Are Pre-Roll Ads An Endangered Species?

Think about the last time you watched a movie in a theater. In our modern, multi-screen era, it’s uncommon to have a person’s undivided attention for such an extended period. People have paid actual money to come to this space, sit in a crowd, and share an authentic experience. The lights dim. The audience falls silent in anticipation. What happens next?

Typically, an advertisement rolls, and it’s followed by a collective sigh of exasperation: “Another advertisement. We just sat through fifteen minutes of slides trying to sell us on local businesses. We paid good money, and now we have to watch 90 seconds of full-blast Coca-Cola marketing.” 

It is agitating. The modern consumer has developed a savvy resistance to such forced messages. They’re forced to sit through it, endure it, and then what?

Previews. Some people get to the theater early so they don’t miss them. In fact, it’s pretty easy to find someone who will claim that the previews are their favorite part of the movie-going experience. They may be enticing and seductive, but they’re also advertising, plain and simple.

A recent article asks the question: “Are video ads the next digital bubble?” In it, author Paolo Gaudiano reflects on the bygone era when contextual ads (those hyperlinked, double-underlined words that floated a marketing message when the cursor passed over them) were all the rage. He concludes,

“The main reason contextual ads rose in popularity was because, when first introduced, they showed much higher engagement rates than traditional banner ads. Advertisers and publishers alike clamored for these miraculous new ad units that fit seamlessly within their content. The main reason for the rapid collapse was, quite simply, that these ads were extremely intrusive, and the majority of impressions were most likely due to users accidentally hovering over the infamous double-underlined words. Users rapidly adapted, learning to spot and circumvent the telltale signs of these ads. Engagement rates plummeted. Publishers and advertisers fled. Companies failed.”

Gaudiano predicts the same fate for auto-roll video advertising, and perhaps with good reason. 

Like the movie theater audience member who resents being forced to sit through advertisements, the digital media consumer recoils at the marketing message that is imposed upon them against their will and against their individual interest. 

Think about it for a moment: When you land at a website and a video advertisement starts automatically playing (God forbid, with sound), what’s your reaction?

If you’re like most people, you will instinctively close or mute the video, and perhaps close the entire web page, because you resent being forced to endure a disruptive, unwanted message. It’s very possible that you might retain the name of the company in question and harbor ill sentiment toward it. Or, it’s likely that you’ll take the next step and install ad blocking software. 

That model is unsustainable for advertisers, publishers and consumers. There has to be a better, brighter way in which all parties involved benefit.

What if video started playing that seemed more like a movie preview? What if it offered you an enticing story; something you didn’t automatically want to turn off, but instead, something you wanted to share with your friends? What if brands and agencies leveraged their creative talent to create content thatentertains instead of disrupt?

This is the future of digital video marketing. Every bit of automatically-delivered video will have to have the polish of a major studio production and promise entertainment and insight. The product will have to be embedded and seem like an afterthought. The question that then remains: Are we as marketing professionals up to the challenge?

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