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Your Quick Guide to Understanding Pre-Roll Videos

6 Min Read

The pre-roll video is your elevator pitch to the world. It’s a sampling of your brand, your products and services, and why you’re better than competitors. Unlike the elevator conversation, however, you can be literally anywhere in the world as your video plays specifically for your most highly-prized customers.

The name “pre-roll video” is more self-explanatory than it seems at first glance. Pre-roll videos play before the “main” video you’re trying to watch, whether that’s a film, a YouTube video, or a video placed on social media. Think of it like a movie preview, but for any video you watch digitally. In Hollywood, anytime a film is in motion, it’s “rolling.” Pre-roll videos got their name from this term because you are watching the video before the video that you’re waiting to see.

You have seen this marketing strategy employed in many places—on YouTube, on your favorite blog, or maybe as a sidebar on your phone as you browse the Internet. These are the videos that make you stop and pay attention. They seem to read your mind and give you instant solutions to your problems. 

Because they’re placed before “real” content, pre-roll videos are short—generally 15 or 30 seconds long. Some platforms have 60-second pre-roll videos, but these are less common. Here’s an example of a 15-second pre-roll ad we made for one of our clients.

Client: San Fernando Swap Meet

Here’s another 15-second example for a different type of client.

Client: Coeur Sports

Some platforms let you skip pre-roll ads either immediately (like Twitter pre-roll ads) or after watching for a few seconds, while others don’t let you skip at all (most YouTube pre-roll ads). One thing to note is that pre-roll ads are still effective even if your audience skips them. A Nielson study found that even when viewers watched an ad for less than a single second, they experienced higher ad recall, brand awareness, and purchase intent because they were exposed to the brand. That’s powerful evidence in support of pre-roll videos, and each of those metrics only increased as viewers watched more of the ad. 

Curious about implementing pre-roll videos? Here is what you need to know.

Why You Should Use Pre-Roll Videos

Pre-roll ads are intended to grab the viewer’s attention and immediately convince them that they need more information. They’re quick and they’re not supposed to share your brand’s entire story—they just have to share enough to get the viewer interested so that they click through to your website or landing page to learn more. 

Because you’ve captured a viewer when their attention is already focused on the screen waiting for their main content, you have a great opportunity to share your brand with a captive audience. 

Where You Should Use Pre-Roll Videos

This video marketing technique can be placed virtually anywhere online. At Lemonlight, part of the value we add for clients is the expertise of knowing where to distribute a given video to maximize the impact it will have on the client’s marketing goals. If the pre-roll video is placed naturally in a place that is relevant to your target audience, it will seem like a normal part of their online experience rather than an annoying ad. 

What Kind of Pre-Roll Video You Should Make

Let’s be honest. At the end of the day, no one really wants to watch an ad before their content. So, the key is to genuinely delight and entertain your audience rather than packing your pre-roll ad with a sales pitch. Some of the best pre-roll ads don’t give any actual information about what a company even sells, much less detailed information about costs or purchase options. 

This is also not the time for long-winded copy, extensive contact information, or other promotional details. Your only real goal is to get your viewer to click on the ad for more information. If you can just grab your viewer’s attention and hold it for the length of the ad, that’s a successful pre-roll video. Ignore the sales pitch for now, and your content will be much more effective. 

Ready to Get Started? Here’s How.

Now is the time to get started on your pre-roll video content. Audiences are watching these videos every day, so don’t ignore the opportunity to get your brand name in front of an already-captive audience. 

If you need help getting started, that’s what we’re here for! We make pre-roll videos for clients of every size, in every industry, at every budget. Check out the form below to get started. 

[Note: This post was originally posted on 5/21/15 and has been updated to reflect the most accurate and relevant information.]

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