The ultimate beginner’s guide to using YouTube audio ads

YouTube audio ads can only be placed on music content or podcasts — audio-centric content. Here’s how these ads help you target your key demographics.
Woman wearing headphones listening to Youtube audio ads from her mobile

When most people think of YouTube, they probably think of cat videos, sports highlights, and video bloggers. As a result, when they think of advertising on a YouTube video, their focus is going to be on video ads. In reality, however, you can also reach your target audience through YouTube audio ads.

This more cost-effective ad format may not instantly seem like a perfect fit for a platform most people associate with video campaigns, but YouTube audio ads can actually go a long way in improving brand awareness among your target demographic.

How do YouTube audio ads work?

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YouTube audio ads were first introduced in late 2020. YouTube audio ads can only be placed on music content or podcasts — audio-centric content. Many media companies believe that 25% of its “watch time” is actually dedicated to music — and 25% of one billion hours per day gives you plenty of opportunities to reach listeners!

Audio ads don’t really focus on video content. This makes sense, since most people listening to music or a podcast aren’t going to be watching the screen and notice any flashy video content.

Instead, in these ads, a voiceover delivers a message in a style similar to a typical radio ad, accompanied by a simple animation or still image. 

YouTube audio ads should fit within these specs:

  • Up to 15 seconds long
  • A maximum file size of 128 GB
  • A 16:9 aspect ratio for the image or animation 
  • Resolution between 240p to 2160p

Like other Google ads, YouTube audio ads are priced based on CPM (cost per mille) — the cost to reach 1,000 listeners. 

Ads for certain industries, such as healthcare or gambling, are also subjected to Google’s advertising restrictions, which can limit the type of messaging used or the locations where certain products or services are advertised.

What are the advantages of YouTube audio ads?

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While it may sound counterintuitive, YouTube has actually become one of the biggest platforms in the world for music streaming.

Improved brand awareness

In fact, a study from 2021 found that 44% of adults in the U.S. use YouTube to stream music — far outpacing competitors like Spotify and Pandora. These numbers were even higher among younger demographics, with 53% of 18 to 34 year olds using YouTube for music streaming.

With such a large number of users listening to podcasts or music on YouTube, audio ads provide a tremendous opportunity to create major brand lift. Google’s early studies showed that 75% of audio ad campaigns enhanced brand awareness, with one Shutterfly campaign boosting ad recall by 14%.

Expansive targeting options

Since YouTube is owned by Google, you will be targeting users through the Google platform. This means you’ll enjoy robust audience targeting options to ensure the success of your new campaign. Even more conveniently, YouTube audio ads use the same targeting and bidding options that are used for video campaigns.

Common targeting options include custom intent, which uses an individual’s Google search history to help deliver relevant ads. For example, if you are targeting shoe shoppers with your audio ad, custom intent would place your ad with people who had done searches such as “new shoes” or “shoe store.”

 It also includes in-market ads that deliver content based on a browsing history that indicates they would be interested in buying your product or service. Rather than using search history, this type of targeting focuses on the websites a person has recently visited. Using our shoe example, this type of targeting would place ads with people who have recently visited other websites that sell shoes, regardless of their search history.

Lastly, it offers detailed demographic or behavioral targeting. As with other campaigns, selecting relevant focus keywords for your campaign will go a long way in getting your ads in front of the right people. Choosing keywords related to your product or service will help your ads appear in front of listeners who have already shown some interest in your niche and are therefore more likely to buy.

Dynamic music lineups are another valuable option for running YouTube audio ads. This targeting option gives you the option to target your campaign at channels across a specific music genre, such as K-Pop or hip-hop, or to focus on a specific area of interest that can be the subject of podcasts, such as video games or personal finance. 

This can be a great tool for reaching new audiences with similar interests and needs to your current target audience. For example, if you learn that your shoe store’s current customers are avid hip-hop fans, you should try advertising on hip-hop channels.

A message they’re guaranteed to hear

It’s also worth noting that 15-second YouTube audio ads are non-skippable. When your ad pops up during a music video playlist or a podcast, users are going to hear the whole thing. Unlike with traditional over the air radio, they aren’t going to change the dial as soon as a commercial comes on. They’ll wait for your short ad to finish playing so they can get back to their desired content.

Best practices for creating a YouTube audio ad

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Many of the best practices for a YouTube audio ad are similar to writing a standard audio ad script. A successful ad will offer a clear hook, a compelling description of your brand’s products or services, and end with a call to action.

However, with only 15 seconds to get your message across, you will need to be as concise as possible. While the exact word count can vary from person to person, most people speak between 100 to 130 words per minute, while professional voice artists can speak a bit more — 150 to 160 words per minute.

Time to crunch the numbers: 15 seconds is 1/4 of a minute. So, assume you’re working with either a professional voiceover artist or an AI voice that speaks at 160 words per minute, and that gives you a total of about 40 words for your ad. That’s shorter than this paragraph!

Obviously, that doesn’t give you a whole lot of wiggle room for your ad. You’re going to have to be very concise, and probably do a lot of cutting. Here are a few ideas that can help:

  • Use contractions whenever possible. For example, instead of saying “will not,” say “won’t.” Every syllable counts! This can also help your ad sound less formal and more conversational.
  • Focus on a single call to action. In longer radio ads, you may be able to give a phone number, address, and website. Since users will be listening to a YouTube audio ad on an internet-capable device, it’s best to just direct them to your website.
  • Streamline your pitch. You won’t have time to give a full breakdown of your pricing, friendly service, superior product quality, or other differentiators. Focus on a single, memorable, unique selling proposition.
  • Practice reading the script out loud. Time yourself so you can get an idea of how much you need to cut out of your initial draft. If you are working with a voice artist, practice with them to get a sense of whether they could speak faster or if you need to cut more words. You can also test run your script with an AI voice.

Once you have the script finalized, create a simple still image to go with your script. This could be an image of your product or of someone using your services, like this YouTube ad from Shutterfly. 

Youtube audio ads: Shutterfly sale

While few people will be looking at the “video” portion of your YouTube audio ad, it can be helpful to include a headline and call to action text in the image to reinforce the audio messaging.

Take your YouTube advertising to the next level!

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As you can see (or hear), YouTube video ads aren’t your only option for reaching your target audience through this platform. With YouTube audio ads, you can deliver engaging ad content without needing to worry about the visual component. With savvy targeting options, your audio ad campaigns can have a significant impact on your audience.

Of course, navigating keyword bidding strategies to get your ads placed on YouTube, Spotify, and other audio advertising platforms can be tricky — and costly. That’s why Decibel aims to help democratize audio advertising with more affordable ad buying solutions. With our platform, you can get your audio ads to your audience without breaking the bank. Get started today to learn more.

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