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Choosing the Right Ad Type: Video Ads vs Shopping Ads

Video Ads vs Shopping Ads – which one is right for you?

Like usual, it depends.

In this guide, we’ll dive into each and explore their strengths to help you decide which one to use.

Let’s get right into it!

What are Video Ads?

Video ads are a category of advertising that allows businesses to present their products, services, or brand through video content.

These ads are prominently featured across Google’s extensive networks, including YouTube, the Google Display Network, and other video partner sites.

In Google Ads, video ads can take several forms, each designed to meet diverse marketing needs and objectives. The primary types include:

  • Skippable in-stream ads: These are videos that play before, during, or after other videos on YouTube and across Google’s Display Network. Viewers have the option to skip the ad after 5 seconds. This type is excellent for extending reach and engagement.
  • Non-skippable in-stream ads: As the name suggests, these ads cannot be skipped and are limited to 15 seconds or less. They are useful for creating high-impact messages with guaranteed visibility.
  • Video discovery ads: These ads appear in places where viewers discover content, like on YouTube search results, next to related YouTube videos, or on the YouTube mobile homepage, prompting users to click to watch the video.
  • Bumper ads: Short, memorable ads of 6 seconds or less that play before, during, or after another video. They are designed to drive brand reach and frequency using brief, snappy messages.
  • Outstream ads: These are mobile-only ads that play on partner websites and apps outside of YouTube, helping to expand video reach beyond YouTube.

Video ads are uniquely powerful for several reasons. Firstly, they combine visual and auditory elements, making them highly engaging and memorable.

This multimodal approach can significantly increase information retention and emotional connection with the audience.

Moreover, video ads are inherently versatile, allowing for creative storytelling and dynamic presentations that other ad formats cannot match.

Common Use Cases and Industries Where Video Ads Are Most Effective

Video ads are particularly effective in several scenarios and industries:

  • Brand Awareness: Companies aiming to build or reinforce brand recognition find video ads useful because they capture attention quickly and leave a lasting impression.
  • Product Launches: New products can benefit enormously from video ads, which can showcase features and benefits effectively and dynamically.
  • Event Promotion: For promoting concerts, movies, or sports events, video ads can convey the excitement and atmosphere much more vividly than static images.
  • Educational Content: Industries that rely on demonstrating expertise or educating consumers, such as technology or healthcare, can use video ads to explain complex products or services clearly and engagingly.

Industries that typically see high returns from video advertising include automotive, retail, consumer goods, and entertainment.

These sectors benefit from the ability to visually showcase their products or services, create emotional connections with large audiences, and utilize storytelling to enhance consumer engagement.

What are Shopping Ads?

Shopping ads, often referred to as Product Listing Ads (PLAs), are a specialized format within Google Ads designed to promote products by providing detailed information at a glance.

These ads are typically displayed at the top of Google search results or within the Google Shopping tab, offering users a direct, visual way to compare and shop for products from different retailers.

When a user performs a search that triggers a Shopping ad, they see a photo of the product, the price, the name of the retailer, and sometimes additional elements like reviews and promotions.

These ads are fed by data that advertisers submit through the Google Merchant Center, where product data feeds are uploaded and continuously updated.

Google uses this data to automatically create ads that are displayed to users. The format and placement of these ads are designed to attract users with a high intent to purchase, making them a powerful tool for driving direct sales.

Advantages of Using Shopping Ads for E-commerce and Retail

Shopping ads offer several significant advantages for e-commerce and retail businesses aiming to boost their online sales:

  • Increased Visibility: Shopping ads are prominently displayed and often appear before traditional text ads and organic search results, which can significantly increase the visibility of your products.
  • Higher Click-through Rates (CTRs): Because these ads are visually appealing and provide essential information at a glance, they tend to attract more clicks from potential buyers.
  • Better Qualified Leads: Shopping ads attract users who are further along in the buying process, as they allow users to make a preliminary assessment of the product before clicking through. This means that the traffic from these ads generally has a higher conversion rate.
  • Automatic Ad Creation and Updates: Since the ads are generated using product data feeds, they require less manual work to manage. Any updates made to the product inventory or details in the Merchant Center are automatically reflected in the ads.
  • Detailed Performance Tracking: Google Ads provides detailed reports on how products are performing, allowing advertisers to optimize their campaigns based on data-driven insights.

Ideal Scenarios and Product Types for Shopping Ads

Shopping ads are particularly well-suited for several scenarios and product types, making them a favorite choice for many retailers:

  • Highly Competitive Retail Sectors: In competitive markets, such as electronics, apparel, or home goods, where many options are available, Shopping ads can help products stand out by showcasing higher-quality images or better prices.
  • Seasonal Promotions: For retailers looking to push seasonal products, such as holiday decorations, back-to-school supplies, or special occasion gifts, Shopping ads can be timed to appear when these searches peak.
  • New Product Launches: When launching a new product, Shopping ads can help gain quick visibility and traction among potential buyers by immediately placing your product in front of relevant searches.
  • Products with Strong Visual Appeal: Items that benefit from being seen, such as furniture, fashion, and beauty products, are particularly well-suited to this ad format, as the visual presentation can strongly influence buying decisions.

By utilizing Shopping Ads, retailers and e-commerce businesses can effectively place their products in front of a targeted audience, helping to drive sales and improve online marketing ROI.

This makes them an invaluable tool for businesses looking to maximize their online presence and sales performance.

Comparing Video Ads and Shopping Ads

Video Ads vs Shopping Ads

Alright, here’s what we’re all waiting for.

Time for the main event: Video ads vs Shopping ads.

We’ll compare them based on 4 categories:

  1. Audience targeting
  2. Engagement and conversion
  3. Budgeting
  4. Measurement and analytics

Audience Targeting: Differences in How Video Ads and Shopping Ads Reach Their Audience

Video Ads utilize a broad set of targeting options that leverage user demographics, interests, behaviors, and more, to reach potential customers. They are particularly effective for reaching audiences who are in the initial stages of the customer journey or who may not yet be aware they need a product. This includes targeting based on content they consume, such as videos related to hobbies, lifestyle, or other interests.

Shopping Ads, on the other hand, are more focused on capturing the interest of users who are closer to the purchase decision. They use product-specific data and user search intent to deliver ads. This means they are excellent for reaching users who have already shown a direct interest in a similar product or who are actively searching for products, making them highly targeted toward ready-to-buy audiences.

Engagement and Conversion: How Each Type of Ad Engages Users and Leads to Conversions

Video Ads engage users through compelling narratives, emotional appeal, or entertaining content, which can be powerful for brand-building and creating demand. The conversion path for video ads may not be immediate, as these ads often aim to boost awareness or foster brand affinity, which can lead to conversions over a longer period.

Shopping Ads are designed to convert quickly. By presenting product details directly in the search results, these ads reduce the steps a user needs to take to make a purchase decision. The immediate availability of price and product information helps streamline the conversion process, making these ads highly effective for driving direct sales.

Cost Considerations: Overview of Budgeting for Video Ads Versus Shopping Ads

The cost structures for Video Ads and Shopping Ads differ significantly, impacting how marketers budget for each. Video ads can be more costly to produce, considering the need for video production, editing, and potentially higher cost-per-view (CPV) rates. However, they are essential for long-term branding efforts.

Shopping Ads may require less upfront investment in terms of creative production but can accumulate costs through clicks. They operate typically on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, where you pay for each click your ad receives, not for views, making it crucial to optimize product listings and pricing to compete effectively.

Measurement and Analytics: Tools and Metrics for Evaluating the Success of Each Ad Type

Both ad types offer robust tools and metrics for analysis through Google Ads, but the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll focus on may differ.

For Video Ads, important metrics include view rate, watch time, and engagement metrics such as likes, shares, and comments, which help gauge how effectively a video is attracting and holding attention. Conversion metrics can also be tracked, especially if the video includes calls to action (CTAs).

For Shopping Ads, the focus is more on direct sales metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS). Google Ads provides detailed reporting on how individual products perform, allowing for granular analysis of what is driving sales and at what cost.

Choosing Between Video Ads and Shopping Ads

When deciding between Video Ads and Shopping Ads, several key factors must be evaluated to ensure the choice aligns with your business objectives and market conditions:

  • Marketing Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve. If the goal is to increase brand awareness or educate the market about a new product, Video Ads might be more effective. Conversely, if the objective is to drive immediate sales, Shopping Ads are likely more suitable.
  • Product Type: Consider the nature of the product being marketed. Products that benefit from demonstrations or emotional storytelling may perform better with Video Ads. In contrast, straightforward products with clear, easily communicated benefits might see better results with Shopping Ads.
  • Customer Buying Cycle: Evaluate where your target audience typically falls in the buying cycle when interacting with your ads. Video Ads can be more effective earlier in the cycle by generating interest and desire, while Shopping Ads can capture the audience’s intent to purchase when they are ready to buy.
  • Budget and Resources: Video Ads often require a larger budget for video production and may have higher costs associated with broadcasting the ad. Shopping Ads might offer a more cost-effective solution with a focus on conversion optimization and may require less creative development.

Questions Marketers Should Ask About Their Campaign Goals, Budget, and Audience

Marketers should address several critical questions to guide the decision-making process between Video Ads and Shopping Ads:

  • What are the specific goals of this campaign? Are you looking to build awareness or drive immediate sales?
  • What is the budget for this campaign, and how does it break down in terms of production and ad spend? Is there enough budget to produce a high-quality video, or would funds be better allocated towards maximizing clicks and conversions?
  • Who is the target audience, and what is their stage in the consumer journey? Are they more likely to be swayed by emotional appeal or by immediate product availability and price?
  • How does the choice of ad type fit into the broader marketing strategy? Is there a need for a multi-touch approach that might integrate both Video and Shopping Ads?
  • What metrics will define success for this campaign? Depending on the ad type chosen, how will performance be measured?

Tips for Creating Effective Video and Shopping Ads

Best Practices for Crafting Engaging Video Ads

Creating engaging video ads requires a strategic blend of creative storytelling and technical savvy. Here are several best practices to consider:

  • Start Strong: Capture attention within the first few seconds. Use compelling visuals or an intriguing start that makes viewers want to keep watching.
  • Focus on Storytelling: Develop a clear, concise story that resonates with your audience. Your message should be engaging and evoke emotion or action, whether it’s happiness, excitement, or curiosity.
  • Target Effectively: Tailor your content to the interests and behaviors of your target audience. Use demographic and psychographic data to craft messages that speak directly to the viewers’ needs and preferences.
  • Include a Call to Action: Be clear about what you want viewers to do after watching the ad. Whether it’s visiting a website, making a purchase, or another action, your CTA should be direct and easy to follow.
  • Optimize for Silent Viewing: Assume that your video will initially be viewed without sound. Use captions, engaging visuals, and clear storytelling to convey your message silently.
  • Test and Refine: Use A/B testing for different elements of your video, such as the CTA, the video length, or even different story angles. Analyze performance and refine your approach based on what the data shows.

Recommendations for Optimizing Product Listings and Images in Shopping Ads

For Shopping Ads, the quality of your product listings and images can directly influence the success of your campaigns. Here are essential tips for optimization:

  • High-Quality Images: Use clear, high-resolution images that showcase your product effectively. Consider multiple angles and ensure the product is well-lit and visually appealing.
  • Accurate and Detailed Product Descriptions: Write precise, informative descriptions that include key features, benefits, and any unique selling points. Use natural language that includes relevant keywords without stuffing.
  • Competitive Pricing: Regularly monitor competitor pricing and ensure your products are competitively priced. Highlight any sales or discounts prominently.
  • Optimized Titles: Include critical information like brand, model, size, or color in your product titles. Make them informative and easy to read, and ensure they are optimized for search.
  • Use Promotions and Special Offers: Utilize the promotions feature in Google Shopping to attract more users. Special offers such as discounts, free shipping, or bonus products can increase the attractiveness of your listings.
  • Regular Updates: Keep your product feed fresh and accurate. Regular updates help to ensure that your ads are always relevant and engaging to potential customers.

Staying ahead in digital advertising means keeping up with the latest trends and innovations. Here are current trends in video and shopping advertising:

  • Increased Use of AI and Machine Learning: Both video and shopping ads are benefiting from advancements in AI, which helps in better targeting, optimizing bids, and personalizing ads based on user behavior and preferences.
  • Interactive Video Ads: More advertisers are exploring interactive elements in video ads, such as clickable areas that lead to product pages or other interactive features that engage viewers directly within the video.
  • Augmented Reality Shopping Experiences: For shopping ads, augmented reality (AR) is being used to allow customers to visualize products in their own space before buying, enhancing user engagement and increasing confidence in purchase decisions.
  • Video in Shopping Ads: Incorporating video content within shopping ads to provide a more dynamic product view and richer user experience is becoming more common. This helps bridge the gap between traditional video ads and shopping ads, utilizing the strengths of both formats.

✏️ Check out our guide and learn how to optimize Google shopping ads with ChatGPT.


If you’ve read everything, you’ve realized that it’s not a question of which ad type is better overall, but which is better for what use case.

Now it’s time to act! Utilize the gained knowledge and make the most of it.

If you want to keep learning, we’d recommend our guide to Google Ads ad rotation.

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder

Michael Schroder is a Google Ads and SaaS marketing consultant. He has been managing $200k-$300k monthly ad spend and has worked with 200+ SaaS companies. The thing that makes him unique is his data-led approach and his focus on SaaS businesses.