The Youtube pre-roll could be an advertising gold mine. Ultimately it is the “mini-commercial break” that is placed before “your show”. However, this ad unit was created well after the viewing behaviour had been institutionalised and goes against the consumer-empowered environment of the internet, especially in social.
Few Brands have been able to leverage this asset to great effect. The successful efforts have generally played around two areas: leaning into the short nature of the unit (see Fastest Pre-Roll in history by VW), or playing off of the general consumer dislike of the pre-roll (see Self-Skipping Pre-Roll by VW).
Those Brands that have done really well with Pre-rolls have leaned into the consumer choice element: whether you skip or not. In other words, giving decision control back to the consumer making the irritating aspect of the unit less so. The two initiatives that I have encountered that have done this are both for NGOs, so their messages are generally more pertinent. The first was to encourage water conservation (see case study here). The second is for the Australian Police Force to find missing persons.
The Australian campaign made watching pre-rolls “worth your time”. It actually slightly played on your guilt, in the same way as the water conservation initiative above. By using this simple unit to publicise missing person cases, it found a high reach vehicle with a low time investment threshold. A simple creative alteration turned the “skip” button into “Have seen him” or “haven’t seen him”buttons to great effect. The results were noteworthy. Have a look. (Bye the way if you like this innovation around finding missing persons, you’ll like idea from Canada)