Why Can’t The Industry Agree Upon Pre-Roll Ad Lengths? 41 Second Ads?

Is there anything about the online video industry or it's practices that anyone agrees upon? No one agrees on the size of the market or what the growth is, content owners can't agree on which type of ad formats are the most valuable or what length ads should shown for short or long form content. While watching a two and a half minute clip on NBCSports this morning, I was delivered a 41 second pre-roll ad. (Updated: NBCSports.com shares the same ad system as MSNBC.com, so the ad I saw was actually coming from MSNBC.com) How did they come up with 41 seconds as the ideal time? And why did another clip that was the same in length, then give me a 30 second ad? Why is there absolutely no consistency in this market?

The online video industry should be a lot further along then it is right now. I know when I say that many from the industry say I should focus on the positive, but seriously, the consumer experience for online video advertising right now is horrible. Nearly all ads are not targeted, content owners are not making money, content owners are cutting up content into too many pieces, and while I said two years ago that "15 Second Pre-Roll Video Ads Will Become The Standard", clearly that was wishful thinking on my part. In the last week I've gotten ads that range from 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 41 seconds and 60 seconds. What is going on? How do content owners not realize the affect this has on the consumer experience?

As a consumer, I am so frustrated with the online video ad experience.

  • anything longer that 10 seconds is the kiss of death for anything but the most viral video.

  • Hi,
    In Poland, the 15s preroll ad is a standard. You can buy 8s preroll for about 75% of the base price, and 30s costs about 150% of the base price. We do not accept anything longer than 30s and decide to publish it only when it is a really huge campaign (big money).
    The reason why we cut video into 8 min pieces is the behaviour of the internet users we observe. Nearly 100% of them watch a 1 min movie to the end while hardly 10% of them watch a whole 10 min picture. Besides, we use ad capping, so cutting movies into pieces just in order to present ads before every piece is not a good practice.
    We introduced an interactive overlay ad which doesn’t make the watcher go frustrated when he sees one. In my opinion, this will take advantage over the prerolls in the future because the overlay doesn’t interrupt watching and you can close the ad, if you’re not interested in the product.
    The internet IS AND HAS TO BE INTERACTIVE. If you watch passive ads (where there is nothing to do but to watch and listen) on your tv, it doesn’t mean they have to be also passive in the Web. Interactivity is the thing television would crave for. Why don’t we start using it also in the web ad market?

  • Robg

    Why should they? The need for a standardized length is a technology problem not an advertiser problem.

  • Great post! I agree with a lot of what you said; we can’t keep claiming the online video industry as a new industry, just to excuse it’s continuous ‘teething’ problems.
    Part of me thinks perhaps the over-zealous nature of the current advertising industry is to blame for the lack of structure or consistency in online video advertising; as though they just pounced on the bandwagon without thinking it through… or more to the point – not employing the right people who will think it through.
    In response to Wojciech Reichel in Poland,
    “We introduced an interactive overlay ad which doesn’t make the watcher go frustrated when he sees one.”
    Overlay ad’s are a no for me, as both a consumer and a producer. For me, it is just another pop-up ad and as such immediately depreciates the quality of both the content being viewed and the product being advertised.
    It is fitting for sites such as youtube, with user-generated content and ad-sense style advertising, but for high-end production and content houses i feel that 15 second pre-roll is an ideal to work towards.
    And in response to Robg: The ‘need’ for standardization is the consumers problem, as pointed out by Dan. The solution is in the hands of the advertising companies and production houses to adhere to a set of ‘standards’ that keeps the pre-roll ad’s consistent and effective. The technology has no bearing on the length or content of pre-roll.
    Thanks again for an interesting post.

  • I agree. I think it goes hand-in-hand with standards that UX designers came up with years ago regarding people’s expectations of the internet and how it should function (minimal page loading time, etc). Nobody wants to watch a 30 second ad online, let alone anything longer. We can barely wait longer than a few seconds for a page to load, why would we want to spend 30 seconds watching an advertisement? I think there’s a place for video ads online, but there does need to be a set of standards put in place, something that takes into account better user-experience. Another annoying example, in addition to lengthy video ads, are automatically streaming video ads. Those are terrible!

  • Frustration has become common currency in the quest for an online video business model. In researching video ad effectiveness it has become apparent that the best advertisers can hope for in a pre-roll ad (done appropriately, the best can be a lot) is to brand stamp or communicate a simple tag idea. Remember, we are living in a user’s world. When the user clicks to view a video, he or she does not want to view an ad. There is an automatic aversion built into having one appear. The quicker we are in and out of it, the better for all of us. The shorter the ad, the greater is the need for efficiency. Combine brevity with efficiency and the user will appreciate the message more. Applying a video editor’s logic to appropriate clip length in a timeline, the optimal pre-roll should net out at about 8 seconds. If all you are attempting is to plant the brand/tagline in the viewer, that is sufficient. Where the money comes is in the post-roll: having watched the selected video, the user is better disposed to receiving a well crafted, targeted ad of some length (up to :60)

  • The reason the industry can’t agree is very simple. No online user will agree to pre rolls or any other type of advertising that is delaying the content he was looking for. Online video advertising is a fairy tale and even youtube are not able to be profitable with this model. YOu can read the full explanation here – http://www.yanivnizan.com/2009/08/why-online-video-advertising-will-never-work.html