A few days ago Chris Godbey shared an Ad Week article on Geico’s new set of Pre-roll ads which highlighted the first 5 un-skippable seconds of YouTube ads. In the ads, which you can watch below, actors quickly say their “saving money” line, then a narrator comes in and says: “You can’t skip this Geico ad because it’s already over.” The actors then freeze in place, and the rest of the ad shows some funny situation with the “frozen” actors. Their message starts and stops in the first 5 seconds (mostly). While on the surface these spots just seem like Geico’s usual off the cuff humor, they also perfectly highlight a failure to adapt of many of the people in our industry: modeling spots on the medium they are presented on. For decades, a TV spot was viewed the same exact way, 15 or 30 seconds on the TV with the viewer watching the entire thing, from start to finish. With the introduction of Youtube’s skippable ads, the formula for creating pre-roll spots has changed, even if the industry hasn’t fully accepted it yet. Unlike before, when you had the full time of your ad to make your hook and get across your message, you now have only 5 seconds. If your hook doesn’t work in that time, your ad doesn’t get seen, and your message falls on deaf ears.
To be fair, that is much easier said than done. Not only is it a great challenge to fit your hook in such a short period of time, most pre-roll ads are not custom made, but rather a reiteration of a normal TV spot. I understand that production costs can’t magically double to create one spot for TV and one for pre-roll, but it is important for those in the industry to embrace this new medium and ensure that any spot created, whether for TV or pre-roll, will resonate on the mediums that it will be presented on. Now any half decent editor could mix up a traditional spot to move the hook to the beginning of the spot, and this may be the best course of action in some case, but it again fails to embrace yet another change in medium: DVR.
According to a survey done in 2012, “digital video recorders are now in more than half of all U.S. homes that subscribe to cable or satellite TV services.” That study is almost 3 years old, so you can imagine that percentage has only increased. The trend is moving away from live TV and towards pre-recorded content, allowing the viewer to fast-forward, or skip, the commercials. Once again, you have a very small window to get the viewer hooked enough to watch your spot, in this case the 5 or so seconds it takes to pick up their remote and hit fast-forward. While this window is obviously not universal (your ad plays in the middle of a break, it plays on a service like Hulu, etc), you should always work towards the lowest common denominator. A good ad will be efficient on any medium, YouTube, DVR, Hulu, live TV, etc, and that formula now requires a strong hook in the first 5 seconds. Which ever way you slice it, the changes in mediums have fundamentally changed the way people view ads, and it’s time for our industry to catch up.