July 30, 2014

Are ‘unskippable’ pre-roll ads missing the point?

Ad agency Nail recently attempted to combat pre-roll advertising’s 94% skip rate by creating an advert which was ‘unskippable’. The advert, featured in yesterday’s Ad Week article, shows an actor threatening to electrocute a puppy if the user presses the skip button (it’s less disturbing than it sounds). The campaign has achieved a 26% view rate, which is a great result for this type of distribution, but can it really be termed a success for advertising?

While the video’s creative has clearly been effective at holding user’s interest, it largely seems to be missing the point of what makes an video advertising campaign truly successful. The creative is important but it’s the distribution that can make or break an advertising campaign.


Instream video distribution like YouTube’s TrueView, works by placing video advertising within a player which houses video content. The challenge this distribution method faces is when a user goes to YouTube they are typically looking for a specific video. Once they find their content they want to watch it immediately – not be held up by advertising. Personally I immediately look for the ‘skip in X seconds button’ only to die a little inside when there is no opportunity to skip the advert and I am forced to watch the entire thing. These pre-roll adverts are not only ineffective at engaging the user they also have the potential to create negative brand association due to the frustration caused.

Instead of placing video ads in an environment where the user is desperate to skip, we should position them in situations that make the viewer receptive to their content. If there is no sentiment of ‘hurry up I want to watch cats on skateboards’ the user is more likely to be willing to engage with the ad and watch it in full.

Outstream formats are one answer to the dilemma, these formats place video advertising within editorial, not in front of video. By giving the user the choice to engage, they are more open to advertising, giving the advert’s content a chance to shine, and vastly reducing the number of people who do not complete the view. By changing up the format, it is possible to dramatically reduce the people who want to skip your ad, minimise the risk of negative brand association and produce an effective video campaign.

Let’s hope that after exploring different distribution methods advertisers won’t feel the need to threaten any more puppies.

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