Death Of The Pre-Roll Is Much Exaggerated

In a MAD London article last week, Alex McIlvenny appears to be ringing the death bell for pre-roll advertising. He is right that user experience should come first, but the logic that it should come from outstream video is ill-founded. Labelling pre-rolls "intrusive" yet promoting outstream is the height of irony.

Outstream or social video?

While outstream has seen remarkable growth, much of this is underpinned by in-feed social video, which the IAB categorises under outstream. The most recent IAB UK Digital Adspend Results shows that 81% of video display takes place in social. By extension, the growth of outstream is attributable to the growth of social video, rather than in-text video on news sites, for example.  

It’s high time for a reassessment of this, as seeing a video in a social stream and having text ripped apart on an editorial site by a outstream player are hardly comparable. Social in-feed and outstream should be separated so we can see the true picture. 

Outstream was born in a time when video content was too expensive to produce, difficult to scale, or impossible to create in time for news stories. That’s no longer the case-- machine learning and automation are enabling video content to be delivered to even the smallest publishers.

Putting instream in context

While outstream has been busy making headlines, publishers have been ramping up their ability to host in-stream and subsequently, pre-roll. No longer just the preserve of YouTube, instream is now appearing on more and more sites, as automated delivery of content is now possible. Contextually matched video content can be dropped into a site quickly and easily. Research from Lumen even found that this resulted in a 33% increase in time-on-page, compared to out-of-context video content.

This provides new inventory to advertisers looking to run pre-roll. The same Lumen study also found that engagement with pre-roll advertising increased by 42% with respondents who were shown contextual video. So pre-roll, when it’s delivered against true instream -- that is video that users want to watch -- is highly effective.


Another misconception is that "native" is solely the domain of outstream. When video, text and image content live together on the page, creating a coherent experience -- aesthetically as well as with the page topic -- is a must.

Video content should be a part of the experience, but by its very nature, outstream is interruptive. Claiming that an obstructive video display ad is "native" baffles me. Again, perhaps we would all benefit from some better classifications.

Users love video -- we know that. Look around you the next time you’re on public transport, in the park, or queuing for… well, anything. Publishers that have video which enhances their text content are making the most of this -- and seeing longer dwell times, and in turn, higher revenues.

A new era for pre-roll

Much of the research on the benefits of outstream vs instream fail to take into account this new era of instream (and pre-roll). The availability of instream inventory will rocket in 2018-19, as the effect of these low-barrier-to-entry sources for instream kick in. The good news for publishers is that revenues will rise in-line, as instream is more valuable to advertisers than outstream.

You don’t need me to tell you that digital advertising has had a rough 12 months. That’s because we stopped considering users, and played fast-and-loose with their personal data, and built an inline experience that wasn’t enjoyable. The next phase of online advertising will treat UX as a core consideration. We need to provide business models to enable publishers to thrive, but not at the cost of people.

So with lower yields and poor user experience, it looks like outstream needs to take a long hard look at itself and ask who it serves. Not the users, that’s for sure. Pre-roll may be old, but It’s still around for a reason: it works.

1 comment about "Death Of The Pre-Roll Is Much Exaggerated".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, July 6, 2018 at 9:19 p.m.

    ... as is the death of traditional television.

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