Has YouTube Found the Right Ad Solution?

    November 11, 2009
    Chris Crum

YouTube has begun testing a new kind of ad format on some of its videos – skippable pre-rolls. These ads let users choose whether or not they want to watch the ad as it appears at the beginning of a video.

YouTube says that when it first began testing in-stream ads a couple years ago, abandonment rates on videos were as high as 70%. They found that users were much more likely to view and engage with overlay ads.

"But over time we found that different kinds of content provide different experiences for viewers, and that in-stream ads work pretty well on certain videos, like clips from TV shows or full-length movies," says YouTube. "We first launched in-stream ads last year, and we’ve continued to innovate and test different in-stream formats on YouTube (like user-choice pre-rolls)."

Users may find the skippable pre-rolls slightly annoying but tolerable, since they are still in control of whether they have to watch it or not. They may come off as a bit intrusive, similar to pop-up ads, but if they are easy to skip, people will probably be willing to continue on with the video.

YouTube skippable ad

Chances are, they will see enough of the ad to begin with to at least gain some kind of brand awareness. That’s really going to be all up to the ad though. Advertisers looking at this kind of spot may want to strongly consider getting the meat of the message in as early as possible.

"We know what you’re thinking: who would choose to watch an ad when they can skip it?" says YouTube. "Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out. In our previous research, we’ve actually seen that lots of users will watch pre-rolls. Abandonment rates are affected by several factors, notably length and creative. When a pre-roll is only 15 seconds, we see completion rates as high as 85%. Also, creative matters a lot: the quality and relevance of the ad itself seems to have 3x the influence on abandonment online as it does on TV. Viewers online tend to be much more active in making choices about what they watch."

Remember that these new ads are only being tested at this point, but YouTube seems quite optimistic that it may have found its best advertising solution yet. We’ll see if the tests confirm this, and if this becomes a normal ad-type for the world’s most popular video site (and 2nd largest search engine).

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