What Is A Pre-Roll?

Pre-Roll or Video-On-Demand advertising refers to basically any advertising that takes the form of a video only. These terms do not include videos which are served within other ad units (such as a video MPU), however are pretty much interchangeable with the terms pre-game (video ads which load before flash games), post-roll (video ads which load after a video) or mid-roll (video ads which interrupt a video in the middle). Video-On-Demand is actually the catch-all term for videos on the internet in general, however it and pre-roll (due to being the most common type of VOD ad by far) have both become commonly used to just mean video ads.

An incredibly effective yet expensive form of advertising, pre-roll is prevalent across most sites with any amount of video content, and is highly sought after by marketers and ad networks alike. There are in essence two major types of VOD content – skippable and unskippable. For the most part you are unable to choose between these when buying from (or signing up to) an ad network, so other metrics must be considered.

Here’s how it looks:

VOD covers all types of video ads, whether before other videos or games

VOD covers all types of video ads, whether before other videos or games

Apart from initial implementation, the use of metrics is what creates the main degree of difficulty with these types of ads. Advertisers will often want their whole video viewed and so will request metrics which track the % of a video viewed by users on average – the theory being the more of the video a user watches, the more engaged the viewer was. The issue with this is that most video ads are clickable, and if a user clicks a video ad the ad will stop while the user goes to the destination website. So when someone clicks a video ad, despite the ad arguably doing it’s job and creating traffic for the site, it will harm the metric that some advertisers want – % watched. Because of this dichotomy of goals, deals involving pre-rolls should have the desired metrics pre-agreed to ensure both site owner and advertiser are happy with the outcome.


Pre-Roll / VOD Advice for Site Owners

If you have video or flash game content on your site then we highly recommend you look into providing pre-roll advertising. The CPM for pre-roll ads is generally much higher than other forms of online ad and so could be a comparatively great earner for you. It can be tricky to set up your site to take VOD ads however, especially with regards to making sure you have the ability to provide % viewed metrics. You should therefore preferably have a web-developer you can rely on to set-up your VOD ads.

If you sign up with an ad network however they will likely help you through your setup, so it’s a good idea to take a look at them. A couple reasonable video networks to get you started are YouTube Video Ads and BrightRoll.

Tip: You are unlikely to get the full amount of impressions from your pages containing videos on them due to issues loading, as well as a high level of skipping on video ads, and the standard practice of putting a 1/24 frequency cap on your VOD ads. All of these combined mean that you should be seeing at least 1,000 video views per month before considering this type of ad.


Pre-Roll / VOD Advice for Ad Buyers

If you have the ability and budget to produce and buy VOD advertising then you should seriously consider it. Still a somewhat fragmented market, video ads can be bought from most regular ad networks as well as a some specialising in video only.

Before purchasing a video ad it is vital to make sure that you have decided what you want from it. If it is a branding exercise then you should hope for high user view time percentages, however if you are using to channel sales then a high CTR is likely your goal. Whichever you choose, make sure you communicate what you are looking for to whoever you buy the ad space from, so that they can optimise your campaign towards your goal.


Find out more

Ad Size Guide

Author: Justin Driskill

Justin is the founder of The Online Advertising Guide and a freelance Digital Projects Manager.

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