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Why YouTube Pre-Roll Ads Rock & How To Take Advantage of Them

Authors: Brian Carter Brian Carter
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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badge-guest-post-FLATTERHow powerful is video marketing? Consider these five statistics:

  • Video Advertising Trends: Video was the fastest growing form of ad format in 2012. (source: Insivia)
  • Communication Effectiveness: Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text. (source: Insivia)
  • Buying Decision: 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in online purchase decisions. (source: Invodo)
  • Decision Makers: 59% of senior executives prefer video over text. (source: Brainshark)
  • Conversion Rates: Animated explainer videos increase conversion rates by 20%. (source: Unbounce)

Right now, one of strongest digital marketing opportunities (that hasn’t been overrun by competition) is YouTube pre-roll advertising.

What Are Pre-Roll Ads?

Using Google AdWords, you can roll any of your YouTube videos before the videos viewers on YouTube want to watch. You’ve probably experienced this: you go to watch a video and suddenly here’s a commercial. You have to watch for five seconds, and then you can hit “Skip Ad”. They call it in-stream advertising. Most other people call it pre-roll.

Why YouTube Pre-Roll Ads Rock & How To Take Advantage of Them

Like many types of advertising, pre-roll is interruptive and can be misused in a way that annoys people and undermines your branding. But if you do it well, you provide an interesting or helpful or entertaining break to someone that may lead to them becoming a customer.

YouTube pre-roll is a top of the funnel type of digital marketing, used mainly to raise awareness and partly to drive website traffic. It can also be used for lead generation. You may get some sales right away, depending on what you’re selling, but it’s not as immediate as AdWords search ads are.

Still, I think people forget that what makes AdWords so quick at delivering ROI is that you focus on getting people who are ready now. You’re just cashing in on previous marketing efforts. It’s not necessarily so much that AdWords are incredibly persuasive, it’s that people search specific keywords when they’re ready to buy. It may have taken them months to get there. Often people first hear about the thing they’re going to buy from Facebook or TV or Radio. Other marketing efforts or articles they read help convince them to buy, and then they go search and buy.

YouTube pre-roll is at roughly the same funnel level as Facebook advertising. So, consider raising awareness, positioning yourself, and intriguing the prospect. Later, that person may decide to search for you or see your retargeting ad and become a customer.

Case Study: Over The Counter Medication

One of our clients, whose niche we can’t reveal, has engaged in a variety of new digital marketing efforts in the last year, including Facebook ads, retargeting and YouTube pre-roll ads. The brand has also engaged a physician as a spokesperson for these videos. These pre-roll ads bring them over 450,000 impressions and 80,000 new video views per month (plus about 3,500 website visitors) at an average price of $0.09 per view for consumer health viewers.

We’re promoting four main videos for them right now, and we also are able to retarget these video viewers with coupon ads via the AdWords Display Network.

Case Study: Financial Investment Tools

One of our clients created a new 30-second commercial for one of their SaaS products and we advertised it with YouTube pre-roll. In this three month test, they received more than 1,200,000 impressions, 121,000 video views, 7,300 clicks and a number of leads (that number we’re not allowed to disclose, but it was considered a successful campaign). The average cost to get financial industry viewers was $0.12 per view.

YouTube Pre-Roll Targeting Options

The value of internet advertising is often dependent on the quality of the targeting. Can you mostly reach our prospects, and no one else? YouTube pre-roll’s targeting is pretty good for this. Here are your options:

  • Geography
  • Language
  • Demographics
  • Topics
  • Interests

You should know what the first three are. Topics and interests are the main targeting options. They both use the same set of categories to help you to show to the right people, but the difference is this:

  • Topics are the category of videos they’re watching right now.
  • Interests means you can show to a person who tends to watch videos of a certain topic even if they’re watching something else right now.


There are tons of categories and subcategories, so there’s no point in listing them all. You’ll have to browse through and ask yourself this key question: Is this a subcategory that my target buyer is likely to watch, but a whole bunch of other people aren’t likely to watch?

Often you can’t avoid advertising to people who won’t be interested, but you solve this with the advertising and video content. Start off with something that makes it clear who it’s for and who would benefit from it.

Overcoming Biggest Obstacle to Using YouTube Pre-Roll: Creating A Good Video

The biggest obstacle to using pre-roll, just like any other type of content marketing, is you have to have a good video. In fact, you may find you want to create several videos specifically for pre-roll advertising campaigns.

Isn’t that difficult and expensive? It can be. Companies often spend $10,000 or more (sometimes much more) on videos.

If you can overcome this barrier to entry and your competitors can’t, this will remain a big marketing opportunity for years. There are more and more tools that help you create quality video affordably, including these:

  • PowToon: Create an animated video on your own, for free (there’s PowToon branding on it and a short 2 second “created with PowToon” at the end). I created my first one in just over an hour – it’s about YouTube pre-roll and PowToon:
  • GoAnimate is a little bit more advanced, but it’s not free. Still, it’s only a few hundred dollars per year.
  • Companies that create custom business explainer videos like Promoshin. These can still be under $2,000. They take you through a script writing, storyboarding and voiceover process.

More Tips for YouTube Success

When you create your pre-roll ads, make sure you build both the text ad and create and upload a 300×60 banner image (you’ll have to click on “advanced ad attributes” under the text ad you create). This will increase your chances of getting web traffic from your video ad. I went to look for a screenshot of the 300×60 ad, but in the process I got sucked into watching a bunch of vine compilation videos on YouTube – evidence of how effective YouTube is!

There are many kinds of videos you could make, but here are a few tips for business video:

  • Keep it short (60 seconds to three minutes max).
  • Make them feel the paint points of the problem you solve and then inspire them with the benefits of your product or service.
  • Don’t make the kind of commercial that people think of as commercials.
  • Do something interesting and different. Copy structure but not content.

There are other types of YouTube ads to explore as well, like showing up in the YouTube search results. That’s powerful because YouTube is the #2 search engine on the web, second only to Google, their parent company.

Whether you use other parts of AdWords already or not, don’t forget that you can show display ads to people who have viewed your YouTube channel. This is a form of remarketing. What’s more, you can show display ads to people who are similar to those who’ve watched your YouTube channel, and though we’re not sure exactly how they are similar, I’ve seen this generate $0.10 clicks, which are pretty amazing for one of the biggest ad networks there is.

Try it out and let me know how you do.

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