The role of pre-rolls in the consumer journey


I’ve just come out of great session at Google HQ down-under. I’ve been one of the lucky few to see the first study in Australia around the effectiveness of pre-roll and their impact on lowering CPAs.  And I’m not talking CPA as in Cost Per Action, I’m talking the holy grail of Cost Per Acquisition; real buyable things, people who’ve been actively influenced to go and purchase items, expressly because they’ve seen an ad on youtube in the last 30 days.

The study has been conducted in the US a number of times, and we’ve seen broad benchmarks of 5-25% increased probability to purchase after seeing a pre-roll. Interestingly the Australian results are starting to show even higher results of 25-30%^.  As this is the first study, it is impossible for us to conclude higher de-facto effectiveness of pre-rolls in Australia.  But, at the very least we can confirm a positive impact on the consumer journey – another clear win for video!

We also saw that a greater frequency than one proved to be more effective (naturally! who listens the first time around anyway?). But we are yet to see where that tipping point of diminishing returns is; it will be interesting to see if it follows the golden rule of 3 we see across TV.

Speaking of TV, we know that digital is not a silo. We know it amplifies the effect of more tradition medias of  television, print, direct mail, and word of mouth.^^ We also know that the consumer journey is no longer a linear path, but more of a flight map.  Where people jump back and forth between different sources before landing on a purchase decision.  The question is, which sources can we effectively influence?  And, what is the most effective

way to engage with each of these mediums?  We know digital is playing an increasingly important role. In fact, last year Deloitte reported that 36c in every dollar spent in the US was influenced by digital. They forecast that will have by now increased to 50c in the dollar, or $1.5 trillion of total store sales.` However, not all digital ads were created equal.

Studies show that ads placed in areas where there is less psychological noise are recalled better than equivalents in general media.` `  Perhaps the pre-roll falls into this category?  The 15” to 30” spots certainly captures our attention until we have the opportunity to skip.  We are naturally viewing that frame and waiting for the moment when the content we really want to see starts. This means that we are more receptive to listen to the ad, and take action if it’s relevant to us.

Skip-able ads also appeal to us more.` ` ` Google’s studies in 2010 when it first introduced TrueView, the skippable ad format, showed that viewers had an (understandably!) strong preference for ads that they could skip.  In a cluttered world where brands need to interrupt less and help more, this is an important brand equity win.  After all, who wants to be the brand that stops people from getting at what they want? As one respondent stated:

“Usually if an ad is interesting or relevant I will not use the skip feature because I’m genuinely interested in the content of the ad but if it is neither relevant nor interesting, then I don’t feel like I should be forced to watch the duration of a lame ad.” *

True that.





^When compared to control group that did not see pre-roll.  Purchases only measured if occurred within 30 days of seeing pre-roll.  Sample size of 7,000.  Audience not tested as representative.

^^ Fulgoni, ‘Omni-Channel Retail Insights and the Consumer’s Path-to-Purchase: How Digital Has Transformed the Way People Make Purchasing Decisions’ Journal of Advertising Research, 54(2)  2014, pp.377-380

Deloitte. “Digital Influences More Than $1 Trillion in Retail Store Sales.” Deloitte, April 28, 2014. Retrieved 20th February, 2015 from

` ` Studies show that ads placed in environments like computer and video games, cinemas are recalled better than equivalents in general media.  Philport and Arbitter, ‘ Advertising brand communications styles in established media and the Internet’, Journal of Advertising Research, 37(2) March – April 1997, pp.68-76

` ` `  Pashkevich ‘ Empowering Online Advertisements by Empowering Viewers with the Right to Choose‘ Journal of Advertising Research, 52(4) 2012, pp. 65-71

* ibid. p.67





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