The power of pre-roll

Has one of advertising’s most disliked tools become a driver of creativity?

by Philippe Paget , Maydream

Let’s face it: given the choice, everyone skips pre-roll ads. You do, I do – even my five-year-old son knows how to skip ads when he’s watching cartoons on my phone. But what if there was a way of rehabilitating the pre-roll?

In fact, several agencies have found ways of preventing us from skipping, or using the skip in their favour. One of the most expert of them all is The Martin Agency in the US, which has run a series of innovative pre-roll ads for insurance company Geico. This one, featuring a hungry dog, just keeps you watching.

And in the next example, Geico provides a deliberately truncated pre-roll that leaves us wanting more.

That would fit into the “click to see what happened” category of pre-rolls. But there are many others. One of the most popular turns the pre-roll into a game. This can have both fun and more serious applications.


An award-winning campaign from 2014 by Leo Burnett London turned the pre-roll into an emotional journey. It was based on the idea that ex-offenders – people who’ve spent time in prison – are rarely given a second chance by society, even if they’ve never committed another crime.

Here comes a similarly emotional appeal from Belgium, where we’re urged not to skip a suicidal person.


The next category is the “targeted pre-roll”, aimed at specific users. In this first example, inspired by the debate in Germany over refugees, users who tried to watch potentially racist videos were faced with an “unskippable” refugee.


Geo-targeting can be used to make pre-roll advertising more effective, as in this Australian missing persons campaign.


On a more fun note, there’s a category of “anti pre-roll pre-rolls”, which embrace our dislike of the medium. All the way from Auckland – Colenso DDB, to be exact – here’s a chuckle-worthy campaign for Burger King.

An ad by AlmapBBDO for Volkswagen even went so far as to skip the ad for us – proving what a useful little car the new Beetle is.

But perhaps the most effective pre-roll ads of all are those that build on existing entertaining content that you actually like!


That’s just a small selection of pre-rolls that push the creative envelope. But since people will never stop skipping, the challenge is still on.