Shopping ads come to YouTube’s home feed and search results

There’s a new kind of ad coming to YouTube. Google announced today the launch of Shopping ads on YouTube, which lets brands advertise their products and services right in the YouTube home feed and search results. For example, if a user searches for “Puma shoes review,” a Shopping ad may offer a row of suggested products at the top of the page before the video results.

The ads may also appear as a carousel between the videos on the homepage.

Puma is a debut advertiser for the new Shopping ad product, but the video site will soon fill with these sorts of product suggestions.

“Consumers are continuing to watch more content on the YouTube platform and we want to be where they are, to reach and engage them,” said Rick Almeida, vice president of e-commerce at Puma Group, in a statement about its new YouTube ads. “This new opportunity will enable Puma to extend our shopping strategy into a new property and inspire consumers,” he added.

As Google explains, the ads can be shown to YouTube users based on their interests.

To continue the Puma example, the user wouldn’t necessarily have to type in “Puma” to encounter an ad for the running shoes — simply expressing an interest in running could have them coming across ads from Puma or any other retailers offering running apparel.

Like the Shopping ads that appear elsewhere across Google’s platform — including Search, Shopping, partner websites and the Google Display Network — the YouTube Shopping ads will match to user’s interest not by using keywords but rather on the product details and information the brand submits through the Merchant Center.

The idea to leverage YouTube as a new platform for visual advertising comes at a time when other social networks — like Instagram, Pinterest and even TikTok — are making it easier for users to shop products from their apps. Pinterest has been working to capture shopper interest earlier in the journey, then track the path from visual inspiration and pinning all the way through to purchase.

Instagram this year launched shopping checkout, allowing users to transact from sellers without leaving the Instagram app. More recently, TikTok launched a “Hashtag Challenge Plus” product that lets video viewers shop for products in its app, as well.

But YouTube hadn’t yet fully capitalized on its ability to direct its audience to specific products, rather focusing on Discover ads that would include a visual and a few lines of text, but not necessarily a unique product.

Google says advertisers already using standard Shopping campaigns today and who are opted in to YouTube on Display Network will be immediately able to run YouTube Shopping ads.

The new ads are only one of several changes YouTube announced today. It also said its video ads will now be more interactive, giving users actionable information like store location, interest forms and additional calls-to-actions to help drive more conversions. It’s also rolling out sitelink extensions for TrueView for action ads that will allow viewers to navigate to additional landing pages, like those for holiday catalogs, store hours and more. These will come in the months ahead.

Elsewhere on Google, Showcase Shopping ads are expanding to Google Images, where users will be able to explore a larger selection of products from a brand.

Google had announced its plans to bring new ad products to YouTube back in May, when it revamped the Google Shopping product following the closure and rebranding of Google Express.

As a part of that larger update, the company mentioned a variety of ways it would be connecting the YouTube audience more directly with brands and products — including through its highly visual Showcase Shopping ads and via Shopping Actions, which allow for purchases right from Google’s platforms.

The larger goal with the new ads is to appeal to users with more visual imagery, as today’s web users no longer just search and click on the links that return.