Where You Goin' With That Pre-Roll?

As digital specialists, we've been trained to continually search for "the next thing." Ten years ago we were looking for the next banner ad and we thought that we found the next "cool" sites (R.I.P.,, Kozmo, Flooz, and many others that have fallen). Today we're looking for the next MySpace, Facebook or Youtube, the next Quarterlife or the next "In the Motherhood" (for my brothers at Mindshare). We've become wired to constantly change; to be dynamic and nimble and react to consumer interests and concerns in real-time with goal of "innovation."

Video is a hot topic on several panels at ad::tech NY this week. One discussion will be about moving beyond the pre-roll - exploring new ad formats like overlays, hot-spotting and altering production workflows to optimize creative production and development. This is all in the name of driving innovation and changing the way we use technology. But keeping pre-roll around for a while longer may actually prove to be one of the most innovative things we do as an industry.

We know how it all began: with broadband came higher consumer usage for entertainment on the Web, which led to greater production of Web video content. Because of technology advancements, we can now push the same video content through TV, the Web, and Mobile. Enter the common thread, pre-roll -- it was introduced because it's easy. Take a TV spot and extend usage rights to include the Web -- then we have an instant online platform extension. We get a pat on the back for keeping the video environment clean and clutter-free for several years. The consumer experience keeps getting better; the impact of pre-rolls has proven to be greater than that of a commercial in live and on-demand TV viewing (Millward Brown C-TV Study).

The value of the pre-roll across multiple platforms has been analyzed and affirmed. Yet for most advertisers, executing a true multi-platform program requires tapping into three separate budgets. Some advertisers may have some form of a "Cross-Platform/Testing/Innovations" budget in place for these types of programs -- but this happens less often then it should. Our focus for the next innovation should be on getting advertisers to think differently. TV budgets should cease to exist, and be replaced by "video budgets" that sponsor video content, regardless of the delivery platform. Consumers are becoming media-agnostic - they're not thinking that they're watching TV or are online at that moment, they're simply watching "Lost."

What does all this have to do with pre-roll advertising? Pre-roll is necessary for a fundamental change in the way we think about video. Pre-roll advertising is familiar to marketers - it's an online commercial. For those advertisers that tend to be TV-centric, it's pretty simple- pre-roll speaks their language: :15 and :30 online spots. Of course, we should continue to evolve interactivity and creativity within the pre-roll space and change workflows on the production end of the spectrum. Then we can better leverage the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be spent producing a commercial. Moving away from "innovations" would be a mistake -- our job is not done yet, and pre-roll still has a major role to play in the evolution of video. Viva la pre-roll.

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