The Pre-Roll Dilemma: Make Better Ads or Be Eaten By the Ad Blockers

Nothing causes a hair-pulling tantrum quite like a 30-second spot for Swiffer WetJet that interrupts site visitors from the central focus of their visit: the news video.

Nothing causes a hair-pulling tantrum quite like a 30-second spot for Swiffer WetJet that interrupts site visitors from the central focus of their visit: the news video. It’s no wonder ad blocking and ad skipping have become so pervasive, rendering intrusive advertising methods obsolete.

According to a recent survey by ORC International, in conjunction with ad-tech firm Mirriad, a whopping 76 percent reported blocking ads online–a damning indictment of the advertising industry’s unwillingness to respect the user experience.

The standard length for in-stream ads is typically 15 seconds to 30 seconds, depending on the length of the video, and it cannot be skipped.

Longer spots are “skippable” after the designated time slot. However, these placements charge advertisers whenever the ad loads and regardless of whether the viewer decides to skip.

According to ORC International, 90 percent of surveyors skip pre-roll ads and opt for the content. And with the rise of the aforementioned ad blockers, many users are able to avoid ads completely.

So what’s an advertiser to do? The answer: Own up to it and say, “Video ads need to get better.” To do this, advertisers must keep in mind these three distinct tiers in the ecosystem of video advertising:

The top tier: Premium branded content produced by the content studios inside publishers, such as The New York Times, The Onion and AOL. These are video ads that engage content-hungry consumers, as branded content offers an alternative measure to engage with consumers, mixing elements of entertainment and product messaging.

Some great examples of branded content that users want to watch include Quiznos’ Burning Man and AOL’s Savings Experiment Sponsored By Bank of America and Visa (embedded below). Premium branded content is the holy grail of publishing, as Nielsen reports that branded content can drive brand recall higher than pre-roll ads. But this type of content is expensive to produce and likely not an option for most.


The bottom tier: A standard pre-roll experience, similar to the 30-second spot for that Swiffer WetJet that interrupts the report of the latest police shooting. Let’s face it: Those five seconds it takes to skip a pre-roll ad are torture. They’re often so irritating that our minds can’t help but drift while we watch them, entirely losing the audience that the ad is trying to reach. By the time those five-seconds are up, merely skipping the ad no longer serves as proper justice.

The middle tier (aka, the sweet spot): This is what I like to call integral pre-roll experience–making branded content scalable. This is when the publisher wraps a pre-roll ad on relevant content and distributes it in its own player or across a native video network.

Some great examples of the integral pre-roll experience are Fox Sports, which wraps a 15-second Nationwide spot around a two-minute NASCAR video; or This Old House wrapping a 10-second Lumber Liquidators spot around a 23-minute episode called “A New Approach to Home Reconstruction.”

In order to make their video ads better, advertisers must continue to explore the integral pre-roll experience–that is, if they want to connect with their target audiences and drive real engagement. Instead of just throwing your pre-roll ads on a demand-side platform and letting the chips fall where they may, advertisers should work with publishers to source relevant content and bundle it with their pre-roll to create an integral pre-roll experience. By doing so, there is a likelier chance their ads won’t become just another ad blocking statistic.

David Kashak is the founder and CEO of native advertising marketplace Connatix.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.