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  • Writer's pictureRyan Snaadt

What Makes a Great YouTube Pre-Roll Video Ad?

Recycling. Good for Environment, Terrible for YouTube Ads.

By Ryan Snaadt

You are about to watch your daily dose of funny cat fail videos on YouTube. As you click on a video to watch, you get slammed with a local car dealership ad yelling about their ‘BIG BIG SAVINGS’. You have no interest in cars, cringe, and quickly scramble for the skip button. This is how traditional markers are attempting to use pre-roll video. And it is a massive waste of time.

A large percentage of pre-roll videos are just recycled broadcast spots that a company reuses from other placement campaigns. For viewers, it is painfully obvious and pushes them to click the skip button immediately. Recycling is good for the environment, not so much for YouTube pre-roll.

So stop ramming your message down viewers’ throats. Consider a more strategic approach and tailor a message to your exact demographic.

The Meat and Potatoes to Successful Pre-Roll:

The Hook

The first 5 seconds are your window to convince viewers your video is worth their time. So don’t blow it. After the first 5 seconds, a viewer can click to ‘Skip this Ad’ and continue on the video they intended to watch. Strong hooks grab attention quickly with a bizarre situation, suspenseful environment, or strong interest for what is to come.

Keep it quick, entertaining or informative, and give the viewer a reason to keep watching.


Most successful ads have some type of movement to grab attention quickly. This includes the talent moving through a scene towards the camera, smooth camera movements, or varying camera angles to keep the viewer locked in.

After the first 5 seconds the video must still keep viewers locked, so continuous movement throughout the video is very helpful.


The typical ‘salesy’ videos never perform well. A well told story can connect with the target audience in a variety of ways. Overcoming the odds, lending a hand to those in need, staring adversity in the face... you get the idea.

Instead of creating an ad, tell a story.


Keeping a viewer engaged is easier to do by first peaking their curiosity. If the video foreshadows interesting information or a special offering later in the run time, a viewer is more likely to stick around to get what they are looking for.

Keep them anxious to hear more.

Call to Action

Contrary to most marketers’ understanding, pre-roll videos can be longer-form if done properly. Regardless of the length of time, the message should be clear. Do you want people to visit your site, download a free offering, subscribe to your newsletter, or something else?

Be clear on your call to action and make it extremely easy for the viewer to follow through with your ask.


If the video isn’t relevant, viewers will skip every time. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, allowing you to target a very specific search term or content that connects well with your viewer. Don’t be afraid to turn away non-ideal watchers. It will actually save you money in ad dollars and appeal to more qualified viewers.

Leverage the fact that you know exactly what someone is searching for and craft a message that gets their attention.

Take Away

So stop using traditional ad placement on non-traditional platforms. Think quality over quantity and peak the interest of your exact target demographic.

Developing a pre-roll campaign on your own can be daunting. Luckily for you, I am here to help. If you are curious about using pre-roll in your next marketing campaign, let’s chat. Who doesn't love a good challenge?!

Curious how you can start using YouTube pre-roll video in your marketing strategy? Book a call with Ryan to see if he can help with all things video marketing and YouTube conversion.

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