Pre-Roll Video Advertising Can Learn From Social Media Marketing

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.

9 comments about "Pre-Roll Video Advertising Can Learn From Social Media Marketing".
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  1. Mark Burrell from Tongal, January 19, 2012 at 3:08 p.m.

    well said!

  2. Jay Oconner from World Colours Network Inc., January 19, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.

    Pre-rolls are the most annoying thing especially as you shift from clip to clip or episode to episode for those companies courageous enough to put their content in a TV Everywhere Strategy. What is the answer and balance to improve the Customer Experience for Video on Demand Content? Well it certainly isn't funny pre-rolls being recycled over and over again. And Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting that provides some limited access will have as much as 150 or more seconds of advertising running during a Full Episode viewing of one of their shows. Are they trying to attract or repel customers who want their MTV when they want it and on the Device of choice. Transmedia Brandcasting is the answer to boring Pre-Rolls and Commercial breaks as the Content itself is the Advertisement when Product Placement and Transmedia Brandcasting Technologies (TBT) are utilized. As a master customer and broadcaster commercial interruptions for items PUSHED on me in exchange for watching a clip kills the User Experience. Let me PULL the ads I want by Clicking on the Products that interest me. Collect that Metadata and create a win win between the Artist and the Fan, The Innovator and the Customer Direct, using Social Media to empower consumers to even become profit centers themselves. Talk about a change in the Economy and leveling the playing field.

    So in conclusion Pre-Rolls Suck. Content must be paid for and Advertisers are getting the short end of the stick because there is no way to tell if an Advert produced instant customers. Transmedia Brandcasting accomplishes that and answers Phil Kent CEO of Turner Broadcasting discussed in recent statements about Turners TV Everywhere Strategy. As a viewer I can tell you I am not satisfied with the User Experience yet, but hopeful they will give us a call at WCNTV to help them do it better for all consumers of content outside traditional TV. As the Tradition is broken.

  3. Ben Hollin from Cisco Systems, Inc., January 19, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.

    Creative is one thing, but there's a major issue with ad load as well, particularly for short form content. A good (or terrible) example is You have to sit through a 30 sec. pre-roll to view a clip which might be as short as 1 minute, and then another ad before viewing another clip. Some combination of shorter ad units and metering of total duration as a percentage of content viewed is needed. Perhaps an ad for every 3 or 4 short content views would be tolerable, but as it stands I tend to bail from sites like this sooner than I would otherwise.

  4. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, January 19, 2012 at 3:28 p.m.

    Pre-roll advertising (of more than :05 seconds) is what's wrong with our industry -- incentives are misaligned -- we could not care less about the consumer as long as we get paid every time a pre roll ad loads and starts to play. David, as a creative guy your column says so much about your integrity -- thanks for sharing your insight -- acting on it is a whole other issue.

  5. Jon Latzer from TuneIn, January 19, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.

    David- Maybe you should have started the article by saying "Can't we all agree that ALL advertising is super annoying?"
    If you polled 10 people and asked them if they wanted pre-roll or any other interruption to their programming content 10 people would all agree that they don't want it. It's not just pre-roll video, though I agree repurposing TV commercials is not an attractive and creative way to engage a consumer. Marketing should be tailored to the medium which is why :5, :10 and :15 second creative in this environment has been acknowledged by many content providers as better suited to the on-line environment.
    When TV was new, many of the commercials were repurposed radio spots with pictures. It took awhile before creative caught up. The same will occur in the on-line space especially as more and more consumers access content there every day. The marketing to those consumers will change to effectively reach them, engage them and build a marketers sales.

  6. Walter Sabo from SABO media, January 19, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.

    HITVIEWS online web stars made INTERACTIVE pre-rolls for Timberland,, Mountain Dew and many others. They were part of the show, not a pathetic interruption. This has been done and proven for at least 4 years now through HITVIEWS

  7. tim glomb from hdnet, January 20, 2012 at 1:33 p.m.

    Glidden paints has a smart concept in their 'Bloggers' video campaign; real women, real solutions for your home, BUT to make those :30 sec spots as pre-rolls on your partner publisher sites turned me and my wife off. We dumped the website on the 3rd :30 sec spot trying to find a kitchen design vid we had seen earlier.
    Weren't even thinking about paint at that point but Behr got $100 from us (smaller coupon ad on another site) later in the project.

    A miss.

  8. jason wilk from 140Fire, January 20, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.

    This is exactly why we created 140Fire! We create engaging overlays to enhance TV ads and make them more suitable for sharing, gathering data and showing advertisers what works. Just by attaching our technology on a campaign, we will increase the CTR by 400% and see engagement as high as 35%. Can't beat that with a stick, so we must be doing something right.

  9. Todd Koerner from e-merge Media, January 23, 2012 at 8:46 p.m.

    I understand the temptation to make pre-rolls entertaining, but should they compete with the actual content they accompany? Might it be more effective and useful to the viewer to get in and get out with a concise message?

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