By now you must have seen those pesky little videos that show up whenever you want to watch something on YouTube.
Known as pre-roll ads, they interrupt your browsing experience on YouTube, whether you wanted to watch the trailer of the next Game of Thrones episode or were about to get your heart melted by a cute kitten video.
But here’s the thing – even though everyone hates them even the guy writing this, it is also one of the most effective forms of advertising available to marketers online. So when it comes to social media video marketing, you need to seriously consider them.
With YouTube pre-roll ads, marketers have an avenue where a billion users are actively browsing content and they can be reached through videos that will be seen whether they want to or not (or at least the first 5 seconds of the ad).
Pre-roll ads work well because they interrupt the user intent as they search the videos that they care most about. If you were allowed to share your message during this search and discovery, you will be able to get the most out of your target audience.
Most of the time pre-roll ads indeed end with customers skipping the ad after five seconds, but these five seconds are tense as they wait eagerly for the ad to progress and this is where you can share your message.
Now one of the fundamental ways in social media marketing to reach customers on YouTube, let’s dig in to learn more about them.
What are pre-roll ads?
If you head to YouTube, you will find pre-roll ads listed as video ads. Formerly known as in-stream ads, YouTube defines them as:
“Ads booked on a reservation basis to appear on YouTube watch page videos and YouTube channel pages with featured videos.”
Pre-roll ads can be used on its website, mobile app along with other properties that are owned by YouTube. Apart from the video ad, marketers can also use banner ads that will be visible to users on the side of the web page they are accessing.
The video you want to use should be at least 30 seconds to be eligible for video ads.
Marketers can choose from two different ad formats, the skippable and non-skippable.
When a marketer chooses skippable ads, they will be allowing the viewers to skip the ad after the first 5 seconds. The views are counted only after 30 seconds or if the ad is completely viewed. The skippable ads can be six minutes long.
As the name suggests, this ad cannot be skipped by the viewer.
These ads are limited to 15 seconds with exception to EMEA, India, Malaysia, and Singapore where it can be of 20 seconds. Also, it’s worth pointing out that non-skippable ads will not increase the view count of your video.
So what makes a pre-roll Youtube ad great?
Like we stated in the beginning, pre-roll ads are doing great online even if they are irksome for users.
Marketers have a daunting challenge on their hands as the viewer’s attention span is decreasing and with skippable ads, they can only work with the first five seconds. But for your social media video marketing campaigns to succeed, you must try them out.
So the ads have to be clever, to the point and highly engaging. Here’s one made by UNHCR which is by far is one of the best pre-roll ads.
There are three reasons why this pre-roll ad stands out:
1) Clever use of the format
The foremost reason why this ad is so good is that it uses the format and its limitations very well. Knowing that after 5 seconds the ad will show the skip button, they used this in the ad concept. This was brilliant and resonated well with the overall message.
2) It used its first five seconds wisely:
All the greatest pre-roll ads have one thing in common, they make use of the first five seconds brilliantly. The ad piques the viewer’s interest by using a simple statement: “I envy you! – you only have to wait 5 seconds…”.
This stops you in your tracks and encourages you to see where this leads to. We are going to share more ad examples in this course of writing and you will see how well they use their first five seconds.
3) Strong ending that encourages you to click:
In just a few seconds we have been introduced to Omar, who is just seven years old and unlike us, cannot skip the time at the refugee camp he is currently in. The ad ends with a link where you can donate to help Omar and other Syrian refugees. This is an excellent example of telling a story and relating it to the message you want to share.
Here’s another ad that was made by Burger King:
Their ads were brilliant as they know exactly who their target audience is and what they are looking for.
So they worked differently, they created 64 different versions of their pre-roll ads that kept bashing the pre-roll ad format and how it disrupted the viewing experience of YouTube.
Their pre-roll ads were designed according to the content their audience usually watches – from kitten videos to even North Korean babies playing guitars.
Here’s one of the ads itself, so that you can fully understand how they worked:
How can I make great pre-roll ads?
There are ingredients that you can use to create brilliant pre-roll ads. Let’s talk about them one by one:
The greatest of pre-roll ads are those that have understood how pesky they are.
As viewers patiently wait for five seconds, hating why these ads have shown up on their screens, they watch the ad attentively for the first five seconds.
Hey, even Google thinks you should consider how your target audience thinks to make creative decisions regarding your pre-roll ad.
And today, we use the internet with ad blockers and customers are willingly paying an extra buck to use “premium” packages that offer ad-free experience.
So you must consider this and empathize with your target audience. Take this ad for reference by Volkswagen Beetle:
The whole pre-roll ad is configured around the skip button with the tagline “it automatically changes your gears and skips ads for you”.
Like this and the Burger King ad before, pre-roll ads that were self-aware of the problem of ads and how much customers love to skip them have been the ones that have been successful the most.
2) Be precise and direct:
Make them as snappy as possible. Pre-roll ads need to make sure they deliver the message in as little time as possible.
Customers are attuned to these ads and as soon as they start rolling, they have their mouse hovering over the skip button, to click it as soon as the five seconds end.
So you have to create a message that is clear, concise and quickly understood.
In a nutshell: just blurt it out whatever you want to convey in the first few seconds.
If you want our two cents, don’t waste the initial seconds on showcasing your logo or building a story. Be as direct as possible.
Making videos short and sweet is one of the winning prerequisites of successful video marketing. We also recently wrote about it.
Here’s a relevant example of NAIL communications:
3) The right balance:
Just like everything else in our lives, there is a need to have balance in your ad. If you are creating a pre-roll youtube ad it can be funny and engaging but it shouldn’t be without the message. What we saying is that you shouldn’t skip out the message just to get engagement online.
There are a lot of ads running on YouTube that has tried to be funny and engaging but haven’t shared their message seamlessly.
And even if they did, it came after the five-second mark.
Remember that by adding cute puppies or funny jokes is going to get the customer to stop and watch the ad but if you can’t encourage them to take any action, you are wasting your dollars on YouTube.
Pre-roll ads are indeed interruptive but that doesn’t mean you should forget about sending your message.
4) The call to action:
The major concern with pre-roll ads is to get the viewers to watch your ad. But the most important part of your ad is the call to action – what desired action you want your customers to take.
This is where you need to focus your efforts on.
Work with simple things like taking them to your landing page or your website or even have them subscribe to your channel. But be specific and clear into what you want them to do.
From the earliest days of advertising, we have the option to skip ads. Just think about it, when we used to get ads on the television, we used to run to get chores done or grab a snack from the kitchen.
Pre-roll ads are no different as they are interrupting your target audience browsing experience on YouTube and just like traditional advertising, it is up to you to create an engaging story that will entice the viewer to not only get the message but also go beyond the first 5 seconds.
If you are looking for ways to create effective pre-roll ads on YouTube, we recommend that you come to us for a chat.