Why Pre-Roll Video Ads Don't Scale

Surfers Will Do Just About Anything to Avoid Them

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Want hyper-growth? Check out online video advertising, expected to grow 48.1% this year and 42.7% in 2011, according to eMarketer. That steep growth curve is no doubt behind Specific Media's acquisition of BBE a few weeks back, as well as AOL's acquisition of 5min.

But online video has a problem: Consumers will do just about anything to avoid its core unit, the video pre-roll. For 14 days, Tubemogul monitored what it calls a "large sample" of media sites, including TV networks, print publications and online media outlets. They found that only 13% of unique visitors watched a video pre-roll during that time. Conversely, nearly 87% did not.

Understandably, broadcasters tend to do best, with 20% of their unique visitors watching a pre-roll over the two-week period, meaning consumers are most likely to watch a video ad when it precedes something they really want to watch. Magazine and newspaper sites don't do as well, mostly because they have far fewer video clips to which to attach advertising. That said, I'm continually amazed how many news and information sites accept 30-second pre-rolls for short clips, which also may be a factor.

We know why there's so much 30-second pre-roll out there (it's all re-purposed from TV) but what's less clear is why more of those 30-second spots aren't cut down to 15 seconds, or better yet, eight seconds, which would make them less onerous.

Here's Tubemogul's analysis: "The data presents a pretty clear tradeoff to video advertisers: in reaching a premium audience on a given site, pre-roll advertising can only get you so far, especially in certain categories. If an advertiser wants to reach an entire site's audience with a given video ad, in-banner display or interstitial advertising could be complementary additions to increase reach."

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