Long- And Short-Form Videos: Complementary Pieces In Ad Strategy Puzzle


The market for online video ads has never been hotter. According to comScore, 156 million U.S. Internet viewers watched 8.3 billion video ads in March.

Given how long the industry has been around, I was surprised that a leading digital advertising event recently celebrated various long-form online video ad executions without even mentioning pre-roll. This is evidence that many advertisers still think of “online video ads” as one- to five-minute videos that are perfect for posting on YouTube or a brand’s Facebook page, in hopes that it will go viral and generate millions of tweets and Facebook “likes” from users.

While these “video ads” could be very successful as a viral video, they wouldn’t be very useful as an advertisement, since they are much too long to hold people’s attention or keep viewers fully engaged.

Short, to-the-point ads are more effective at holding a person’s attention and extending the audience for existing ad campaigns.



Pre-roll is usually placed before online video content, but there are different ways to utilize this format. It can also be served in apps and games, online and on mobile devices. There are also many different pre-roll units to choose from, depending on the overall goal of the campaign. Interactive pre-roll (IPR) allows users to engage with the ad directly.

Advertisers can rework long-form promotional video content and pare it down to make shorter ads more suitable for pre-roll or TV.

There’s a time and a place for both long-form and pre-roll video, and advertisers should think strategically about how best to use each in their campaigns.

Strategic benefits of using pre-roll:

  • Scale and reach: A few million likes for a video on Facebook is great, but pre-roll can offer 10 tp 20 times that reach. In addition, advertisers can decide where they want the pre-roll ads to appear so they can tailor the ads to the audience’s preferences instead of waiting for people to visit a brand’s YouTube or Facebook page in order to view the longer form ads.
  • Cross-platform flexibility: People are much less likely to watch a long-form ad on smaller screens such as mobile devices and tablets. Pre-roll, on the other hand, works well across all four screens: online, mobile, tablet and connected TV. Pre-roll can also be served across a variety of apps and mobile games. For mobile, it is best to limit pre-roll ads to 15 seconds as opposed to 30 seconds when advertising online.
  • Creative execution: Think it’s impossible to insert creativity into an ad that’s only 15 to 30 seconds? Think again. Some of the most innovative pre-roll ads allow viewers to interact with the video ads and control the ad’s direction instead of just watching passively from the sidelines. Advertisers can also utilize different targeting techniques to reach the right audience. Geo-targeting, for example, is great for reaching mobile users on the go. 

Long-form promotional videos and pre-roll ads both play important roles in an advertiser’s digital advertising strategy and both have their specific place in the overall marketing mix. Strategically combining the powerful qualities of both these ad types will make any campaign stronger, smarter and more engaging.

4 comments about "Long- And Short-Form Videos: Complementary Pieces In Ad Strategy Puzzle ".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, May 9, 2012 at 5:34 p.m.

    With all due respect Matt, haven't I read in these same pages about pre-roll's 40%+ abandon rates and 70%+ skipping (when given the option)?

    Anyone who thinks that the 60% who don't abandon outright and the 30% who don't skip are somehow actually engaged with this unwelcome interruption should call me about a great bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you cheap.

  2. Rob Tait from Silent Joe, May 9, 2012 at 6:07 p.m.

    Matt – not sure I agree with all your points. Branded online video has more than the two states you referenced of long form and pre-roll. There is also the episodic. And length does not determine the video's ability to engage, the content does. We produced a branded episodic web show for ConAgra Canada in which completion rates neared 80% and those episodes were 4 minutes plus in length. But they were written by long form writers, not advertising copywriters who know little of story arc and keeping the audience's attention. And frankly, any marketer who produces long form video with the 'hopes' of it going viral is wasting their money. Branded online video content has to be anchored in a distribution media strategy that delivers targeted views. Just my $.02. Thanks for the piece and raising the debate.

  3. Dan Auito from Next Century Studios, May 9, 2012 at 10:07 p.m.

    Strategy needs to be considered here as well. Of course content is king, use the content to gain the attention of those who are willing to endure longer-versions which include pre-roll and post calls to action.
    Using a 10/10/4 format really drives huge numbers of potential viewers who are searching for the specific information being presented.
    10 FAQ's 1 minute each, 10 Questions they should know to ask but don't and four further calls to create interest.
    These get key-worded tagged and syndicated out to be found in all corners of cyber-space driving interested parties back to the entire production.
    Key: attract those who are interested with content only then deliver the whole enchilada on a specific landing page to capture, entice, educate and endear.
    Dan Auito COO

  4. Marc Podell from Torrential, May 10, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.

    "Pre-roll is usually placed before online video content" - Let's clarify, a user clicks/chooses to watch some form of video content and are FORCED to watch a pre-roll ad they didnt ask for. As great the reach and scale of pre-roll is, that is 100% intrusive and interuptive and annoying, hence the average 62% avg. completion rates and 70% skipping.
    Incentivized video (yes like my company) offers users the option to CHOOSE to watch a video ad in exchange for their content, in this case the content is social currency. What happens when they get the choice? How about an average 96% completion rate for :30s and 88% for :60s. Add in an average 4% post-view engagement rate (compared to a microscopic .5% CTR for pre-roll) which is non-incentivized and you can clearly see why this category is growing exponentially.

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