How to make engaging pre-roll videos

  • October 24, 2017
  • News

Pre-roll ads. You’ve all seen them before. That pesky unskippable ad before a video. How do you make what can be an inconvenience into something effective and engaging? We recently shot a 15 second pre-roll ad for YouTube for Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV). This is a booming section of the video production industry as the pre-roll ad has become more and more common with sites like YouTube including it to begin almost every video on their site (unless of course you pay to hide them). So what are pre-roll commercials?


Pre-Roll With It

Pre-roll ads are the commercials that play before a web video online. They seem to be in front of every video these days. Many of them are unskippable, 30 second ads that can be an inconvenience when you just want to watch a 20 second video. YouTube are the biggest supporters of the pre-roll ad as they try to push people towards their paid YouTube Red service with the promise of no ads. But it doesn’t have to be this way…

pre roll

Squeeze it All In

pre roll

Like a beer belly on photo day, sometimes you have to squeeze a lot into a small space. For our recent shoot for Consumer Affairs Victoria, a government agency that aims to protect consumers, we had a lot of information to get across in only 15 seconds. CAV wanted to spread the word about changes to consumer law designed to protect home buyers from being drastically underquoted by real estate agents. So a great way to spread that message to new homebuyers was a YouTube pre-roll adThis required some extensive shot planning to make sure we could tell a story in just 15 seconds. From a house inspection, to a shot of the all-important Statement of Information, to the auction of the house, we had to make sure that viewers understood the message and wouldn’t be immediately turned off by it.

It required some razor sharp editing to get it to exactly 15 seconds (and some very fast reading by our voiceover guy) to fit the brief, but the end result turned out really well.

Skip the Skipping

YouTube pre-roll ads offer businesses an extremely direct way to reach the users that you want. YouTube is by far the biggest video hosting site in the world, and there are videos that cover topics of every possible niche interest in the world. There’s an audience for practically everything. The hard part about advertising on YouTube is actually getting people to sit through 15-30 seconds without them resenting your business for making them wait. The goal with pre-roll videos is to be direct, and not take up any more time than your viewers will offer, and as a recommendation 30 seconds is the absolute maximum for this format. The reason many viewers can find pre-roll ads to be inconvenient is because they aren’t relevant to their interests. So to get the best results from pre-roll ads, you need to really narrow down your target audience and speak to the people who will be the most receptive. You should also look at the different techniques to grab a viewers attention in such a short time. The advertisers using pre-rolls successfully are the ones that are creative with it. By using humour, some shock value or even just something visually pleasing, you are far more likely to grab the viewer’s attention.

How Can Pre-Roll Ads Help Me?


Pre-roll ads will reach engaged viewers seeking out the videos on topics that they care about. It’s not just YouTube that use pre-roll ads, there are many news sites, blogs and pages that utilise pre-roll ads, but they will likely be linked to Google’s AdWords platform.  It’s estimated that around 90 percent of all pre-roll ads are done through this platform, so it’s worth knowing how to get the best out of Google’s conditions. Google, being the information giant that it is, has data about almost everyone that uses its service. That is its biggest strength as an advertiser, as you can put your ad in front of people that it’s actually relevant to. You wouldn’t want to be chewing up your advertising budget for your store in Melbourne by playing the ad in Finland. After uploading your ad to your YouTube channel, you can start your campaign by selecting your target audience. You can select from location, interests, gender, age and you can set your maximum daily spend and then your ad is ready to be seen.


Google Adwords operates on the basis that you don’t pay them for ads that viewers skip. Thanks for that Google. So how do you make the most out of your advertising budget?
You will need to front load the video with the most important information, while still giving the viewer the option to skip the video. If the viewer decides to hit the skip button, that’s ok, you will leave a quick impression on the viewer and you won’t be charged a cent for it.


If you can position your pre-roll ads to be played to the right audience, you will have a targeted group of people that are ready to take action. That action may be to skip your ad without a second thought. Not a problem as you aren’t paying for this type of person. However, if you can capture their attention with a great pre-roll ad—even for a moment—you can get you message across in just a few seconds and the viewer can get on with what they want to watch.

To find out more about pre-roll ads and how to make one that works for you, get in touch with Dream Engine today.




 Ryan Spanger


Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2001, and specializes in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-profit sector to connect with their audience by using video.

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