So you click on a video, and there it is: the dreaded pre-roll. But you sit through it because in order to watch what you want, you’re forced to watch an ad.
And that’s the contrast that matters:
· Video content created to attract a willing audience, vs.
· Video ads that are forced onto an unwilling audience.
So given that contrast, you would think that the producers of online content videos would shun, if not banish, the mindset and strategies for creating pre-roll ads. But you’d be wrong.
More than 90% of corporate online content videos are made with a pre-roll mindset, even when the client hires a professional agency to create its video content.
And most of them are set up for failure before they ever start filming. Why? Because of the “advertising vs. programming” mindset.
I spend a lot of time working with independent filmmakers, and the difference between how they approach creating content and how advertisers create content is striking. When traditional mass-media advertisers create an ad, here’s what they focus on:
• What does the client want to communicate?
• Will the ad’s message be remembered and recalled by viewers?
• Is the client’s brand/name/logo featured prominently enough to create brand recognition?
• Did the slogan or tagline “sink in”?
Compare that to the questions filmmakers ask themselves at every stage of the process, from pitching concepts to attracting talent to interviewing test audiences and crafting trailers:
• Will this grab and keep an audience’s interest? (Engaging)
• Will this create an emotional reaction? (Moving)
• Will someone pay money to see this? (Valuable)
• Will they want to share it or recommend it? (Word of Mouth)
The first set of questions is “company focused” on what they want to communicate and how well they drove that message home to the audience. Ask these questions, and audience engagement gets ignored (or at least back-burnered). It’s a pre-roll mindset because you don’t have to care about engagement when the audience is forced to watch.
The second set of questions is “viewer focused” on what the audience is interested in. Such as, are we delivering content it in a way that’s inherently entertaining, and will people actually LIKE it? Ask these questions and audience engagement stays priority #1, which is what you need to create effective content videos.
So why does the “advertising mindset” prevail?
Unfortunately, if you look at what most clients focus on when creating online video content, it’ll be the first set of questions rather than the second. That means that the producer gets handed a video “brief” or list of objectives created from that first list of questions. These are video objectives that are tailor-made to inspire a pre-roll mindset, and ultimately, pre-roll style content.
Now, you would hope that most agencies would then step in and correct the situation, but that rarely happens.
First, it’s always hard to tell the client that the very way they are thinking about their video marketing is… well, wrong.
And second, creating interruption-style commercials is what ad agencies do! A pre-roll ad is basically a TV spot cut in half, and a marketing video created by an agency is often a TV spot extended to a couple of minutes. So pre-roll style objectives and questions feel comfortable to marketers. Comfortable enough to roll along with, when directed to do so by the client.
So what can you do about it?
Begin by asking and prioritizing content-style questions: Will the audience find the video engaging/Moving/Valuable/Worth talking about and sharing? Get your video production team to ask — and honestly answer — these questions.
And if you outsource video creation/production, tell them that being liked by your audience has as high (or higher) priority as brand messaging.