Can we all agree that most pre-roll video ads are super-annoying? Audiences have learned to tame TV ads with TiVo, but we continue to see the proliferation of online video ads as part of a trend in which pre-rolls will see the most growth of all (62%) in an online video advertising industry that’s expected to see an aggressive 40% year-over-expected increase from 2011, topping $3.1 billion in 2012, according to a Break Media study posted on eMarketer.
You’d think that as a creative director at a digital creative agency, I would be excited about this trend -- and I am! My beef is with the creative content that’s being presented in these valuable little chunks of time in which advertisers distract from, interrupt or delay the user experience in some way. Viewers are your customers and should be offered ads that will appeal to them and not push them away.
Stop recycling TV ads!
Unless your ads are funny or interesting enough to be considered entertaining content, just stop. I understand the allure from a budget perspective. You’ve already spent a lot on TV ads, so why not just cut them down and make people watch them online too? Well, because when you do that, you make online ads every bit as frustrating and disruptive as TV ads. Some pre-rolls even include a countdown just to let you know when you can skip the thing! Start thinking about creating original online video ads that look and feel more like shareable content than ads. Plan additional budget for original pre-roll content, or piggyback on commercial shoots with separate creative purposed for online use.
Set the bar higher for pre-roll
The bar should be set higher for pre-roll ads. Online viewers have been conditioned to be able to watch videos ad for free, and when they’re all ready to dig into some “cat pounces on unsuspecting turtle,” the last thing they want to do is to live through a stupid diaper ad.
The current user experience is like when you’re in a rush to drive somewhere and you run into one of those road crew guys carrying the stop sign. I know he’s just doing his job but I didn’t expect him to be there, he’s slowing me down and I hate him so much right now. I remember what street he’s working on and try not to go that way again.
Now, if the guy’s doing a funny :30 standup routine about being stuck in traffic, that might change my opinion of him, his road crew, the city and all the other people on the road, who will also be pointing and commenting to each other about him, until he packs up his microphone and stop sign and lets us go. If he changes his material, I might even take that route again.
To beat another analogy with a dead horse: You’re at a restaurant, and just as the waiter puts your dinner down on the table, he launches into a :30 pre-meal ad for a Lexus sales event -- and you’re not allowed to eat until he’s done. How do you feel about Lexus now?
Should TV ads and pre-roll ads be coming from different agencies?
Depending on whether your ad agency is wired for social and understands the digital space or not, you should consider working with multiple agencies to reach different audiences. The TV audience is captive -- and, Super Bowl ads aside, doesn’t really care what you’re blasting at them. They’re so anxious to fast-forward through ads, especially if the content doesn’t interest them, that they may even resent you and your brand.
My agency is involved in developing pre-roll ads as well as social video content, and I believe brands and the online advertising industry can do better. Pre-roll ads, as well as all types of online video ads, should be original, targeted, social, and far more welcomed by viewers than they are now.
Pre-roll has to become more social
Imagine a world in which video ads were so engaging that people had the opportunity and desire to share them with their friends? I know, that’s crazy. That would take actual creative work, vision, planning, additional budget and social media integration beyond what most marketers are willing to embrace at this time.
Call to action!
In a bold and social move, I’m calling all video viewers to start leaving comments, positive or negative, about the pre-roll ads that appear on the videos they’re trying to watch and on the blogs and publications where they are embedded. Advertising is playing around on the social media playground; the bell just rang, and it’s time for them to get schooled.