Have you ever watched a video online? If so, you’re probably already familiar with overlay advertising. As the Internet developed and content shifted away from mere text and graphics to incorporate multimedia such as video and audio, publishers and advertisers adapted to the new possibilities. Overlay advertising serves as a means for advertisers to incorporate their messages directly into streamed video without drastically interrupting users’ viewing experience.

Ad Overlay Basics

An ad overlay essentially provides advertisers with the opportunity to place traditional banner advertising inside streamed video. Although each publisher’s specifications vary, an ad overlay is typically a semi-transparent banner placed at the foot of a video screen. The overlay remains static, much like a traditional banner ad, while the video runs underneath it. Web surfers can click your ad at any point during the video. In some cases, advertisers allow viewers to dismiss the ad, but it must be done actively, by clicking on a close button.

Deployment of Overlays

Publishers use their own means to insert overlays into video, but most overlays don’t appear when a user launches a video. Instead, they appear 10 to 15 seconds into the video and remain onscreen for 10 to 15 seconds. Revenue generated from the advertisement is typically split between the ad network and the video’s creator. If the video is embedded on a third-party website, such as a blog, the third-party site’s owner may also receive a share of the ad revenue.

Contrast to Pre-Roll Roadblocks

Overlay advertising departs from the traditional advertising format for video media, television-style commercials. These ads, which are often known as “roadblocks” or “pre-rolls,” stream before the video the user requested to view plays and are markedly removed from the requested content. While these advertisements’ delivery forces users to view the ad, they’re not as integrated into video content as overlay advertising. Depending upon the publisher’s settings, these pre-roll ads may be dismissed after a window -- for example, a 10-second play -- or may need to be viewed in their entirety before the requested media streams.

Advantages of Ad Overlays

For small-business owners, overlay advertising provides an affordable means to reach video audiences. Because ads are text-based or graphic-based, they’re cheaply created and can be easily integrated into existing online marketing campaigns. It’s also much easier for advertisers to refine their creatives or phase out under-performing advertisements than with pre-roll ads, which must be reshot or developed from scratch. Some publishers prefer overlays to pre-roll ads, because they provide their audience with the requested content immediately, rather than making them wait out a 30-second advertisement, which may be a deterrent to video consumption.