If you've been on YouTube in the past several years, chances are good you know all about pre-roll ads: the brief videos that play before the content you requested. With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of these ads are 30 seconds or shorter — but allow consumers to click a "skip ad" button after only five seconds. Though the idea of only getting five seconds to convey an incomplete message to consumers might not sound that attractive, the numbers are in, and it looks like even skipped ads are having an effect on consumers. But how is this possible?
The Power of Impressions
There's a vast gulf between clicks and impressions, and while it's tempting to just ignore inflated "impression" numbers, they're not meaningless. A recent Nielsen study commissioned by Facebook shows that you can still impact consumers who never even watch your video ad, because the single-frame impression causes a lift in brand awareness, ad recall, and purchase consideration. And viewing even just three seconds of pre-roll video without clicking or converting can create up to 47 percent of the campaign's value for ad recall, 32 percent of the value for brand awareness, and 44 percent of the value for purchase intent. Though these metrics, of course, rise dramatically for those who view an entire clip, they show that brief impressions can create significant value for marketers.
To Recall or Not to Recall...
According to an AOL poll, more than 80 percent of participants ages 13 to 54 who watched videos on a mobile device at least once a month were able to remember the ads. This is a huge metric, and while the sample size may not have been large enough to extrapolate an overarching trend, it shows a positive association between recurring video and recall, which echoes the results of the Facebook study. Though a given consumer may not be seeking out information related to your brand, simply viewing a bit of your content before their desired video plays helps them keep your brand in mind.
Not All Clicks Are Created Equal
Of course, even though retention of the ad's content is great, what all marketers and businesses ultimately want is conversion — and that's one area where the pre-roll ad is still growing. While the studies mentioned above show that things like brand awareness and ad recall are still boosted by skipped pre-roll videos, the jury is still out on how that translates to conversions that might occur hours, days or even weeks down the line. Measuring traditional conversions has proven difficult, but Google recently rolled out a new feature on YouTube that adds a "click to shop" button to pre-roll ads, which could help drive immediate clicks even if a user skips the rest of the ad.
From a certain perspective, it's easy to see why some marketers might find the idea of using pre-roll videos undesirable. Many users find these content interrupters annoying, and the skip function often means that marketers can't get their full message to consumers the same way they could via TV, radio or another traditional media. However, pre-roll ads have their advantages, and even if your skip rate is high, the impressions and recall generated by these ads are still valuable.