Those (sometimes) skippable ads that precede YouTube videos may be a thorn in the side of your digital experience, but they are highly effective. According to a 2017 study by IPG Media Lab and YuMe, pre-roll ads are particularly favorable across several key metrics including engagement and purchase intent. Another study by Nielsen, which was commissioned by Facebook, revealed that viewers who viewed even one second of the ad saw an increase in brand awareness and purchase intent.

So what are these brands doing correctly that enable these pre-roll ads to improve purchase intent, even after a second of viewing? As ever, our panel of leading experts and practitioners share their tips.

What is a Pre-Roll Ad? (And What’s a Post-roll ad?)

A pre-roll ad is a promotional video which appears before the video that the user has selected to play. A post-roll ad, on the other hand, is also a promotional video that appears after the video has finished. There’s also mid-roll ad which appears during when the video content is playing. “A pre-roll ad is a paid, promotional video that plays before user selected content,” said Eli Chmouni, CEO and founder of Scottsdale AZ.-based Surf Media. “Post-roll ads differ in that they play after the selected video and therefore can be less intrusive.”

As Shannon Montoya, VP of account services at Lakewood CO.-based Page 1 Solutions, explained, the above advert platforms are influenced by the viewer’s activity on the video sharing platform. “Both [pre-roll and post-roll] ads, as well as mid-roll ads, are influenced by the search and user behaviors of the viewer. If the user has visited a certain website or performed a certain online search and then watched a video with ads enabled, that user is more likely to see a pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll ad for the business targeting that type of consumer," Montoya said.

On speaking with Rod Holmes, managing partner of Chicago Style SEO, there are three main types of pre-roll ads:

  • Skippable ads - Users can skip the advert after 5 seconds. “These are a pay-per-view model which means you pay when the viewer watches the entire ad, or if the ad is 30 seconds or longer, or when they reach 30 seconds,” Holmes said.
  • Non-skippable ads - These ads are 15 to 20 seconds long. “[Non-skippable ads] are on a pay-per-view model as well and are usually used by national advertisers,” Holmes said
  • Bumper ads - 6 seconds in length and non-skippable. “[Bumper ads] are on a pay-per-1000-views model and are also usually used by national advertisers,” Holmes shared.

Related Article: How Marketers Can Recognize the Signs of Ad Fatigue

What’s The Best Way to Leverage Pre-Roll Ads?

We asked our experts what’s the best way brands can leverage pre-roll ads for their marketing campaigns, they shared the following tips.

Get Your Brand’s Message In Early

Since the first 5 or 6 seconds of any type of pre-roll ad is non-skippable, brands must strive to get their message and call to action across as early as possible. As Montoya noted, brands do not need 30 seconds to convey their message. “Make sure that you include your brand message and call to action early and do it visually so that you don't need 30 seconds to get your point across. Remember, people can exit out after 6 seconds. Make those six seconds count,” Montoya explained.

Related Article: 5 Marketing Automation Trends in the Forefront of 2018

Create Compelling Content

For many brands, the 6-second window is not enough time to convince your viewers to take action. To make full use of this short window, Caitlin Sweeney, Digital Marketing Coordinator at Englewood CO.-based Clicks and Clients, advised brands to create compelling content for the purpose of brand awareness rather than lead generation. “The content of these ads should clearly present the same goal and strive to engage the audience,” advised Sweeney. “Rather than convince the viewer to buy something, the content should spark an interest in your brand. Compelling content will drive viewers to watch the entire advertisement and continue to further interact with your brand via your website or another channel.”

Sweeney added that since Google/Youtube only charges if the viewer watches the pre-roll ad for 30 seconds or more, brands must use this to their advantage. “Google only charges for the ad if the viewer watches for 30 seconds or more, or if the viewer engages with your ad. Because of this, it’s important to make your point at the beginning of the video so even if the viewer skips the ad, they can recall what the advertisement was for,” Sweeney said.

Learning Opportunities

Chmouni also agreed, ”there is a reason we commonly use the phrase, ‘Content is King.’ When creating your pre-roll video remember that you are competing with the content your viewer intends to watch. Ads that use substandard audio or video quality won't make the impact necessary to pull viewer's attention away.”

Be Mindful of Your Consumer’s Attention

According to Bernard May, CEO at Westlake Village CA.-based National Positions, brands must be mindful of their consumer’s attention. May has also encouraged brands to test different variations of their pre-roll ads. “Make sure that you are properly targeting your pre-roll ads. The attention of an audience watching a 20 min unboxing video may be longer than someone watching a four-minute movie review. So test variations of your ad, like 5-10-15-second versions with different call to actions to see what is fueling the biggest impact,” May explained.

Utilize Hooks

While pre-roll ads should really be focused on raising brand awareness, as Sweeney had advised, depending on the context of the ad, brands can opt to include a call to action. But if they do, Chmouni suggested that the call to action should be presented as a hook. “Make your ad valuable and actionable. 

With pre-roll ads, your time in front of the viewer is limited, especially if your content is skippable. What we tell our advertisers to do is to focus on content that urges viewers to take an action. Using a hook such as a special offer or a teaser is a great way to compel your audience,” shared Chmouni.

What to Avoid When Implementing Pre-Roll Ads?

Montoya cautioned brands to avoid using lengthy and complicated copy. “Remember to respect the 6-second window when users can't skip the ad. Avoid using lengthy copy and complicated messaging anywhere in the ad, but particularly in the 'unskippable' segment," Montoya said.

Chmouni advised brands to refrain from using “complicated calls to action” and trying to provide  “too much information in a limited time.” Chmouni also emphasized avoiding the use of “static imagery” and tools and equipment that produces “poor quality” video content.

Are you planning to experiment with pre-roll ads in 2019?