What are In-stream Video Ads: A Complete Guide

What are In-stream Video Ads: A Complete Guide

Ashwin Krishnakumar
Ashwin Krishnakumar

Chief Technology Officer, Airtory

Published on: 10 Aug 2022

Reading time: 5 minutes

Gone are the days when brands used to only depend on TV or broadcast for their advertising. With the increasing popularity of various online platforms, video advertising has become an integral part of every marketing campaign. Video ads have emerged as a new and more effective way of reaching out to a larger audience. All you have to do is, put your ad on one of the video ad serving platforms. Majorly, there are two different types of video ads: In-stream ads and Out-stream ads. Incorporating both of these ads is a great way to diversify your marketing portfolio and reach a larger audience through video advertising.

Let’s dive deeper and discuss what an in-stream video ad is and what difference it can bring to your marketing campaigns: 

What is an in-stream video ad?

In-stream video ads are short video ads that are streamed pre-,  mid-, or post-roll, in video content. Generally, these video ads are streamed when users are already watching the video and cannot be skipped. And, similar to other ad campaigns, the publisher has the flexibility to choose the target audience for these ads. The best thing about these ads is that they are shown to an audience that is already captive and receptive to the video content.

There are three most common in-stream ad formats:

  • Companion Ads: These are ads that are set up to be displayed alongside the video that is being watched. Companion ads are used to improve the visibility of a brand and may appear in conjunction with linear and/or non-linear ads.
  • Linear Video Ads: These ads are like TV commercials and are displayed ‘in-line’ with the video content. Though they interrupt the playback, they are extremely lucrative options and also offer the highest CPMs.
  • Non-linear Video Ads: These appear on top of the video content, without interrupting playback or obscuring the view, which is why they are also known as overlay ads. The only difference between these ads and companion ads is that non-linear ads cover only a small portion of the screen within the video player, while companion ads appear outside the borders of the video player.

In-stream vs. Out-stream Video Ads

The ultimate goal of both in-stream and out-stream video ads is to grab as much user attention as possible, but there are a few aspects that make them different from each other. Here is a list of the factors that differentiate these two ad types:


This is the major difference between these two ads. In-stream video ads are placed within a video content, the one which is relevant to the product or service of the brand. On the other hand, out-stream ads are not placed in videos. They are standalone videos embedded on a page much like a native ad. However, the content available on that page needs to be highly relevant, similar to in-stream ads


As the name suggests, an in-stream ad will start streaming when the video is already being played and will keep playing for a few seconds until it can be skipped. While out-stream ads start playing as soon as the user scrolls over the video and automatically pause when the user scrolls away.

Platform Compatibility

At present, OTT and CTV platforms can only support in-stream video ads and not out-stream ads, which is a major advantage for the former. However, out-stream ads also have an advantage, as publishers can place these ads on their page with ease, even if there is no video content on it.

Advantages of In-stream Video Ads

With an in-stream video ad, you can make your brand appear in a video that is already being watched by the target audience, so the chances of your ad being noticed are clearly higher. Apart from this, there are a number of other advantages of using in-stream video ads:

  • These ads are cost-effective. If you don’t have a huge budget, in-stream ads can prove to be a helpful choice for your marketing campaigns. Not only are they an effective and more affordable video marketing method, as compared to creating and promoting your own content, but they can also help cut costs. This of course depends on your targeting, but with in-stream ads, views don’t have to cost a lot. Plus, if a user does not watch the entire ad, the amount you need to spend will also be reduced.
  • In-stream ads give you enough flexibility. You have the option to adjust the length of your ad, based on the specifications of the platform or website. Depending on the duration of the video ad, it can be a long ad, set up to be skippable after a few seconds, or it can be an unskippable, medium-length ad. 
  • These ads can drive higher traffic to the website as compared to other video ad formats.

Best Practices to be Followed

In-stream video ads can prove to be very helpful for the advertiser to reach a larger audience. But similar to any other type of marketing, it is important that you do things in the right manner. There are a few things you should always keep in mind while advertising with in-stream video ads:

  • Make sure you are targeting a relevant audience. 
  • Your video ad should capture viewers’ attention in the first five seconds while delivering the brand message. This way you can increase the chances of viewers continuing to watch the video even when the ‘skip’ option is available.
  • Nobody likes long videos. Make sure you keep it short and crisp while delivering the basic message. A video ad has to be brief and engaging. 

In this digital era, more and more users are getting inclined toward video content for industries like entertainment, education, services, e-commerce, and many more. This is the main reason why online media platforms are expanding their visual and video capabilities. All these developments have brought about a major change to the current marketing scenario. Brands are using in-stream video ads to reach their target audience as it is an easy and quick way of making your brand visible, building the user base, and driving the overall user engagement.

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