Magical Fix to the Scorned Pre-Roll Ad!

I’ve got it! I’ve got it. YouTube and other online-video sites take notice. Free advice, peeps… to solve the ultimate online-video ad dilemma: pleasing advertisers without pissing off viewers.

Problem: We hate pre-rolls. Google says they work, but 75% of viewers drop like bodies on Fringe. We think we’re watching the wrong video, and most online-video content isn’t worth some 30-second ad. It may work for advertisers, but it’s far from user centric… It’s not a fair ratio. It’d be like being forced to watch 8 minutes of ads before your 22 minute television show (which you may or may not even like). Stats show that

Partial Solution: A smart first-step by YouTube. A split second of the video’s thumbnail shows up BEFORE the preroll. I noticed this for the first time while trying to figure out if CharlesTrippy is engaged or not. And whether ShayCarl is really moving. Anyone know? For those of you who don’t know them, you should know this. By doing daily vlogs they’ve captured a wild audience, and are constantly on top of the most-popular, best-rated YouTube videos. Trippy asked me if I’d consider the daily vlog, but honestly it’s so hard if you work full-time and my life isn’t as interesting as his. But I digress. I sense the 11 advertisers dropping off.

BETTER Solution: New format! a) Give us creators 10 seconds before the pre-roll hits (shall we call it a “Nalts mid-roll,” like my gut?). b) Then hit the 15-second ad. c) THEN on with the show. Viewers won’t adore it, but it will work better. Let me beta it on new videos, and I’ll cut my first 10 seconds with the knowledge that an ad may hit before second 11.

Why It Will Work: We creators now have 10 seconds to convince our audience that it’s worth waiting another 15 seconds for the rest of the “show.” The dropoff rate will be reduced dramatically. The advertiser is “in” the show, not blocking viewers.

Naturally this is not completely user centric. To be kind to viewers you turn off ads. But let’s keep it real here. As long as it’s free, it’s going to have ads. We viewers and we video creators generally don’t like ads. But if they’re effective, we marketers will subsidize the viewer’s experience (so we viewers don’t have to pay for content: so 1990). And we creators like making money. And we viewers don’t want to pay to see stuff. See?

The Online Ad Catch 22

Of course it’s like radar detectors and radars. As soon as the radar detectors get smart, the cops make better radars. Likewise, we get numb to ads, and many shut the InVideos reflexively (I watch my kids do this without realizing it). We stopped noticing the video ad on the top right of YouTube years ago, so now we have dancing ads all over 75 percent of the “above the fold.” It’s a bit much, and not very Googlesque. But the site’s trying to make a profit. Maybe now with Tim Armstrong gone it will change. 😉

So, YouTube… Think about what fails:

Remember when iFilm used to be hot? Like Metacafe, they had pre-rolls but not for the first video you watched. Maybe one in 3 or 4. Once they’re on every damned video, we stop visiting the site completely. I won’t watch a trailer on Yahoo Video EVER because I was once interrupted by an ad to watch the movie advertisement. On the flip side, people liked Revver. But the post-roll ads were not often viewed.

And remember what is kind to the viewer and advertiser:

Hulu sometimes offers a choice of three ads. You can also choose to watch a movie trailer and watch an entire show without interruption. Or watch 30-seconds spread throughout. That’s good. Obviously we have to consider the ratio of ads to content, and hopefully the first video we watch is sans ad. Maybe prerolls (or mid-rolls) can show up later in one’s session, before longer and more valuable content.

Author: Nalts

Hi. I'm Nalts.

16 thoughts on “Magical Fix to the Scorned Pre-Roll Ad!”

  1. Mid-roll ads sound like a terrible idea to me. I despise being interrupted.

    Imagine going to see a film at a movie theater where they put the previews half an hour into the movie.

  2. To be fair, YouTube stuff is usually more TV show-esque than movie-esque. But still I hate the midroll perhaps more than anything – especially given the short nature of web content. More than preroll, more than postroll, whatever.

    The 10-second prerolls don’t bug me, honestly. I almost even pay attention to them due to their quick, informational-based nature. No story, progression, whatever. They barely interrupt me and I’m on the cusp of ok with that. If it’s something that’s useful, that has even entered my consciousness now.

    Once you venture into :15s and :30s they start trying to entertain/captivate you and I don’t want that before my 3 minute video that I’m not even sure if I will be entertained or captivated by anyway. I sometimes forget what I’m intending to watch even.

  3. @3 OK, but I would much rather watch 8 minutes of ads followed by 22 minutes of uninterrupted show, than say 10 minutes of show, then 5 minutes of ads, followed by the remaining 15 minutes of show (which is still waaaay better than being interrupted four or five times by 2 minutes of commercials).

    Ditto on your second paragraph. 10 to 15 second prerolls don’t bother me too much unless the ad is really annoying and they occasionally actually register in my brain unlike in-video ads which I instinctively close without even noticing what they are about.

    30 second prerolls probably aren’t viable unless the video 5 to 10 minutes long (or longer).

  4. The bottom line is I hate being interrupted. Get the advertising out of the way beforehand so I can watch the content free of distraction.

    By the way, the quoted 75% abandonment rate is for prerolls over 15 seconds.

  5. 5-10 second pre-rolls are fine on anything. 30 second pre-rolls for a big brand with long piece of content (maybe what Peter said – 10 minute above.

    The big thing you’ve touched on here Nalts is that the creator is the one that should control the content’s format – so shooting a 10 second teaser is fine – but why limit it? Why not an annotation-like interface tool to set up where the “mid-rolls” show up. Savvy creators will tease an answer (or a boob shot) after the break.

    Better yet, why not be able to “link” videos already uploaded with ads in between to create a “best of” show — or if it’s new content, link 5 uploads together (with ads in between) so that the creator can produce properly for the show. Videos can still be viewed individually or in this “show” format.

  6. @8 Wouldn’t putting preroll ads at the beginning of each video effectively achieve the same thing? Or did you want to put extra ads in to punish people for watching the videos as a playlist?

    I’m not trying to be snarky. I think perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you are suggesting.

  7. I’m with the gang here – being interrupted on such short content defeats the purpose of short attention span theatre. People’s brains might grow to start expecting 3 second videos.

    I am in a unique situation since I use everything a firefox plug-ins has to offer to remove any and all the ads.

    I forget sometimes not to watch You Tube in Chrome because I feel so assaulted by all the ads. It’s like eating at McDonalds, blah!

    However, I might be persuaded to watch ads IF the creator were able to choose what ad content the viewer saw; not sure You Tube would go for that.

    btw, I found a little secret with longer content and how to avoid the intermittent ads if anyone wants to know…

    But, if I must watch an ad to view content, like a movie, I’m ok with the preroll and no interruptions – like PBS and European TV.

    The old iflim idea was ok – but that was before there wasn’t much to choose from.

    Hulu has the right idea, but everyone knows one ad isn’t enough to stick in the consumers mind, you need to repeat it at least 3 times for most people to even notice.

  8. @10 Chrome is getting better. If you subscribe to the beta channel you can now add plug-ins, a few of which do a decent job at blocking ads.

  9. @Bob – Yes, I’ve been wanting them to do a “commercial supported” playlist for a long time. Play 3 videos, play one ad. Keep going. I’m fairly certain this would work out well for people.

    All in all, advertisements don’t piss me off. It’s how this stuff gets paid for, it’s how people make livings doing a form of art (which I love), and it’s how companies get messages out. We’ve handled MUCH WORSE advertising on TV for decades and someone has to pay for the stuff I’m watching significantly more than anything on TV.

    It’s just a matter of them realizing/establishing etiquette…

    – Under 5min, :10 preroll
    – Over 5min, :15 preroll
    – Over 10min, ONE :30 break NO pre-rolls (at 10 min and over, people need to become invested in what happens next)
    – 20-30min, no preroll, 2 breaks, 1min (either one 1min spot or two :30s) a piece.
    – 30min+, At least 12 minutes between 1 minute breaks, unless person wants to view a super long ad at the beginning (GIVE THEM THE CHOICE) then at least 30mins between 1min breaks.


  10. I’ve been saying for months now that the way scripts are written will be changing and you seem to agree by your “fix”.
    If the beginning of a show, feature or video has their “Tag” at the beginning AND at the end this will allow for correct pre-roll placement and would disband Pre-roll ads forever. This IS the correct way and will be done in the future mock my words. (especially for anything webisode/made for online distribution related)

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