Is this the end of pre-roll video ads?

The days of the pre-roll video ad are numbered as the digital industry slowly turns its back on this obstructive and ineffective format.

Trendsetter Facebook is maintaining its long-held stance that pre-roll has no place on the social network, despite its imminent rollout of mid-roll ads that will allow content creators to monetise video.

At the same time Google is limiting the use of pre-roll on YouTube, pledging to get rid of the unpopular 30-second unskippable format next year.

Yet earlier this year Twitter took a step in the opposite direction by launching pre-roll ads on its video streaming service Periscope.  

So, what is the current situation with pre-roll and – as a format known for switching consumers off – why is Twitter switching it on?

The end of pre-roll’s dominance

In-stream pre-roll is still the most dominant video ad format in terms of investments according to research by IAB Europe. This is largely because there is still plentiful inventory available for this type of video ad, and also because it is a cheaper option for advertisers than more innovative, higher quality video formats.

pre-roll video is simply not fit for modern consumers

As a platform suffering on-going revenue losses, it is perhaps not surprising Twitter has chosen the well-established pre-roll format as part of a quick-fix attempt to generate valuable advertising revenue.

The adoption of pre-roll is unlikely to be a successful long-term strategy. Ultimately Twitter will need to explore more user-friendly video advertising options if it wants to maintain a positive user experience.

Pre-roll video is simply not fit for modern consumers, particularly Generation Z – the first demographic group never to know life without continuous internet access and smart technologies.

Pre-roll blocks access to video content, delaying and frustrating users who are used to instant access and are likely to abandon content if they have to wait.

pre-roll blocks access to video content

The modern consumer expects value from video content but isn’t prepared to sit through long pre-roll ads to get it. This is particularly true of short-form video, with users unwilling to waste 30 seconds watching a pre-roll add just to view a two-minute video clip.

The rapid growth of video advertising continues, but this is driven by less intrusive, more innovative outstream formats rather than by pre-roll. The latest IAB stats indicate video advertising in the UK grew 56% overall last year, but pre and post-roll only grew 12% compared with outstream and social video formats which grew by 234%.

France is facing the same trend as outstream, and social video formats grew by 115% last year according to IAB France. An outstream video ad can be any format that plays outside of an online video player such as native video ads, in-read videos that play within the content of an article, or high-impact wallpaper or skin-based videos.  

Outstream has a higher impact

As well as being less intrusive than pre-roll, outstream video ad formats are more engaging and impactful, with users more likely to pay attention to their message and to take action as a result.

This view is supported by a new study from Ipsos and Sublime Skinz that aimed to find out which digital advertising format achieved the greatest impact in the growing video market. When compared with pre-roll video, a skin-based video format was selected as the more appealing format and the most suitable for web users.

outstream video has higher impact than pre-roll

The study discovered outstream video has higher impact than pre-roll, with 33% of viewers able to spontaneously recall the advertiser’s brand after exposure to a skin-based video ad compared with just 15% for a pre-roll video.

The outstream skin format also provided the best ROI for brands, resulting in a higher considered intent such as purchase.

The pre-roll ad has been a mainstay of digital video as it has grown to become an established advertising channel – and has been instrumental in the success of video platforms such as YouTube – but it is no longer suited to the modern viewer.

Despite Twitter’s recent foray into pre-roll, this traditional video format will eventually be superseded by less intrusive, more effective, outstream alternatives such as skin-based videos, that enhance rather than detract from the user experience. 

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