In Depth

Tell me a different story!

An advertising executive last week said something that shocked me. The agency representative said that advertisers are resistant to moving away from pre-roll ads online because they want to be able to tell a story with their ads.

OK, I get that it’s your ad and your creative and you have your message to get across, Mr. Advertiser. But guess what? Consumers just don’t like pre-rolls. So how about adapting your message to fit the medium?

Advertisers like to point out that pre-rolls have high brand recall: 77 percent compared with 18 percent for TV, according to a Millward Brown study. But that’s because online viewers are more engaged, not because they like the ads.

In fact, some of us hate, hate, hate them. Sorry to be harsh, but there is a better way.
For instance, how about “brought to you by” messages? Online TV network Revision3 only sells ads on a sponsorship or “host shout-out” basis. The company commissioned a study that found that 100% of its viewers could name at least one sponsor, while 91% could name two or more. Also, more than 40% of viewers have purchased a product from a sponsor.

When I raised that point with the advertising executive, the response was, for better or worse, advertisers like pre-rolls for now because the format lets them deliver their message the way they want.

But I think advertisers need to adapt. Advertisers who want to play online need to develop messages for the medium. You can still deliver a story online, but it shouldn’t be the same message that causes us to tune out on TV. We don’t like your 30-second spots there either.

So tell your story in a three- to five-second ad, tell it in a “brought to you by” message, tell it in an overlay, tell it in a “skin” in which you brand the video player with your message, or tell it with fun, catchy, edgy viral video.

Just as TV networks are being forced to adapt to consumers’ changing viewing habits, advertisers need to change too.

Jeremy Blacklow, managing editor of AccessHollywood.com said it best in a panel at Ad:Tech in San Francisco last week: “The pre-roll is as dead as the 30-second spot.”

I, for one, say good riddance.