What are Pre-Roll Video Ads? Everything You Need to Know

You know those quick commercial clips that pop up right before your YouTube video is about to play? They’re displayed 24/7 and more memorable than not. Those simple seconds are pre-roll ads. 

And guarantee you’ve seen or heard of them.

What are Pre-Roll Video Ads?

A pre-roll ad is a promotional video message that runs before the viewer’s specific video plays. These video ads can be found on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and even Hulu, including the popular YouTube Shorts format.

Why are Video Pre-rolls Valuable?

Pre-roll ads are served to a captive audience. Because the viewer is waiting to watch their desired video, they are more likely to be attentive and interested in the pre-roll ad that plays. If they are not interested, at least they become familiar with the brand and product that was advertised.

What Do Pre Roll Ads Look Like?

You know those five second advertisements that played just before a YouTube video? Those are pre-roll ads.

 Pre-roll ads are non-skippable on most platforms, keeping your audiences’ attention for those few seconds longer. You want your potential customer to watch the entirety of your ad. 

Moreso, you want them to click on it.

Why Should I Run a Pre-Roll Ad?

The role of pre roll ads work on buyer’s journey

A buyer’s journey is the process a customer goes from brand awareness to conversion. In this process, pre-roll ads are like a looking glass to the customer. They don’t realize they have a problem or need, or they know something is not right but don’t know what it is.

 This is where the pre-roll ads come in. At this stage, the intent of pre-roll ads is not to make a sale (although, bonus if you do) but to make the viewer aware of the brand and what they offer. 

The intention is to make your viewers aware of the company and position it as a potential answer to a problem or need.

Types of Pre-Roll Ads

There are 3 types of pre-roll ads: skippable, non-skippable, and bumper. 

  1. Skippable ads are ads you can skip after the initial 5 seconds. 
  2. Non-skippable ads are ads that typically run 15 to 20 seconds, and are, as the name implies, not skippable. 
  3. Bumper ads are ads that run 6 seconds before a video and are not skippable.

What is the Length of Pre-Roll Ad?

The length or pre-roll ads vary, depending on the platform they are displayed on. On average they run between 5 and 20 seconds. 

How Much Does it Cost to Run a Pre-Roll Ad?

You never want to let money be the issue when it comes to good quality, especially when it comes to marketing.

 The average cost for a pre-roll video ad can range anywhere between $3000 and $25,000 dollars. Over-the-top pre-roll ads (ads displayed on any device you use to watch streamline programs) run between $35,000 and $50,000. And lastly, Connected Television pre-roll ads (ads displayed only on large screens) average between $40,000 and $50,000.

Common Platforms for Pre Roll Ads



Pre-roll ads on YouTube generally run no longer than fifteen and twenty seconds. They run on the entirety of the viewing screen, much like overlay ads (a small banner-like ad that runs across the bottom of the screen).

 While we are on the topic, the difference between overlay and pre-roll ads is the space. As previously stated, overlay ads only take up a partial amount of space on the screen. Specifically, are just banners seen on the bottom of the screen. Pre-roll ads take up the entire screen.

 Priorly stated, YouTube is one of many platforms where pre-roll ads are not skippable. So, when creating a pre-roll ad, be sure to include a call to action (CTA). Grab your viewers’ attention and keep them engaged until the ad is over.  


Twitter considers pre-roll ads to be third-party. They show these ads on autopilot while muting the popular videos.

 A perk of pre-roll ads on Twitter is that they are constantly updated according to the viewers’ favor.


It is recommended that pre-roll ads on Facebook should only be between 5 and 15 seconds long. Needless to say, make your ad too good to ignore; an engaging title and description.

 With only five seconds to promote your company, it is encouraged to get your brand/company’s name out there within the initial 3 seconds of the ad.


Vimeo does not support video advertisements. Depending on your level of membership, Vimeo allows limited display of video advertising. Even then, the company tries to keep the video marketing to a minimum. But when there is a will there’s a way.

If brands/companies sign up for Vimeo Business or Vimeo Pro, the said companies can insert the brand’s logo to their own video player.

HBO Maxx

HBO Maxx’s (With Ads) ads will be displayed both while the viewer is streamlining and browsing. During shows and movies, you will see ads both before and during your program. The frequency and brands of the ads vary depending on what you are watching. You can also look forward to watching four minutes of pre-roll ads per hour of your program.


Hulu ads generally run between 15 and 30 seconds. Though they are shorter than HBO Maxx’s, they are displayed frequently during a program. Estimated seven ads per program.

 Note that on both HBO Maxx and Hulu, ads are not skippable.

Components of an Effective Pre-Roll Ad

 In today’s world, pre-roll ads have become one of the best and most practical video marketing strategies.

Capture your audience within the first five seconds

Though your ad can be as long as sixty seconds, the initial five to eight seconds should be your aim. The average attention span for any huma is just over 8 seconds. To put it simply, it is less than a goldfish. Hence, it is safe to assume the first five seconds of your pre-roll ad should be first-rate gripping. Not giving your audience room to think about other distractions around them. 

Educated targets and mastering Retargets

With digital advertising, you have to be a master of analysis. Plus, there are plenty of resources and tools that are at your disposal. You should know who your best customers are like the back of your hand. If you don’t, you might want to spend some more time conducting research and going over your company’s analytics.  

Provide value

Pre-roll videos are all about value. Specifically, what your company can do for your audience. Make sure you always keep this in mind, especially when it comes to your marketing efforts. Be super engaging and really peak your audience’s interest. 

Provide specific landing pages

Nothing is more annoying than a potential customer being misled. If you have the funds to spend on digital advertising, make certain it is spent wisely. To better transcribe, take the time to create landing pages for your ads, for your audience. Guide them through the buyer’s journey (the process of converting your audience into customers), leaving them no room to pull out of it. 

How Do Pre-Roll Ads Work?

 If budgeted, managed, and executed correctly, pre-roll advertising can prove to be extremely effective.

 On most platforms, viewers are aware that in order to watch their desired content video, they will have to watch a pre-roll ad.

 Eventually, the viewer will have the option to skip the displayed ad. The benefit in this is that the viewers will be attentive to the screen, watching for the skip button. This encourages the brands’ to really grab the viewers’ attention. Make them forget about the “skip” button and keep their interest in the company’s content. 

Best Practices for a Pre-Roll Video Ad

Since pre-roll ads run only a couple seconds long, you want to make sure your brand/company stands out to your viewers. To ensure your pre-roll video ad is effective here are 5 ways to convince your viewers to watch the entire ad and not click off.

  • Make the ad relevant. To do this, know the demographic of your audience and utilize the targeting tools at hand.
  • Keep it brief. Remember, your video is only running for 30 seconds, max. Make certain those 30 seconds count.
  • Be entertaining. If you can entertain your audience for the initial 5 seconds of your video ad, the likelihood of them sticking around for the entire ad is highly plausible.
  • Have a gripping call to actio.: Be bold and clear on what the next steps you want your viewers to take and do (for example, to go to your website or make a phone call).
  • Know your audience. Before you start filming for a pre-roll video ad, be certain you know your audience: age, gender, demographic group, region. Know their needs and what problems they may have or soon encounter in their certain lifestyle.
  • Optimize frequency. Enhance the number of times your pre-roll ad is displayed. No matter the platform, the more your ad is seen the better chances of converting customers.
  • Utilize Omnichannel tactics. Deploy all retail consumer strategies. Make use of all the resources your potential customers have to contact you. All your company’s contact information should be displayed and within your consumers’ reach.   

An Investment in Pre-Roll Ads is an Investment in Your Business

Here at Sparkhouse, we offer a wide variety of video services.

  • Product Videos
  • Brand Videos 
  • Animations
  • Social Media Video Production

For all services we provide, we utilize a foundation process they’ve cultivated over the past 15 years: The Sparkhouse Process.

For more questions and concerns, please feel free to reach out and contact us.  

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