Three things in life can instantly turn my smile into a frown: dealing with a Philadelphia Eagles loss, realizing it’s Sunday when I’m outside a Chick-fil-A, and clicking on a video that serves me a pre-roll ad.
Turns out, I’m not the only person upset about that last one. According to data from an August 2016 report by Nielsen and Newlio, over half of people fed a pre-roll video will skip it—and that’s just one of the popular avoidance tactics.
Perhaps even more telling is that 20 percent of users will close the video altogether. They’d rather not watch at all if they have to see an ad first. Smaller percentages allow the pre-roll to run while either muting it or finding another diversion until the ad concludes.
Despite the data, none of this is to say brands can’t craft short videos that entice viewers to pay attention. In 2015, Geico produced a pre-roll campaign dubbed “Unskippable,” in which the ads seem to end after a few seconds, only to then continue with all sorts of entertaining mischief. The creative application of the medium was lauded throughout the industry, earning Geico and the Martin Agency a Cannes Lions Grand Prix as well as Ad Age’s first-ever “Campaign of the Year” award.
Of course, it can also be beneficial to avoid pre-roll altogether. Why intentionally interrupt someone’s experience when you can distribute your own content on YouTube? If a majority of viewers skip a video because they want to watch something else, then brands should try to make that “something else.” By creating content that users actually want to see, companies can build an audience of willing viewers, rather than subjecting people to unsolicited ads.
Ideally, brands moving forward will devise other innovative methods that take advantage of the forced exposure, or invest their video dollars elsewhere. Though if they stick with pre-roll, at least provide an option to skip after five seconds. Philadelphia sports are enough of a disappointment.