Why we utterly despise pre-roll ads

I just watched the new John Lewis commercial on YouTube. There was a pre-roll advert at the beginning of it. So, now we live in a universe where there are ads bolted onto the front of ads. Seriously?  These guys are madder than Mad Men.

Few things on this planet are more pointless than the ads that play before video clips on YouTube. We literally hate them. We despise them. We skip them. Even if they’re about something we’d normally be interested in, we turn our heads away and/or shut our eyes so we don’t have to watch a single, irritating, time-wasting, long-winded second of the things.

Why the deep hatred? Well, it’s because we are RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING SOMETHING ELSE! Like, we’re standing up to our knees in freezing water and we’ve finally just found a YouTube tutorial on how to fix a burst pipe. In that scenario, how responsive are we honestly going to be to a commercial about luxury hair care products, or fabric softener?

94% of people skip pre-roll ads. So, we have to ask ourselves, just how dumb are the marketing and advertising people who continue to promote their use, and exactly what kind of brand manager would want the image of their product or service tarnished by something so completely loathsome, intrusive, and deeply invasive of our use of digital media.

Even more staggering is that in a world where almost all pre-roll advertising is skipped after 5 seconds, you STILL see ads where the name of the product does not actually appear in the first 5 seconds of the creative. It’s also amazing that even with the brief, explosive popularity of 6 second Vines (whatever happened to them?), advertisers haven’t reduced the lengths of ALL their pre-roll advertising to 6 seconds or less. Surely that’s a no-brainer.

I just watched a 90 second video clip on YouTube. It was preceded by a 30 second commercial that did not offer the option to skip. That’s the equivalent of showing a 45 minute advert at the start of a movie in a cinema. Who would put up with that? Surely people would just walk out.

The reason that advertising agencies stubbornly refuse to give up on the pitifully lost cause of pre-roll advertising is that their revenue from television ads is on a calamitous, downward spiral, due to the fact that we no longer watch commercial television in real time.

As much as 80% of viewing for big-hitting shows like Downton Abbey is now done via TiVo or some other catch-up technology, so the broadcasters can no longer deliver decent ratings to the advertisers. Basically the whole of the TV advertising industry is screwed, and that’s why, in total desperation, the ad agencies are shoving pre-roll ads down our throats – even though they are perfectly aware that we completely despise them.