VideoNuze has a good piece today about online video pre-roll ads and user behavior. Summarizing two separate reports--one from YouTube & Scripps and another from AdoTube, a video ad technology company--the conclusion is that nearly 50% of viewers watch online video pre-roll ads all the way to the end, even when they're given the option to skip the ad entirely.

Just stop and think about that for a moment. Isn't the public supposed to hate advertising? Don't we see complaining all the time online about having to sit through pre-roll ads before watching the video you really want to see? So then why do so many of us watch pre-roll ads, even when we don't have to?

Many Viewers Watch Pre-Roll Ads In Their Entirety

YouTube & Scripps released a case study of three different YouTube ad programs they ran with the True View ad-skip feature enabled. And 44% of viewers watched the ad through to the end. Every single viewer had the choice to skip, but only 56% of them did so.

In AdoTube's report, they found that 45% of viewers who had the option to skip pre-roll ads still watched the entire ad. Since this is a report they put out with some regularity, they're also able to tell us that this is a 7% increase from the previous quarter, and even "on par with conventional pre-roll ads." Good grief... they're saying that people who have the chance to skip past an ad are watching the entire ad--the whole thing--almost as frequently as people who have no choice whatsoever. That's just staggering to me.

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But What Does It All Mean?

The first thing we have to take note of is the fact that this data is not necessarily representative across the board of online video viewers. We're only looking at two reports, and we all know how wildly different the various analytics firms can be in their findings.

But I think maybe it means viewers don't care as much about having to watch ads as we thought. Maybe they just want the option to skip, more than they actually want to skip?

Or, maybe it doesn't mean that at all. Maybe some viewers aren't savvy enough yet to even know they have the option to skip. I'll admit that sometimes I don't immediately realize the "skip this ad" button is even there.

Or maybe it means that brands are finally finding their stride in creating engaging online video ads that people actually enjoy? So they're less inclined to skip because they're having a good time?

As you can see... it probably doesn't "mean" anything just yet. But it's definitely a good sign, particularly for advertisers. They're probably putting on party hats and drinking punch. All they want is to engage viewers, and spend a little time in front of them. And this data suggests that when we give them the option to bypass that... they very often don't. That's going to make a lot of CEOs smile.

What about you? Be honest. Do you skip the pre-roll ads? Or do you find yourself watching the entire thing? If so... I'd love to hear what your reasons are.

  • Scott Atwood

    When confronted with a pre-roll ad, I invariably skip the ad if possible, or if not, I either give up on the content, or mute the volume and go to another tab. I do not watch pre-roll ads.

  • Maxwell Carl Scott

    I think you are fully off the mark.... the reason people don't click through ads is because they just let the ad finish while they are browsing another page or just not paying attention.

    • Julius Harpending

      im not going to say what i do. lets just say theres another tab open.

  • Hakan

    Agree. I mostly watch youtube while I have my TV on. Whenever there's an ad on youtube i raise my head a couple of degrees and watch some tv until the ad spot is over.

  • Peter Matejcek

    Jeremy I think you nailed it when you wrote " Or maybe it means that brands are finally finding their stride in creating engaging online video ads that people actually enjoy?"

    Bang on. If a viewer likes something they will watch it regardless of the goal of the vid. Brands are starting to FINALY get that they need to edutain and the product is the secondary stream of info.


  • jp

    I would have to agree with the previous comment. I often mute, and go do something else and come back to watch the video like 1-2 minutes later. I hate ads THAT much that I can't bring myself to even see them muted.

  • Christophor TheAuthor Rick

    I also would always skip them given the choice. Usually when they run I go do something else or I start a video playing, go get some food and just rewind back to the beginning of the video :) so while they might be one is watching them at my place.

  • Cal

    honestly, do the results show the truth? what do most people do when they know a pre-roll ad is going to start; we multi task, we mute then get up to get more coffee, or take out the trash, but never do we sit there and watch those pre-rolls. That's why we do not "Click" skip this ad. because we are not there watching it....... LOL the joke is on them.

  • Jonathan Glazier

    Thanks for posting this, I found it so interesting because I hate pre roll adverts and personally I would always skip them given the choice. I can't understand why anyone wold watch a pre roll. They are like "old" broadcast TV, linear. I know we have to find way of creating income streams from all our content, but Pre Rolls? I even stop using services where I am forced to watch the UK's ITV player is a case in point.