Ice, Ice, Maybe: Are Pre-Roll Ads a Good Idea? (Part 3)

Pre-Roll Blog Part 3 image

Ice, Ice, Maybe: Are Pre-Roll Ads a Good Idea? (Part 3)

Not all video marketing is a surefire hit; pre-roll ads can be deceptively slippery. In this three-part series, learn why it’s important to do pre-roll well, how to deliver a great pre-roll ad—and how to avoid getting the cold shoulder from your customers.

As we discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, the emergence of a new marketing technology often inspires lots of giddy enthusiasm paired with very little actual thinking (QR codes on billboards, anyone?).

Some tactics stick around long enough to shed their “fad” status, but we marketers continue to execute them with the grace of an SUV doughnutting across a frozen parking lot.

Take pre-roll video ads: online promotional videos that run before a viewer’s selected content.

“Good pre-roll” sounds positively oxymoronic. After all, pre-roll is designed to interrupt the user experience of an audience already hooked on instant gratification. And exceptionally bad pre-roll conjures up such resentment that it may be one of the few marketing tactics that could actually harm your brand.

But good pre-roll really does exist. When done right, pre-roll ads can surprise, delight and, most importantly, convert. Here’s how:

Give your audience something of value

Humor. Intrigue. A surprise. High-value information. An awesome offer. An ocelot in footy pajamas. Whatever. People will forgive your interruption if you make it worth their time.

Give it BEFORE the 5-second skip mark

Unless you are dealing with a truly sadistic marketer, most pre-roll videos allow viewers to skip the ad once they have watched a short snippet. (That should tell you something about pre-roll right there—it comes with a built-in escape hatch.) Deploy your best creative the second the ad starts.

Remember your bedtime stories

To keep your audience engaged beyond the skip, think like Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights. The story tells of a jealous Persian king who develops a nasty habit of knocking off his young brides. Scheherazade, the vizier’s clever daughter, offers herself as the next wife. On the night of their marriage, she begins to tell the king an epic tale but does not finish it. The king, curious about how the story ends, is forced to postpone her execution to hear the conclusion. And so it goes for 1,000 nights.

The lesson? Delay the execution—and the skip—by giving your audience a reason to stick around.


Keep it short and simple—15 seconds is good, 10 seconds is better

Advertising is remarkably similar to theater—it’s all about telling a good story. Another similarity? Both marketers and actors often lack restraint when it comes to over-telling and over-selling. Both would be served by embracing the old showbiz adage: “Always leave ‘em wanting more.” That’s a polite way of saying, “Do something clever, then leave before they throw you off the stage.”

So, are pre-roll ads a good idea? The answer is a qualified “yes.” Interrupting an Internet user’s viewing experience is a chancy prospect. But if you produce your pre-roll ad using strong strategy, your brand and your business can see (wait for it... ) an avalanche of returns.


To see examples of the pre-roll ads we've created, check out our playlist on YouTube. We'll be adding more soon!