Do I Have to Hate Pre-Roll? Can't I Just Ignore It?

One of the facts about Facebook and YouTube and Twitter is that it seems people feel absolutely compelled to “feel” something.

I don’t think there is a way that anyone is measuring national outrage, or any way that the use of exclamation points can be counted, year by year, but it seems people walk around perpetually feeling so much these days, and also that it is important for them to have an opinion about everything.

And I never have been able to figure this out: Why is it such a big deal that you are laughing out loud. Is that just-not-done? I have laughed out loud for as long as I can remember and haven’t thought it was a particularly noteworthy response to something that is funny.  (I would also venture to guess nearly 90% of the people who say they are laughing out loud really aren’t.)

Whatever makes so many people share the GEICO hump day commercial, or in another year, view the “Gangnam Style” video is beyond me.

On the flip side, I guess it is true that I dislike pre-roll ads, but if I was answering a survey I couldn’t actually say I hate them. Hate is a pretty strong word.   

But pre-roll ads are not a venereal disease. If I do nothing about them, they will go away by themselves. In that way, pre-roll ads are better than many things, like the E! Entertainment news briefs that I see if I ever happen to pass by the home page.

Not everyone feels that way, and as the year wraps up, there’s been a lot of praise for great things that happened in online video, and less about stuff that not-so-good. But looking over the material, I came across a dead-on critique of pre-roll by Chris Lake, the director of content for from way back in August. He began:   

Is there anybody on the planet who actually enjoys pre-roll video advertising? Research has shown that 94% of people skip pre-roll ads, though I can't believe the number is that low (presumably the other 6% are masochists). 

Pre-roll ads are as loathed as pop-ups, which studies found to be damaging to both advertiser and publisher. I imagine that the same applies to pre-rolls. Have you ever watched one and wanted to buy the product or service that's being (badly) pitched to you?

And he goes on from there with a perfect tear-down of pre-roll. I have to admire the passion, and the good example of a Volkswagen commercial from earlier this year that took the time to actually do the Skip Ad for you. Brilliant.

The comments from readers showed that wide divide over an issue (pre-roll, in this world, is an issue).  “On a personal level I detest them as they are intrusive and interfere with the customer experience,” one respondent said. “I skip 100% of the time. If an advertiser is going to forcibly interrupt my viewing then they should be paying me for the privilege - not Google.”

Jeez. Cool down. But then there’s a social-scientist type guy, who notes, “Even when you skip the ad you have still noticed the brand which is key. Watching a short advert is a tiny price to pay for a free service. You can only hate the ads if you fail to appreciate their purpose.”

Honestly. If you asked somebody on a dating service site to give their opinion of pre-roll, and got that back, would you be interested?  No way. But I’d vote for them for Student Council.

Me, I just don’t want to get involved. Really, you’re talking about 15 or 30 seconds out of my life. Yes, several times a day, and sometimes when I’m in a hurry. But I can’t really work up outright loathing, just a feeling that often, there’s nothing much there to see. Just like a lot of other advertising. Maybe it’s time to quit trying to “improve” pre-roll a lot. It is what it is.    
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