May 16, 2017

Video Marketing Chart: Why customers skip online video pre-roll ads


With the Digital Content NewFronts wrapping up last week in New York, online video advertising might be top-of-mind for you.

So, in this Chart of the Week article, we take a look at why consumers skip online pre-roll ads.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

We asked 2,400 consumers, sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population's demographics: Why do you skip ads that play before videos that you watch online? Select all that apply. 

To see 35 charts from the study, download the free report.

Not surprisingly, people don’t like their content experiences to be interrupted

Unless it’s a four-year-old hearing the “interrupting cow knock-knock joke” for the first time, people tend to dislike interruption. And as you might expect, the top reason consumers told us they didn’t like online pre-roll video ads (chosen by 27% of consumers) was “I can’t stand ads that play before videos I want to see. I just want to watch my video.”

One gracious (and outlier) consumer responded, “I understand that ads pay for me to play games or watch videos for free, so it doesn't bother me too much.”

However, what is your experience of pre-roll ads when you’re actually a video consumer? Are you thinking of the free content the ad funds? Or just irritated?

I must admit, even while my monkey brain is well aware and appreciates the importance of advertising in supporting free content, when I hit a pre-roll ad as a consumer, my lizard brain takes over, and I want to skip it as fast as humanly possible. I even subscribe to the ad-free version of Hulu.

And many consumers agreed with that frustration: “I find these types of ads intrusive.” Another mentioned, “In general, I seldom watch the videos even if I do not have an option of skipping them.”

If you’re running pre-roll video ads

This isn’t to say that online video pre-roll ads can’t be effective. So, if you’ve decided to invest in pre-roll ads, how can you optimize their effectiveness?

The second more frequent response from consumers was “the content of the video doesn’t interest me” (22%). And here, consumers especially complained about the repetitiveness of ads.

“The same [expletive deleted] ad plays over & over & OVER again for months (I'm looking at you, [VOD service name deleted]!),” one consumer told us.          

Other consumers concurred by saying “seen so many times” and “because it is when I am in the middle of something and I have already seen those ads before” and “sometimes the video ads are good, but mostly repetitive and not applicable to me. If one catches my attention I'll let it play through.”

Relevance was also a key factor — the fourth most frequent response was “videos are irrelevant to me (19%).”

For example, one consumer complained about the lag from his window of purchase interest to when he actually receives a marketing message: “Usually their targeting is way too late. For instance, five months ago I moved to a new apartment. For the next three months, I got ads for apartment rentals like crazy after I had no need for them. This happened whenever I buy something, or even when I do a general search and decide that a product I thought about is something that I do not want. And yet, I am besieged by ads for something that I had already decided not to get. And not during my search period.”

If you’re looking for an alternative to pre-roll video ads

So, what could a more customer-first marketing approach to online video marketing look like?

Well, especially for videos you are able to host on your own site to your own audience, you could follow a basic premise of content marketing — give before you get. Deliver value before you ask for a conversion of some sort.

You could produce a video with valuable content that ends with a related offer or promotional message along the lines of “stick around to learn how to take the next step with XXX.”

Video ad units could run after the video is complete, with a message along the lines of “since you liked that, we thought you might like this.”

There are many good reasons not to take a content-first, promo-last approach and why online pre-roll ads are used. You will likely get less response to a post-roll ad or marketing message. Less people are even likely to see such a post-roll message.

However, if you step back and look at the big picture, you should ask if the response you get to a post-roll promotion will be less quantity but higher quality. Also, will it irritate and alienate less current and prospective customers? Will a customer-first marketing approach like a post-roll ad cause customers to more holistically value (and less likely devalue) your brand? And does this increased value outweigh the downside of getting less mass exposure to customers?

These are likely questions advertisers, publishers, and all the folks creating that exciting new content discussed at the Digital Content NewFronts and will continue to wrestle with over the coming years. Because if we don’t, customer action (and inaction) will surely force the issue.

Related resources

Social Media Marketing Chart: Facebook video ad performance (based on presenter presence and duration)

Content Marketing: Videos attract 300% more traffic and nurture leads

MarketingSherpa Special: Viral Advertising in 2005 -- Top 7 Tactics, How-Tos, and Measurement Data (from the MarketingSherpa library)

Share your inspirational story of customer-first marketing for a chance to win a MarketingSherpa Awards an present onstage at MarketingSherpa Summit 2018 in Las Vegas

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