ad is the winner from this perspective. 

Since our bidding strategy is target CPM, Google focused on showing our ads as many times as possible for a favorable cost. In this case, the audio ad performed better as it was optimized for delivery and average CPM.

4.3. Breakdown by placement

Before drawing any conclusions, it’s important to mention that we used some negative placements from the start when setting up the campaigns.

These types of negative placements include mostly YouTube channels for kids and other display placements that our ads were previously shown. Still, without results in other campaigns, hence we considered them irrelevant. We used the same negative placements for both campaigns.

Now, let’s take a look at the placements on which our ads appeared most:

For audio ads—top 10 placements with the most impressions:

Placement Type Impressions Clicks CTR  Avg CPC Avg CPM
MrBallen YouTube channel 3981 1 0.03% 18.14 4.56
MrBeast YouTube channel 3798 0 0.00% 4.4
Luke TheNotable YouTube channel 3614 0 0.00% 3.09
Aphmau YouTube channel 3296 3 0.09% 4.8 4.37
Sidemen YouTube channel 3084 1 0.03% 11.67 3.78
Awakening Music YouTube channel 2664 1 0.04% 12.23 4.59
HALIDONMUSIC YouTube channel 2507 0 0.00% 4.77
TommyInnit YouTube channel 2363 2 0.08% 6.85 5.8
Wisp YouTube channel 2339 0 0.00% 4.33
The United Stand YouTube channel 2290 1 0.04% 6.01 2.63

For video ads—top 10 placements with the most impressions:

Placement Type Impressions Clicks CTR Avg CPC Avg CPM
MrBeast YouTube channel 5888 7 0.12% 7.12 8.46
Sidemen YouTube channel 2424 2 0.08% 8.72 7.19
SSSniperWolf YouTube channel 2115 2 0.09% 9.16 8.67
HAR PAL GEO YouTube channel 1732 5 0.29% 2.67 7.71
Flamingo YouTube channel 1715 5 0.29% 2.88 8.39
Daniel Gizmo YouTube channel 1513 4 0.26% 3.22 8.5
Dhar Mann YouTube channel 1390 3 0.22% 4.09 8.82
AJ3 YouTube channel 1210 1 0.08% 9 7.44
MiniminterClips YouTube channel 1121 1 0.09% 8.78 7.84
MrBallen YouTube channel 1107 4 0.36% 1.95 7.05

5. The Results

Before breaking down our data, let’s take a quick look at the overall results. In a nutshell, both ads had their pros and cons, just as we expected, but the most significant differences consist in the following:

KPI Audio ad Video ad
Impressions 772,083 458,628
Unique users* 661,380 412,399
Clicks 315 778
CTR  0.04% 0.17%
Avg. CPC $10.79 $4.37
Avg. CPM $4.40 $7.41
View-through conversions 6 3

*Unique users show the total number of people who saw an ad in Display or Video campaigns over a given period (Google Support)

The field of digital advertising is not so black-and-white. That is why there is no absolute winner when it comes to experiments. However, as we can see in the table above, certain results draw attention.

5.1. Audio ads

The number of impressions is much higher than in the case of video ads. Still, we received less than half of the clicks than from the video ads (315 vs. 778).

The result of a large number of impressions but a smaller number of clicks got us a low click-through rate (CTR) of 0.04%, so only this percent of people clicked the ad and actually landed on our page. Also, the average cost-per-click (CPC) was much higher for this ad format, while the average cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) was lower compared to video ads.

We also took into account the view-through conversions, which are defined by Google as follows: “[they] occur after an ad impression, if the user doesn’t interact with the ad, then later converts.” Simply put, this is a metric that measures how much your display/audio/video ad contributed to the user journey, from seeing your ad to actually converting. 

From this viewpoint, audio ads are the winner, as they recorded six view-through conversions (VTC) compared to three in the case of video ads. We measured VTC conversion types that contributed to goal completions, such as sign-ups or begin checkout.

5.2. Video ads

Considering that the average CPM for the video ads is higher compared to audio ads ($7.41 vs. $4.40), it’s understandable that we received fewer impressions for the same budget.

The CPM for audio ads might be lower because it’s a new campaign type, with placements that can be reached only with this type of campaign. Since this campaign type is still in beta, the competition is lower, so the costs can be lower too.

Still, the number of clicks is higher for the video ads; hence the CTR is also better. What caught our attention in the case of video ads is the cost per click.

It cost us an average of $4.37 for a user to get to the landing page after clicking on our ad. This is much more favorable than the price we paid for the audio ads ($10.79).

When we started this experiment, our main goal was to compare the new feature Google rolled out to the one we usually use. The aim of both campaigns was to raise awareness about Creatopy, which we actually achieved with both. 

  • We reached a large number of users both with the video and audio ad (although the audio ad had much more impressions);
  • Both ad types brought us view-through conversions, but the audio ad brought us six compared to three coming from the video ad;
  • The audio ad performed better in terms of impressions and unique users reached, while the video ad brought us more clicks to the landing page and a higher CTR (0.17% vs. 0.04% for audio ads);
  • Since both ads were 15-sec non-skippable, we cannot talk about the percentage of the videos that were seen.

To get a better understanding, here’s a more visual breakdown of the pros and cons in the case of our experiment:

Variables Audio ad Video ad
Impressions
Unique users
Clicks
CTR
VTC

6. How to Create YouTube Audio Ads

Because this feature is still in BETA, you can access it once you talk to your Google sales representative. Then, you’ll find the option as a campaign subtype for the Brand Awareness campaign after you select Video:

Category Audio ad Video ad
Goal Brand awareness and reach Brand awareness and reach
Targeting Demographics

Audiences

Keywords

Topics

Placements (including podcasts)

Demographics

Audiences

Keywords

Topics

Placements

Bid strategy Target CPM only Target CPM only
Ad types Non-skippable in-stream Skippable in-stream

Bumper ads

Non-skippable in-stream

Outstream

Ad sequence

Ad formats Image + voiceover

Animation + voiceover

Audiovisual elements
Ad length Maximum 15 seconds Depending on the ad type, you have more options when it comes to ad length
Costs Lower creative production cost  Higher creative production cost than an audio ad
Recommended for Advertisers who want to reach their audience while they’re listening on YouTube with audio-based ads Advertisers who want to reach and engage viewers on YouTube and across the web with their video ads
Call-to-action Available by request through your Google sales representative Available
Companion banner Available by request through your Google sales representative Auto-generated or image upload
File size Maximum 128GB Maximum 256 GB
Aspect ratio (recommended) 16:9 16:9
Resolution 26 x 240 (240p)

640 x 360 (360p)

854 x 480 (480p)

1280 x 720 (720p)

1920 x 1080 (1080p)

2560 x 1440 (1440p)

3840 x 2160 (2160p)

26 x 240 (240p)

640 x 360 (360p)

854 x 480 (480p)

1280 x 720 (720p)

1920 x 1080 (1080p)

2560 x 1440 (1440p)

3840 x 2160 (2160p)

7. How We Can Improve Our Next Campaign

This experiment was a good start for us to see if there are any major differences between YouTube audio ads and YouTube video ads.

As we previously mentioned, both formats had their pros and cons, so in order to take this experiment to the next level, we could do the following:

  • Test new audiences in different campaigns for a more accurate scaling;
  • Optimize for CTR as well (trying a more direct/tailored messaging, excluding irrelevant placements, opting for the CTA button for both ad types);
  • Try a new ad with a different messaging in the future (for example, tailoring the message of the ad based on the user’s needs. Here, we’d need to keep in mind the user funnel and create different ads for each one);
  • Run a test for a remarketing campaign as well. Building a user funnel from the beginning is important. That is why brand awareness is key. Now that we have a lower funnel user base, we can take our ads to the next level, retarget those who have visited certain page categories on our website, and tailor the ads based on their needs. This can be tested both on the Search and Display Network.

8. Key Takeaways

Audio ads are already popular on Spotify Advertising, as digital audio ads can reach an audience where video ads can’t, “accompanying the listener throughout their day across a range of screenless moments like cooking, driving, and chilling. They’re also less expensive than video ads while still proving to be deeply impactful.”

Since YouTube audio ads is a new feature, we don’t have too much data to define certain best practices.

However, as advertisers, we have a few tips & tricks for creating successful ads, and these can be tailored to your audio ads as well: 

  • Concentrate your message as much as possible because you’re limited to only 15 seconds. Since users can’t skip your ad, you should at least make it interesting, entertaining, and engaging.
  • Choose wisely the tone of voice for the ad because it can make or break it. Keep in mind that if your ad appears, for instance, on an ASMR channel, your sound component could actually disturb the user who visited the channel for relaxing purposes. Therefore, you can tailor your ad types according to placements as well. In this case, using soft-spoken audio. ASMR channels have become more and more widespread (ASMR is the second most popular YouTube query in the US (3.2M searches) and the third most popular worldwide (13.9M searches, according to Search Engine Journal).
  • Create a clear call to action. It’s a must to determine your audience to take action, such as: learning more about your product or service, registering, starting a free trial, or taking advantage of a promotion.

Here are some tips & tricks to creating engaging content that can be applied both to audio and video ads:

  • Determine your main goal and focus on the right messaging;
  • The first few seconds are key—keep your message interesting and engaging and mention your business name in the first five seconds;
  • Create engaging videos that focus on your voiceover (in the case of audio ads). It should be a pleasant experience for the users who are in the middle of listening to music/podcasts etc.;
  • Emphasize your USP (unique selling proposition);
  • Don’t forget about the CTA.

Final Thoughts

The field of digital advertising is dynamic. We have to adapt to the constant updates, new features, and changes in how certain strategies are constructed.

Still, this is an area that allows us to constantly evolve and learn new things. Experimenting is a must for every advertiser, as it can help you notice certain patterns and sequences that perhaps you wouldn’t recognize otherwise. 

In digital marketing, there is no right or wrong, so let us know whether you have any questions or if you made similar experiments feel free to share your results and opinions with us.

Csilla Borsos
PPC Specialist, nature lover, bicycle rider, overthinker. But first of all, human.

    3 Comments

    1. Hello! Great case study very helpful. One big question though, as it relates to the clicks you received. Although it wasn’t the primary KPI of your test, I am assuming you were tracking response metrics once they landed on your page, i.e. leads, free trials, inquiries, etc…how were the back end conversions from this traffic?

    2. Hi Robert! I’m glad you found this study helpful. The click conversions were very few, but this was understandable in our case, as we set up the campaigns with one main goal in our minds: raising awareness. It’s very rare that, when someone sees a video ad, they actually click on it instantly and convert. Afterwards, however, we received some view-through conversions (VTC) meaning that our audio/video ads contributed to transforming these users into leads (however, in our case, the click to VTC rate was higher in the case of audio ads).

    3. Thanks for the detailed write up. . We will soon start video adds on youtube.i am glad i found this article

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