We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of playing a Youtube video for a group of people and have faced the grueling five-second wait until you can skip the pre-roll advertisement. Your group of friends could care less about an ad for a Craftsman table saw when they want to watch a video of the kung fu bear (Link). Even with targeted advertising, people still dislike pre-rolls because the ads get in the way of instant gratification. Companies and advertisers are continuously missing opportunities to make pre-rolls effective, and are wasting resources as viewers instantly skip over the ads without hesitation.
A Great Opportunity
Pre-roll ads give advertisers the opportunity for millions of people to view their product or brand, and are one of the fastest growing methods of advertising. Pre-rolls have great potential because the ads reach the people who are now devoting more and more time to watching online videos, and less time to watching television, while costing less than TV spots, too.
The big problem is that pre-rolls annoy the overwhelming majority of viewers, and if they’re not annoyed, they tolerate them. The way most pre-rolls are formatted now lead to very low click through rates, and incredible amounts of viewers who do skip the ads after the five-seconds are up. On a platform of video content that users seek out themselves, traditional advertising sticks out like a sore thumb, and it has the potential of rubbing off onto the products and brands it is promoting.
The solution to the problem then, is to drop everything you know about traditional advertising, and to develop completely new strategies for online video advertising, which operates in a different world. For example, if advertisers have five seconds to capture the attention of the viewer and give them a reason to not click the “Skip” button, why do they use an advertisement that is made with a balance of beginning, middle and end? The first five seconds of the pre-roll ad should be devoted to convincing the viewer that the advertisement is worth putting off the Youtube video for a couple more seconds. The horror movie Evil Dead executed that strategy perfectly with their conversion of their standard movie trailer into a pre-roll ad, which you can watch here (Link). (WARNING: Graphic Content).
Lastly, and most importantly, pre-roll ads should engage the viewer. The Internet is full of funny, cool, emotional and educational videos that people choose to watch. The key word is choose, and online ads should make the viewer want to watch more, not click "Skip." Users seek out videos because the content engages their interests on some level. Generally, things that are over saturated with commercial content and reek of advertising are not favorable with users. Effective pre-rolls must break the mold of traditional advertising, and be used creatively to fit in with everything else on the Internet. When users start to seek out interesting advertisements to view is when advertisers will see positive results from those millions of impressions.