Pre-Roll, Mid-Roll, Post- Roll, Oh My: Which Ad Placement is Truly the Best?

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Advertisements are the backbone of the marketing industry. Radio, television, billboards, newspapers, those pre- pre- trailers at the movie theatres: anything you can see, read or hear someone has found a way to insert an advertisement into it. I’m sure you’ve noticed your social media over the years gradually filling with ads. But with so many ad options, what is the most effective choice for your company?

We all know that video marketing is the key to any good campaign, but the next step is how you show all that hard work. Where do you put that video advertisement so you get the most bang for your buck? Pre- roll like Youtube, mid- roll like Facebook or even post-roll – each have their benefits as well as their pitfalls.

The Oldy but a Goody

Pre-roll is the forefather of digital video advertisements. It is a tried and true model of video ad placement. Running an advertisement before the desired content is the practical course of action, as the audience is still engaged and interested in the content they are about to view, which means they are  willing to sit through an advertisement. At this point, no viewers have been lost to abandonment, and therefore, there is a higher chance the advertisement will be watched at least for a few seconds, if not in its entirety.


In a recent study by IPG Media Lab and YuMe, pre-roll video ad formats were found to resonate better with mobile users compared to mid-roll and outstream executions, with only 17% of participants claiming that pre-roll ads interrupt the user experience.

One of the larger benefits that pre-roll advertising brings is that it builds brand awareness. Showcasing the brand or the product before the actual content means that the consumer is still interested and engaged, and are willing to watch an advertisement about a brand they might know nothing about, if it means they can get to their desired content. Pre-roll is also quite helpful with many different kind of brand responsiveness.


YuMe found that “pre-roll ads are extremely effective across several metrics, including brand association, brand engagement, brand favorability and intent to purchase.”  


Youtube is a great example of a platform that is extremely adept at using pre-roll ads for the companies and brands advertising on their site. The use of this form of ad placement  on YouTube, has brought YouTube, parent company Google, and the advertisers themselves a great deal of revenue. But with the ability to skip through the advertisement after only five seconds, based on the Truview method, does pre-roll placement allow for the most viewership and in turn the most revenue?


According to Local Solution powered by Cox Media group, “Brands that created ads and video that were viewed for less than one second still saw increased ad recall, brand awareness and even purchase consideration.” So even if the TruView Method allows for the viewer to skip an ad after only five seconds, that small amount of time is still more than enough to increase brand awareness and even direct revenue from purchases .


However pre-roll ads does not work well within the Facebook newsfeed algorithm, and that is a hard hit on both Facebook and the advertisers who want to take advantage of Facebook’s far reaching network and popularity. While pre-roll videos might be the least disruptive, they don’t exactly inspire people scrolling through facebook to stop and watch an ad, before they even know what the actual content of the video is.


The Newcomer


Now, it’s obvious that a pre-roll ad is perfect for platforms like Youtube. But, due to Facebook’s timeline setup, it has been as struggle for Zuckerberg and crew to figure out a way to monetize the videos that the public loves to watch. Facebook is a passive discovery mechanism, which means the news feed would be full of pre-roll ads and not the video itself, therefore nothing would draw the viewer in.  So do you change the format of the platform or do you change the placement of the advertisement? This was the quandary that Facebook was surmounted with.

Here comes mid- roll placement. The solution to Facebook’s problem. But is it truly lucrative enough to justify it’s usage?


Local Solutions powered by Cox Media Group states that “[by] many measurements mid roll advertising can offer some pretty solid returns. Mid-roll ads enjoy a higher completion rate than both pre- and post-roll ads. Viewers have already watched some of the video content; if they make it to a mid-roll ad, it means they have remained engaged through roughly half of the video. Because such a large chunk of video remains, they are more willing to be patient.” 

Engagement is what keeps a viewer patient enough to sit through a fifteen second ad that has just disrupted their video. However, many people have protested the mid-roll ad placement due to inelegant usage –advertisements cutting abruptly into the video.  Since implementing mid-roll advertisements, Facebook has already doctored the formula to make users happier and less caught off guard by the advertisements. Previously, videos had to be only ninety seconds long to qualify for an ad break, and the ad could be inserted as soon as twentys second into a video! Facebook heard the cry of the annoyed public and has now transitioned to using a three-minute minimum on videos with an ad break.


One other problem with mid-roll ads is that an audience member may decide that they don’t want to watch the video anymore – and therefore, they never make it to the advertisement.


Recode states  “the problem is that the mid-rolls, people don’t tend to get to or they switch off as soon as they go to and just move onto the next thing, and so we’ve seen reporting in the newspapers recently, in the trade press, around how little money people are making from the mid-roll side of things” 


While mid-rolls fix the problem for Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm, would it truly work for other websites and social platforms to start using mid-roll advertisements? More importantly,  is it worth it for brands and companies to spend money on an ad no one might even watch?


The Underdog


It seems counterintuitive to put your ad after content, but surprisingly, a post-roll ad can go a long way. However, you have to use this placement strategically. Post-roll works best in some very specific circumstances. For instance, this ad placement works great as a call-to-action following branded content.  If you want to stir the fire within your audience, to make them truly feel the call- to- action, then post roll is the best option.

If you want to make sure your post-roll is a success, there are a few techniques you can try. For example, adding music to the end of a video that transitions into your post-roll ad will keep the audience engaged for those extra few seconds while they watch the ad. Keeping that interest flowing is key to the post-roll. That being said, since it does require such specific circumstances, post-roll may not be the go-to placement for most advertisements.


The Decision


Each of these video ad placements have their benefits and their pitfalls. Placement of an ad is a very specific thing and the decision should be made based on the content and feel of each advertisement.


Pre-roll is a great form of ad placement for increased brand awareness, purchase consideration and ad recall as a whole. It is an ad-placement that uses audience engagement with the yet to be viewed desired content, to their advantage, and in turn is a proven method of lucrative video advertising.


Mid-roll ad placement is right for for an advertisement if the platform has a more passive discovery mechanism, like Facebook. Mid-roll ad placement also has higher completion rates than pre-roll or post roll which makes it a good choice for any company who wants, or even needs the audience to watch the whole ad.  That means your viewers will get the most out of what the brand or company has put into the ad.


Last but not least is post-roll.  Post-roll is the best option if you have a call-to-action within the advertisement. If you really want to make your audience feel that immediate response, then post-roll is the the best placement for the advertisement.


While each ad placement does have some specific strategies that correlates with it, there is no one size fit all method. What works for one ad campaign may not work for another, and it is up to the marketers to comprehend what is the best placement for each advertisement and each brand.


Maya Mandell, a Video Production and Marketing Intern at Green Buzz Agency

Maya Mandell, a Video Production and Marketing Intern at Green Buzz Agency

Maya is a Video Production and Marketing Intern for Green Buzz Agency. She reports on the latest trends in video production and marketing. Maya enjoys getting lost in the depths of Facebook video and is pleased Facebook took to heart her strongly worded email about mid-roll ads disrupting her video experience.

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