YouTube pre-roll ads can be a great way to attract new clientele—but only if you’re strategic about how you craft them. Fortunately, the experts at Google have conducted extensive research to examine the traits that make YouTube pre-roll ads so effective. Check out the highlights here.
What Are YouTube Pre-Roll Ads?
Pre-roll ads play automatically before YouTube videos. While they’re great for introducing your brand to a select audience, they can be a challenge because you only have about 5 seconds to do so. What’s more, they’re often skippable (depending on the type of campaign you run), so it becomes even more urgent to make a fast impression.
What Are the Benefits of YouTube Pre-Roll Ads?
Pre-roll ads hold a lot of power because the audience is usually willing to sit through a few seconds of an advertisement to begin watching a video. Mid-roll ads, on the other hand, are disruptive and annoying, and viewers have no reason to stick around to watch a post-roll ad.
According to Google’s research, YouTube pre-roll ads benefit brand awareness, purchase consideration, and ad recall. But how does this incredibly specific (and short!) type of ad accomplish this?
Build Brand Awareness
The goal of pre-roll YouTube ads is to promote brand awareness. While certain types of pre-roll ads can include a call to action or even a link to a landing page for lead generation, most marketers use this opportunity to get their brand in front of relevant, engaged audiences, particularly those at the top of the sales funnel.
Why? Viewers aren’t actively shopping when they’re exposed to your pre-roll ads. They may be doing research on a product, but the majority of viewers at any given time are on YouTube for another reason—not to make a purchase right away. Trying to do a hard sell with a pre-roll ad is much less effective than simply promoting your brand while they’re ready to watch.
You Have Viewers’ Attention
“Running an ad before the user’s desired content means the audience is likely still engaged, interested, and willing to sit through a brief ad to get to the content they want to see,” content writer Stephanie Mialki explains. “Since they’re waiting for something specific, there’s a higher chance they’ll watch your ad for at least a few seconds, if not in its entirety.”
In other words? Hook them while you know they’re watching and you’re more likely to see results. It also helps if your ad is related to the topic they’re about to watch.
“Since they’re waiting for something specific related to that topic, there’s a higher chance they’ll watch your ad,” says digital strategist Brittany Reith. “For example, if the person watching your ad is watching or had recently watched a video about the new RAM 1500, and you show them an ad about your dealership with the new RAM trucks in it, they’re more likely to be engaged with your ad.”
Get Specific with Targeting
Like most digital platforms, YouTube offers the typical demographic-based targeting options. However, two that are unique to YouTube are Topics and Interests.
- Topics refers to the types of videos people are watching on YouTube now.
- Interests means videos that viewers may be interested in, even if they’re currently watching something different.
By discovering the types of videos that your ideal prospects are currently watching or are likely to watch, you can pin down when and where to show your pre-roll YouTube ads. It’s as helpful for finding relevant audiences as it is for excluding ones that won’t be interested. Google even offers a Find My Audience tool to help.
Tips for Effective YouTube Pre-Roll Ads
So how can you stop the skips and ensure that your ads are memorable and effective? Here are the best tips for creating engaging YouTube pre-roll ads.
Optimize for Mobile
Most YouTube videos are viewed on mobile. Tight framing is a strategy that lets the subject of the video take up nearly the whole screen. According to Google video marketing contributor Megan Haller, “videos featuring tightly framed subjects…helped grab people’s attention and correlated to positive lifts in ad recall, consideration, and purchase intent.”
Other ways to optimize your YouTube pre-roll ads for mobile include upping the brightness and contrast and using large fonts for supers and other text that may appear in your ad.
Use Audio Cues
Memorable visuals are very important for getting viewers to watch your ad for longer periods of time, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore audio. YouTube points out that 95% of video watched on its platform is played with the sound on—a vast difference from Facebook and Instagram, which tend to autoplay video on mute.
In fact, YouTube recommends utilizing voiceovers when introducing offers and sharing calls to action. “Doing this has been shown to correlate positively with Ad Recall, Consideration and Purchase Intent,” they explain in their ABCD Playbook.
No matter how long of a pre-roll ad you ultimately decide on, your goal is to make an impression in the first five seconds (i.e., before they hit the skip button or tune you out).
“Create the most basic version of your message, fitting the most crucial, attention-grabbing content into the first 5 seconds,” Mialki suggests. “Ideally, this short clip will encourage them to watch more, but even if it doesn’t, you’ve at least left them with a good impression of your brand.”
Google’s research also indicates that including at least two different shots in those first five seconds boosts ad recall and consideration, and that mentioning and showing your brand at the outset “positively influenced all metrics tested.” It may take some creativity to accomplish this, but a skilled advertising team with extensive experience in digital video can help.
The last thing you want your YouTube pre-roll ads to feel like is a television commercial. People are on YouTube because it’s not TV! The draw of YouTube is that it allows the creation of original content—and it offers the opportunity for viewers around the world to discover and enjoy it.
“The platform was developed so everyday people could upload their own content and share it, so your video should feel native to the platform,” explains content strategist Mary Lister. “Don’t be afraid to get weird. Be funny. Show your true brand colors. Make it feel user generated.”
“It’s possible to be engaging and pique interest without even mentioning your product or service,” Mialki points out. “People don’t necessarily like ads; they like being entertained.”
Use Real People
Because YouTube celebrates creatives around the world making international connections with their content, it makes sense that seeing people in ads is preferred by its billions of viewers.
“If people appear in your video, open with them on screen. And if it fits with your storyline, have them address your audience directly, the ABCD Playbook explains. “Faces attract immediate attention, heighten emotional motivation, and increase engagement.”
“We found that opening with actors on screen and having them mention the brand made viewers more likely to remember the ad,” says Haller. “Having actors address the audience directly or provide a first-person perspective also helped boost ad recall.”
Push Your Brand
You obviously want to include your brand in your ad, but YouTube has recommendations on how to do so for maximum recall.
“Pairing visual and audio cues when introducing a brand was positively correlated with a lift in consideration,” Haller explains. “Videos that used unique visuals like a mascot or colors strongly associated with the brand also saw a bigger bump in consideration, as did those that integrated their logo into the storyline or simply featured in on their product.”
One particular pro tip? If you have people in your ad, have them speak the name of your brand on camera. “Audio mentions of your brand by people on screen are associated with better results for Ad Recall and Consideration than audio mentions by voiceover,” the ABCD Playbook says.
Tell A Story
If you’re interested in telling a full story with your pre-roll ads (rather than focusing on the less-intrusive 5-second options), YouTube recommends “a strong cue followed by multiple peaks, unexpected shifts and brand cues throughout.” Haller suggests “emotional elements, such as action, intrigue, and surprise.”
“With YouTube preroll ads, it’s important to give your audience a reason to keep watching,” Reith agrees. “Tell a story with the video. These ads are a source of entertainment for the viewers, so make your brand memorable, engaging and entertaining.”
Here’s a handy chart about telling a story on YouTube based on a conversation with Bob Jones, the Global Creative Director of Google’s Unskippable Labs:
Include a Call to Action
Interestingly, Haller notes Google found including a call to action in pre-roll YouTube ads resulted in “a positive correlation” in all brand metrics. Even though these ads are typically geared towards top-of-funnel consumers, calls to action—particularly those that had a sense of urgency—had a surprising effect on purchase intent.
Ideally, these calls to action should link to landing pages dedicated to each specific offer. That way, viewers who click through can learn more about your brand and what it offers without having to abandon the video they’re trying to watch.
Start Creating Engaging YouTube Pre-Roll Ads Today
YouTube pre-roll ads offer the opportunity to increase brand awareness, recall, and consideration. Making a mark in this niche type of digital advertising can benefit your brand by exposing you to the right audiences at the right times.
Ready to create YouTube pre-roll ads that make a lasting impact on your ideal audience? Contact Kirkpatrick Creative today.