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What is a pre-roll video?

3 Min Read

If you’re anything like most people, you probably hear videos terminology throw around all the time with no clear understanding of the meaning. You probably intuitively know what a commercial is, but what does it actually mean, for example? Since “I’ll know it when I see it” isn’t a foolproof strategy for understanding these terms, we’ve got you covered. Here, we gave a rundown of brand videos and product videos, and here, we covered commercials and instructional videos. Today, we’re going to demystify the pre-roll.

What is a pre-roll video?

A pre-roll video is an example of a rare video marketing term that seems completely disconnected from our everyday language. Yet, once you know what it is, it makes complete sense. See, a pre-roll is a short video that plays (rolls) before (pre-) another video. Tada! Pre-roll.

Pre-roll videos are particularly relevant given the continuing growth of YouTube. With over 1 billion unique visitors visiting the site every month and 100 hours of video uploaded every minute, YouTube as a platform is ripe for video marketing. Pre-roll videos take advantage of this market by piggybacking onto existing videos. As a result, they effectively target audiences while also enjoying a couple of seconds of captive viewership (before the viewer is given the option to “Skip Ad”).

What does that mean for you? More than any other video marketing form, a pre-roll video must capture the viewer’s attention in the first few seconds. Because while the YouTube platform is a blessing, it’s also a curse; people are impatient to watch their selected video and, consequently, have high motivation to skip through your ad. They essentially start watching your commercial already wanting it to be over. To keep their attention—and potentially win their business—you’ve got to put your best foot forward and play your trump cards first.

In plain English? Don’t hold back. Shock them. Make them laugh. Provide eye candy. We provide some tips here, but really, the sky’s the limit. What makes your business shine? Share that with the viewer immediately, follow through with the rest of the video, and you just might have found yourself a new customer.

Here’s a caveat, though: 30 seconds is not a long time, and people may forget about you when their original video starts. Be specific with what you want them to do after watching. Include a call to action, and scale it appropriately to the medium. A pre-roll video is merely the first step in the client cultivation cycle. For it to be effective, the following steps must be in place as well.


Was this helpful? Check out part one on brand videos and product videos, and part two on commercials and instructional videos. Have other questions? Let us know, we’d love to answer them!

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