Commentary

Geico's Pre-Roll Lampoons The Horror Of . . .Pre-Roll

We all know how to answer polling questions the way the person asking is hoping for, and so, if someone asks if you like to sit through pre-roll, it’s not as if you have to think before answering.  Unless you create or sell pre-roll advertising for a living.

So when I read stats about how much consumers hate to watch those 15 seconds or so before the video they are there to see, I can’t think of anything to say except, “So?”  

Did radio advertisers query listeners about ads on radio? Was there ever a time the ad-consuming public ever said, in unison, “We love commercials!”? I don’t think so, and before you throw the Super Bowl at me, let’s acknowledge that’s a special occasion. (Eleven months out of the year, if I asked, “Can I put a 5-foot tall, dead and messy tree in your living room?” you’d probably say no.)

But I think everybody knows commercials are here to stay and that many of them can be engaging.

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New Geico commercials have made the most out of the realization that online viewers are so uniquely bothered by pre-roll that it’s become the established attitude.  Its new  “Unskippable” ad campaign brilliantly lampoons the presumed funk we’re all in over pre-roll ads.

The best is a family dinner scene in which the wife-type tells hubby and kids, “Don’t thank me, thank the savings.” Once that awkward  line is delivered, the frame freezes and a voiceover intones, “You can’t skip this Geico ad because it’s already over. Geico. Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more.” The ad seems to be over, in about five seconds.

That’s it. Except, as you’ll see, the frame isn’t frozen at all. (I’m vague on the details from this point forward, for readers who haven’t seen it. I'd hate to blow the joke.)

They’re very funny ads--all four of them, produced by the Martin Agency. If you haven’t seen them, you should.

They’ve gotten a ton of publicity and free media all around--mine included--and the one I sketched above got 725,000 views in the first day it was out.  

USA Today wrote, “Some folks can't skip fast enough past these so-called 'pre-roll' ads — typically shown before the videos they actually want to see. Geico this week may have taken a giant step toward changing that.”

Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb told the paper, "This ad succeeds in calling pre-rolls out as a necessary evil. We all know pre-rolls aren't going away anytime soon. This spot functions as a pie in the face."

In his rave Geico review, Econsultancy’s Christopher Ratcliff writes, “Research from 2013 indicates that 94% of people skip pre-roll ads. There are many reasons why they’re so loathed, and frankly it’s a wonder that two years later they still exist.” He concludes, “if pre-rolls were of a similar, highly entertaining quality as the Geico ads, maybe things would be different.”

Ratcliff’s best point is that Geico has come up with a format for pre-roll that it can use as its own signature gimmick, over and over, but it does so, I’d say by comically overestimating all that presumed loathing and necessary evilness talk. I’m not going to defend pre-roll, but my goodness, out in the real world--rather than the advertising world--it’s a gnat on the list of the world’s top annoyances. The people most excited about the Geico pre-roll joke, I’d bet, are the people who foist all the other, more painful pre-rolls at us. And without their duller pre-roll approach, the Geico ads would never work. So thank you.

pj@mediapost.com
1 comment about "Geico's Pre-Roll Lampoons The Horror Of . . .Pre-Roll ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 10, 2015 at 2:35 p.m.

    I don't skip pre-rolls, but I mute them. 15-30 seconds of video isn't worth skipping, but why listen to an unwanted ad? If it's that clever of an ad, I can count on MediaPost to send me a link (as you have just done, thanks!). However, on the TV Everywhere shows I watch, each internal pod has seven 30s that I avoid by opening a full-screen browser tab with a Google search of "three and a half minute timer" -- taking me to a window that covers the show video while counting the time down to zero. That way I can read email on my phone or play a game while waiting through the pod.

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