I’d like to take a quick moment to thank YouTube for the skippable pre-roll ad. Sure I could use other means of getting around ads on YouTube, but sometimes I like to reward good videos by sitting through the mindless ads that play before them. But mostly, mostly I like to skip the ads if I’m given the opportunity. That’s why I took particular notice with Geico’s most recent ad campaign and went digging around for other videos that found similar success.

If you haven’t seen it yet, Geico has a series of ads that “end” at just about the exact point where you would normally hit the skip button on YouTube, the five second mark. After that, the videos freeze frame and continue with additional action outside of the original characters. Like the most popular of the bunch where a family at the dinner table stops mid bite as the family dog hops on the table and begins eating everyone’s dinner. You can see an example of two of the Geico ads below - and if you like them, there's also an extended cut to watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSpGEjdIN1Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xmzm1JCOqtU

Pre-roll Ads: Drawing the Viewer in for a Good Cause

Another great example of pre-roll trickery was actually for a great cause. A collaborative advertisement with the Australian police was used to help find missing persons. The creative twist here was a change in the look of the skip button both while it was counting to the initial five seconds and afterwards, when it changed into “YES I HAVE” seen this person. This was compounded with geo-targeted ads that used the last known location of the missing persons to help provide at least 238 leads on cold cases.

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Burger King's Super-Targeted Pre-roll Ads Were a Winner

This example from Burger King is not only a lesson on how to creatively run a pre-roll campaign, but how to properly target an audience that will watch your ad. They created a search based ad campaign where pre-roll ads were actually related to the search that was performed before landing on the video. So if a user was looking for animal attacks, the pre-roll was talking about animal attacks as well. Breaking down the 4th wall aided Burger King in capturing the viewers’ attention so they could deliver their message.

Playing with the Skip Button

I don’t know about you, but I’m always watching the skip button, waiting for it to hit the 5 second mark. This example preys on that laser-like attention and uses it to their advantage. An ad campaign for the Opel Mokka, a German compact SUV, had their SUV interact with the skip button as if it were a physical object. It drove over it, crashed into it and even avoided it in the dark. Find creative ways to get your information in front of the place where viewers are looking because they aren’t even paying attention to the ad if there is a skip button.

Daring to Viewer to Press the Skip Button

A similar technique was used by Nail Communications in this campaign. They hook up a cute puppy to the skip button and dare viewers to press it. I’ll admit it, I called their bluff and hit the skip button, but I also watched until the end of the ad to find out that not only was the puppy safe, but they were donating a portion of the money from the campaign to the ASPCA. It was a great ad campaign, but they clearly should have used a kitten if they knew anything about the Internet.

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It’s this type of out of the box thinking that can really take an advertisement from an annoying pre-roll to an entertaining ad that reinforces the brand message. I’d almost call theses a hyper-advertisements because the tactics used to draw in your attention and deliver the message all occur within the first five seconds. Any amount of time a viewer watches after that is just the icing on the cake. I can’t speak for the retention of all other viewers, but I was entranced by their trickery and found myself watching each of these ads until their conclusion.