Lead Ads: A Media Buyer’s Primer

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  • Nurturing & Marketing Automation
  • Performance Media Planning & Buying

What are Lead Ads?

Lead Ads are forms that are built into an advertising platform like Facebook or LinkedIn. When a user engages with a Lead Ad, they don’t leave the site or go to a landing page to fill out a form for more information from an advertiser.  Instead, they fill out a form within the platform experience. These forms are often pre-populated with information from their profile for easy submission. Facebook pioneered this concept and many other platforms are now following suit, with LinkedIn and YouTube both offering the format and Google Search testing out a beta version.

This three-part blog series will dive deep on Lead Ads. In this post, we will explore the different Lead Ad options across platforms. In the next post, we’ll discuss what to look out for when setting up Lead Ads. And we’ll end the series by addressing the billion-dollar question: based on the data, do Lead Ads drive a higher efficiency? Or, do Lead Ads yield lower-quality leads, resulting in more expensive qualified leads?

Facebook Lead Ads

Facebook was the pioneer of the Lead Ad format, releasing the feature in 2015. Since then, they have worked out some bugs and offered more robust functionality within the feature. At its heart, the Lead Ad option has remained the same. These when users tap on an advertisement, they stay within the Facebook platform and submit a lead-generation form using largely pre-populated information.

These Lead Ads can be customized to capture any information a business needs. Custom questions can take many formats including short answers, multiple choice, conditional (where different questions appear depending on how previous questions were answered), store locator, and appointment scheduling. With dynamic ads, the creative and messaging of the Lead Ads can change based on what people have previously expressed interest in.

Figure 1: Flow of Facebook Lead Ad

Once a lead has been submitted, it can be synced up with a business’ CRM system for ease of capture. For the user journey, typically a “Thank You” screen appears after a lead submission. This can include additional calls-to-action such as View Website, Download or Call Business.

LinkedIn Lead Ads

LinkedIn Lead Ads were launched in 2017. As with Facebook Lead Ads, LinkedIn’s version has pre-filled information to make the process as seamless as possible for the user. This functionality is currently available for Message Ads and Sponsored Content for ads served on mobile devices.

Custom questions are also available for LinkedIn Lead Gen forms. With a maximum of 12 questions for the entire form, 3 of these can be custom in either a multiple choice or single line input format. Additionally, custom checkboxes can be added to get the user’s specific consent for any additional ways the advertiser intends to use the information that is submitted on the form.

Figure 2: Flow of LinkedIn Lead Ad

LinkedIn also gives the option to integrate with certain CRM tools. After submission, a “Thank You” screen appears that can connect the user to an eBook, website or another destination.

YouTube Lead Ads

In 2018, Google followed suit and launched Lead Ads for YouTube. Called Form Ads, this format is a new version of TrueView for Action with a built-in form that appears below the video ad. It enables viewers to submit their name and email without interrupting their viewing experience or leaving the platform. These forms are also pre-filled with information for quick submission and are available for ads served on mobile devices.

While this functionality is available, advertisers must be whitelisted in order to run this ad format. There also is very little customization of the form fields. Advertisers may only ask for the user’s name, email, phone number and zip code.

Figure 3: Flow of YouTube Form Ad

Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, Google’s YouTube is not able to integrate directly with advertisers’ CRM systems. However, your agency’s developer can use Google’s webhook solution API to automatically pass leads through to different lead capture systems.

Google Search Lead Ads (Beta)

Finally, as of 2019, Google has also released a limited beta of Search Lead Forms as SEM extensions and as ads for mobile devices. With extensions, the lead form is not guaranteed to show with every ad impression. The ad version does, however, and the lead form becomes the data collection unit for all search impressions. These forms allow the user to conveniently submit with pre-populated information directly from search instead of navigating to a mobile website.

As of 2020, the extension version is available across accounts. Because ad lead forms are only available in beta, each advertiser must be whitelisted in order to run campaigns with this functionality. Like YouTube ads, the form is unable to be customized. The form can only capture name, email, phone number and zip code. These forms are also unable to be integrated directly with CRM systems and leads can either be downloaded via CSV or automated via a webhook URL into the CRM system.

Figure 4: Flow of Google Search Lead Form


In-ad lead forms make the process of filling out a lead generation form as convenient as possible. Using available pre-populated information, without forcing users to interrupt or leave their app experience, they help to reduce the barriers to submission. These ad formats can be utilized across industries. The platforms that have been offering Lead Ads the longest (Facebook and LinkedIn) have more customizable features and can be more relevant to the information that advertisers want to capture. YouTube and Google are quickly catching up but currently have less robust offerings. We wouldn’t be surprised if additional platforms started rolling out this popular feature as well!

We’ll be publishing more articles with advice and data based on Level Agency’s years of experience running Lead Ads for our clients. Stay tuned!

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