How to engage users with pre-roll ads on mobile
If you have ever spent time on Youtube, Facebook or Twitch, you have most likely encountered pre-roll ads. A pre-roll ad is a short promotional video that plays before the user’s desired video. With so many advertisements vying for our attention, consumers are less likely to meaningfully engage with the majority unless it’s a brand or product they have had previous interest in.
To counter the growing prevalence of ad blockers, advertisers have started to incorporate skippable ads rather than forced completion pre-roll ads. With the introduction of the skip button, pre-roll video advertising often has the difficult task of converting viewers with very limited screen time. In this blog we’ll be taking a look at the various types of pre-roll advertising as well as the benefits of this format and how to make your video ads more engaging.
What is a pre-roll ad?
Pre-roll advertising is a paid, promotional video that plays before featured videos on both desktop and mobile. In contrast, a mid-roll ad is a video that plays during a video and a post-roll ad plays after the video has finished. There are three types of pre-roll advertisements:
Non-skippable ads are normally between 15 and 20 seconds long. The longer a viewer interacts with an ad, especially if it’s relevant, the more likely the user is to convert. One campaign showed a 97% increase in conversions among consumers who viewed an ad for four seconds or longer. Bids for non-skippable ads are based on target CPM (cost per mille) bidding. If you can ensure that your creative can stimulate your audience for the duration of the ad, non-skippable types of ads can help boost your brand awareness in addition to increased conversions.
These are ads that users have the option to skip after five seconds. These operate with a pay-per-view model meaning that advertisers pay once the user watches 30 seconds of the ad or the ad in its entirety. A marketing research study showed that very few viewers watch skippable ads to completion. When compared to non-skippable advertisements however, the viewer’s message retention and brand recall was only 10% less than non-skippable ads. Skippable ads can be further optimized to drive product awareness, online sales, or leads.
Bumper ads are brief, non-skippable videos that are normally 6 seconds in length and use target CPM bidding. Because of this, bumper ads let you reach more customers and help boost your brand awareness. They are also an effective format to run on mobile devices as they are designed to be short and memorable for audiences on the go. When testing over 300 bumper ad campaigns, Think with Google found that 9 out of 10 bumper ads drove a significant lift in ad recall.
Benefits of pre-roll advertising
Pre-roll ads are flexible as they can target users based on their viewing habits, the featured video’s topic, age demographic and interests. Pre-rolled ads have also been proven to be less invasive when compared to mid and post-roll. In a study, mid-roll advertising was considered the most interruptive format by 72% of smartphone users.
A measurement study on the effectiveness of video ads noted that viewers are three times more likely to abandon a slow loading video compared to a pre-roll ad. Your potential audience size for pre-roll ads is also larger than mid and post-roll ads. This is due to viewer drop off even before a mid-roll ad can be played. In addition to this, by watching free content on platforms such as YouTube, the viewer is opting to watch your pre-roll almost as an implicit form of payment, therefore having more patience to not only view the ad but also wait until its completion.
Not only are pre-roll ads less intrusive, users regard pre-roll ads as more informative and engaging than other formats. A Nielson study with Facebook found that from the moment a pre-roll ad is viewed, there is an increase in ad recall, purchase consideration and even brand awareness. This rises exponentially the longer the viewer watches the ad.
How to avoid users skipping pre-roll ads
A CNBC report revealed that brands doubled their spending on digital video ads to US$17 billion in the U.S alone last year. The same report stated that 65% of people skip all video advertising as soon as the “skip” button becomes available, with most of them doing so purely out of habit.
Leveraging the viewers attention span and providing them with content that they won’t be indifferent to is essential for advertisers. The first 5-6 seconds of your pre-roll advertisement are unskippable, therefore you need to clearly state your intention, showcase your brand as well as give the viewer a compelling reason to keep watching. The first five seconds are crucial — an ORC international study showed that 90% of their participants would skip pre-roll video ads as they appear or try to avoid content where those ads were unskippable. Below we share tips and best practices for improving your pre-roll ad’s viewer retention and making more engaging content for your viewers.
1. Be up front
Due to the high rate of skips, it’s crucial to convey your message and include your call to action (CTA) early on so that interested viewers can be redirected to your app as quickly as possible. You do not need the full duration of the pre-roll ad for it to be effective,you just need to leave a good impression. Users today are especially skeptical of ads that they believe are inauthentic — disarming your viewers with something that stands out from the rest can be just the thing that gets them over the 6 second mark. The clock is ticking, make those six seconds count!
2. Behavioural Targeting
With pre-roll ads you can easily target people who are either interested in your specific vertical or have spending habits that would make your product more appealing. The main reason viewers can be persuaded to watch skippable ads is ad relevance — the consumer is ready to purchase the product.
With cookies and other tracking methods, targeting and retargeting your pre-roll ads is easier than ever. A study on behavioural targeting found that adaptive advertising can increase CTR by up to 40%. Just remember not to overload viewers with the same ad as it can reflect poorly on your brand. The golden rule is to cap it at three views.
3. Make exciting creatives
The goal of any creative should be to keep your viewers engaged whilst promoting brand awareness. Even if the viewer skips the video, focusing heavily on your creative’s introduction will help viewers recall your advertisement. A Harvard study on ways to reduce skipping found that pre-rolled ads that evoked surprise were better at capturing the viewer's attention. Most people aren’t searching for advertisements, they want to be entertained or informed. Not only are you competing with thousands of other pre-roll ads, you’re also contending with the content the user actually wants to watch.
4. Be emotional
Throughout 2020, a VidMob study found that pre-roll ads that showed surprised emotions within the first 3 seconds had a 360% jump in performance. In the same study, ads that showed outdoor settings saw a 60% increase in purchase rates as it showed a clear contrast from the reality of lockdown. A study on emotional appeal in advertising concluded that:
“The bond between a product’s emotional impact on the consumer and brand equity is the key to unlocking global brand success [...] However, excess use of emotional appeals brings risk to the health of the brand.”
By leveraging your viewer’s emotion you are leaving a lasting impression of your brand. A creative that brings a smile to a viewer's face or makes them think will stick with them more than just a showcase of your product. Research showed that among 1400 successful campaigns, those with purely emotional content have been shown to perform about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) compared to more ‘rational’ content.
5. Experiment with different lengths and offers
While deciding which viewers to target with your pre-roll ads, on top of behavioural targeting, consider testing different video lengths depending on the length of the video playing afterwards. The attention span of the user viewing 30 second videos vs. that of a 30 minute video can highlight the users’ preference for content length. It’s also good practice to run your pre-roll advertisements in tandem with special offers or free trial campaigns.
How to get the most out of pre-roll ads
What works in other forms of video advertising is not guaranteed for pre-roll apps. Viewers encounter pre-roll ads while searching for other online content. In this state, exposure to pre-roll ads can easily be seen as an annoyance — advertising methods from traditional television and other online formats won’t work. In a study about why consumers don’t skip pre-rolled ads, it was found that gentler and less overt advertising works well in contrast with ads that focus purely on selling or pushing a brand.
Similarly, think of the platform. If these ads are running on YouTube or Twitch, you need to consider the type of content reflected on these websites and design your pre-roll advertising creatives accordingly. Static images, slideshows or highly irrelevant ads just won’t cut it.
Consumers are exposed to information, content and advertisements across multiple platforms, all throughout the day. With the popularity of platforms like TikTok that provide short, snappy content, the quality of consumer attention has seen a sizable decrease since the 90s. The attention span for the average millennial clocks in at 12 seconds, for Gen Z, it’s only 8 seconds. Keeping this in mind, marketers should start experimenting with video campaign formats to reflect this shift. Pre-roll ads are a valuable tool for marketing to a very specific audience cohort and showcasing your brand to new consumers. Even with the option to skip, any exposure to your ad can drive value. The particular placement of pre-roll ads is particularly useful due to brand engagement and memorability. Understanding where and when viewers skip your video can also give you valuable insights into optimizing your content.