4 Keys to Ensure Your Pre-roll Ads Get Watched

It seems that for every innovative new method marketers devise to reach customers, savvy consumers come up with new ways to avoid said advertising. It’s like a ping-pong game where the prize, figuratively speaking, is eyeballs. Pre-roll ads—the short commercials that play before online videos—are a relatively new attempt to capture viewer attention for advertisers.

But alas, according to a recent consumer study by Magna and IPG Media Lab, 65% of viewers skip pre-roll ads as soon as they get the chance. And YouTube recently bowed to customer preference when they announced that they would no longer support unskippable 30-second ads.

So, how can you keep potential customers from skipping your messages? It’s an uphill battle. After all, as much as it pains us to hear it, viewers say they don’t want to watch advertising. However, people often share viral videos that are—you guessed it—ads. Could it be that viewers just don’t want to watch boring ads? Read on for four ways to make your pre-roll ads unskippable.

1. The literal method: Opt for six-second, unskippable ads.

The first way to overcome ad-skipping is, well, to make it impossible. YouTube describes their six-second ads as “little haikus of video ads.” Like haikus, these short videos may be best suited for making a quick impression and raising brand awareness. Complex offers and ideas won’t fit here. Here’s one by Adidas that says all it needs to say without actually saying anything.

2. Tell a story viewers can’t resist.

Geico has led the pack in crafting colorful, quirky, curiosity-stoking pre-roll videos in recent years.  In one campaign, commercials are literally “condensed” by being slowly crushed from left to right. In others, stories’ endings are placed at the beginning or videos fast-forward through their middles, acknowledging viewers’ desire to get to their chosen content more quickly.

3. Make a human connection.

Ads with high emotional content engaged 43% of viewers in the Magna/IPG Media Lab study, as compared to 32% of people who were engaged by low-emotion commercials. Burger King got a lot of attention for these ads, both for empathizing with audiences who weren’t eager to watch pre-roll ads, and for creating 64 versions of the ad tailored to different keyword searches.

4. Create an interactive experience.

Interactive ads have been found to be more effective than standard pre-roll at engaging viewers, in terms of attention, emotion and brand awareness. The Australian Federal Police created The Missing Persons Pre-Roll, a geo-targeted campaign in which the YouTube “skip” button was changed to say “Yes I have” or “No I haven’t” seen the person in question. In five days, 238 clicked the “Yes I have” button to offer new information on missing person cases.

Anything that makes viewers hover over the “skip” button for a few extra seconds is a win, so quirky content, storytelling that draws consumers in and interactive elements that tempt viewers to participate all work in your favor.

But when all else fails, there’s still hope: The Magna/IPG Media Lab study discovered that even when viewers click “skip” the moment they’re allowed to, they come away with an increased brand awareness. So make sure your product or offer is front and center, and you should see a bounce regardless of how long you can hold viewers' attention.