I shared a link with my wife for a video on a major television network site last week. She clicked on the link and said “This isn’t very interesting. Why did you send this to me?” It was a pre-roll ad, before the video I had intended her to view. My wife’s response is fairly typical of how most Americans view pre-roll and overlay ads. It all gets lumped into the “This isn’t what I clicked on to see” category.

According to analysis from eMarketer provided by video ad network YuMe, between Q1 and Q4 of 2009, click-through rates dropped steadily from 1.88% to 0.74%. Completion rates dropped as well, from 77.4% to 66.3%  by the year end.

TubeMogul Research Reports recently completed a study where they looked at nearly 1.8 million videos varying in length from 3-10 minutes and distributed from top television broadcasters, magazines and newspapers. The results were shocking:

  • Overall, 15.89% of viewers click away from a video rather than sit through a pre-roll ad.
  • 24.85% of viewers click away on top magazine and newspaper sites.

So if I am a magazine or newspaper publisher I’m looking at these numbers and thinking “So pre-roll ads are a revenue stream but I am losing nearly 25% of the audience who was coming to my site to view OUR content because of them.” It’s sort of a Catch 22…but is it really?

I wrote about this in an blog post titled Stop Trying to Force Monetization of Online Video over a year ago when the statistics were already starting to plummet for pre-roll and especially post-roll overlay video ads. I still believe the only occasion where pre-roll ads or post-roll ads could be seamlessly built in around the content is with long-form (online television shows or movies) not every 90 second news story on their sites.

I believe we are in a scenario not that different from when television was in it’s infancy and they tried to apply “what worked” for radio broadcasting to television advertising. It failed. The same way pre-roll and post-roll ads applied to online video content are trying to mimic television commercials and are having predictably abysmal returns.

People have a shorter attention span online than they do anywhere else. You’ve got less than 5 seconds. If the content they clicked to see wasn’t there, they are long gone.

In today’s online world if you really want to get people to view your video content – don’t slap it over another publishers video content…create your own story with a call-to-action built in. Besides if you create content geared and tagged to get found by your demographic, it’s that much more targeted to reach your audience when and where they are searching. Couple that with the fact that audiences are not loyal to any specific publishers online where you would typically pay to run overlay ads…is running pre-roll really worth it?


Eric Guerin is the founder of Adelie Studios. He chooses to use his creative powers for good and not evil by helping businesses to better market themselves using animated marketing videos. He can easily be bribed with coffee. Read more of Eric’s posts