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Traffic arbitrage

The Magic of Pre-rolls: How to Create an Effective Advertising Video

Pre-rolls are one of the primary formats in video advertising. However, not every video is suitable for this format; there are certain rules of 'good form' and conditions to meet in order to attract more traffic. In this material, in collaboration with ZorbasMedia and PIN-UP Partners, we delve into what pre-rolls are, their strengths and weaknesses, the requirements associated with them, and what it takes to create high-converting pre-roll ads. By the way, we've already separately studied the intricacies of creating video ads in general before.

What is a pre-roll

A pre-roll is a short video ad, typically no longer than 30 seconds, that is played before the main video content. Videos that appear in the middle are called mid-rolls, and those shown after the video are referred to as post-rolls. The primary objectives of pre-rolls are to increase audience reach, attract new users/customers, and enhance brand recognition. This video advertising format is commonly used on platforms where video content is consumed, such as YouTube, VK, Vimeo, and RuTube. In essence, pre-rolls can even include trailers for upcoming movie premieres in theaters, which are shown before the main feature film.
The main challenge with pre-rolls is that they typically annoy users because people want to watch their video content, not ads. Therefore, the more high-quality and engaging your pre-roll is, the greater the likelihood that it will be watched to the end, and your company won't be disliked.

Types of Pre-rolls

The only inherent quality of pre-rolls is that they always appear before the main video. Everything else is relative characteristics that can vary depending on platform requirements. This includes the duration and quality of the videos, primarily. Hence, pre-rolls can come in several types:
Skippable. These are videos that can be skipped after 5-7 seconds of viewing.
Unskippable. These are videos that cannot be skipped. Their total duration is typically around 15-20 seconds. However, the 'unskippable' nature of the pre-roll does not guarantee that it will be watched, as viewers can always get distracted by other tasks.
Bumpers. These are unskippable videos with a duration of up to 6 seconds. Such videos are relatively easy to watch because they are short, but the challenge lies in delivering meaningful content. After all, 6 seconds can be limiting in terms of conveying information. These types of videos are often used to ensure brand recognition.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Pre-rolls


High likelihood of viewership. The brevity of the video and its placement at the beginning of the main video (when the viewer is already prepared to watch) do not guarantee but increase the chances that the pre-roll will be watched. At least for 5 seconds, if you have a Skippable pre-roll. That's why it's crucial to make the opening of the video as engaging as possible so that users want to continue watching.
Audience responsiveness speed. Thanks to interactive elements in the video (links, buttons), the response time of users to the advertisement is reduced. In other words, when someone sees an advertisement for a product they are interested in, they can immediately click through to a landing page and place an order, rather than searching for the website and the specific product through a search engine.
Clear Information. Since pre-rolls are time-constrained, they use simpler and more understandable wording to convey the message clearly. While in academic lectures, speakers may allow themselves to be more complex and digress from the main idea, advertisers cannot afford such luxury. They have only 30 seconds to show the audience that this toothpaste is what they've been dreaming of all their lives.
Increasing brand recognition. Even if a user skips your pre-roll after 5 seconds, they have still had a chance to see the name of your company and possibly your product. A few more unintentional exposures like this, and something will stick in their memory. Then, when they need a new plunger, they'll suddenly remember which company offers them at a discount.
When working with pre-rolls, for example on YouTube, it's important to consider targeting. GEO, topic, keywords, search queries, individual interests, age, and even gender - all of these factors matter in shaping the target audience to whom your advertising video will be shown. This way, the pre-roll becomes more personalized, increasing the likelihood of it being watched.

Weak Points

As for the weaknesses of pre-rolls, they include:
  • The possibility that your pre-roll will be skipped or ignored as viewers engage in their own activities;
  • Time constraints when you need to convey the essence succinctly and attractively;
  • Your pre-roll may be paired with a pre-roll from another company, and being associated with that brand is undesirable for you.
It's worth adding that platforms typically select the channels where your pre-roll will be shown based on targeting parameters. However, if you want to place your ad with a specific influencer or company, then you'll need to approach them directly and negotiate the price. In this case, viewers won't be able to skip the pre-roll because it's a pre-agreed video insert. And most likely, your ad will be shown not right at the beginning but a bit later, after the introductory part.
Additionally, companies can purchase native video advertising, where the product is promoted subtly and in the context of the main video's theme.

Tips for Creating an Effective Pre-roll

It's important to understand what goal you want to achieve with your pre-roll. The goal can include brand recognition, conversion, shares, website traffic, increased loyalty, or growing the number of repeat subscriptions. Once you've chosen your primary goal, it will be easier to work towards it.
Having determined the goal, what about the message of the video? What should the viewer understand from your video? Different pre-roll formats can help in crafting the message.
Single pre-roll, where a specific value proposition of a product or service is emphasized. This is suitable for those who are placing a pre-roll for the first time. Alternatively, a single pre-roll can tell the story and mission of the company (which is favored by sports brands). However, this is not for beginners.
Series of videos, where multiple pre-rolls convey various messages. The key is for all the videos, both collectively and individually, to make sense.
It's better if pre-rolls don't appear as overt advertising. It would be great if your video resembled user-generated content that evoked a response from the person, making them feel that it's not just about money.
Therefore, remember that good pre-rolls start with good scripts. Create a checklist of the key elements that should be in the video.
As for the more technical aspects of pre-rolls, there are also several recommendations on how to create a 30-second video that would engage a chain of potential customers rather than annoy users.
  • Information should be concise and clear, without vague concepts, addressing the audience's pain points directly.
  • In the first 5 seconds, the video should convey the main essence, or at least pique interest for continued viewing.
  • It's recommended to include the 'Skip ad' function, as it appears more customer-centric, giving viewers a choice.
  • Incorporate interactive elements in the video to make feedback collection easier.
  • Targeting in pre-roll placements is equally important, just as it is with other advertising formats.The video won't choose its target audience on its own; you must assist in that regard.

Opinions and comments


A member of the ZorbasMedia team, Sharif, Creative Producer, shared his thoughts on creating a good and effective pre-roll.
Why is it recommended to make a pre-roll no longer than 30 seconds? Is this a universal duration? Isn't it too short?
The parameters of videos have been changing over time, and now, due to the popularity of new platforms like TikTok and Instagram, our world has become more connected through visual content consumption. In fact, 30 seconds is already considered quite long. However, it all depends on the advertising approach.

For example, when advertising a product, a video is typically no longer than 10 seconds, as this is a practice inherited from television advertising where products are shown quickly. Long videos can be expensive.

It all depends on the content provided by the partner. 30 seconds can be sufficient and effective, but anything longer than 30 seconds is usually not ideal. If it's shorter, that can even be better, but again, it depends on the product.

We need to think about how to shorten the ad's duration, but it's important to remember that the length of the video is a relative matter.
Is it the right approach to reveal the main points, the essence of the video, in the first 5 seconds to grab the viewer's attention and prevent them from clicking 'Skip ad'? How else can you engage them?
Emphasizing what the pre-roll is about at the beginning is a relative approach. Of course, it's desirable to know what the video will be about within the first 3-4 seconds. However, a good video depends not only on the content but also on the integration of several elements: visuals (including color palette) and sound.

In the first frame, it's indeed better to show the product and the company. But it's important to have an appealing image and sound (sound design) - finding the right track that sets the tempo is crucial. Sometimes, questions are used at the start of the pre-roll to engage the audience.
It's considered that if you include the 'Skip ad' function in your pre-roll, then your video is customer-centric. Is this the right approach?
I like that YouTube gives everyone mandatory 5-7 seconds. During this time, the viewer must watch the ad. After that time, the user has a choice; they can skip the video.
How important is it to have people in the frame for a pre-roll to be successful? Or is the information more crucial, and is it possible to do without people in the frame?
It's very important to have people in the frame, preferably with distinctive appearances. If the company has the opportunity to use actors and models with specific looks for the video rather than employees, it's much better.

We [viewers] enjoy seeing people participating in the video; we like to watch how they use the product, how the product impacts their lives.
What should an effective pre-roll look like? What should it include? Share the top 3 tips for creating a pre-roll.
Firstly, there should be dynamics. Dynamism in the video is crucial. Showing a single frame for over 30 seconds is a no-go. The camera should constantly move, you can use various symbols in the video, change perspectives. The pre-roll should be like a video journey, moving the viewer to a new place every 2-3 seconds, where there is new information and story development.

Secondly, according to the global visual standard, there should be a unified color palette in the video. You should choose three primary colors.

Thirdly, it's essential to keep an eye on global video editing trends. What presentation style and music are being used? For example, corporate music and the use of corporate interiors used to be popular. Now, in terms of music, funk, hip-hop, and rap are trending. The right music added during editing helps create the pre-roll and sets the tempo.
Are there any fundamental differences between pre-rolls and videos placed in other parts of the main video? For example, pre-rolls should grab attention right away, while mid-rolls can delve deeper into the content. Is this a common distinction?
Firstly, the cost of pre-rolls is usually higher than mid-rolls. This is because pre-rolls typically have a larger viewership at the beginning of the video than mid-rolls, making pre-rolls more expensive.

If you have the discretion to decide which videos to use as pre-rolls and which as mid-rolls in your content, it's generally better to use a video for mid-roll placement that is more contextually relevant to the main video. It depends on the content that has been edited and what will be inside the main video. But again, this can be relative.

PIN-UP Partners

Rimma, Team Lead PR&Content at PIN-UP Partners, shared her thoughts on creating a high-converting pre-roll, where each advertising video turns out bright and attractive.
Why is it recommended to make a pre-roll no longer than 30 seconds? Is this a universal duration? Isn't it too short?
A 30-second pre-roll has a better chance of being viewed in its entirety, regardless of the video's content. Based on my own observations, no matter how great the video is, viewers don't particularly welcome sudden ad inserts.

Our main goal is to convey the necessary information in the dynamic format of a 30-second video, and this can only be achieved with a creative approach. So yes, 30 seconds is a fairly universal duration for a pre-roll, regardless of the video's specifics.
Is it the right approach to reveal the main points, the essence of the video, in the first 5 seconds to grab the viewer's attention and prevent them from clicking 'Skip ad'? How else can you engage them?
The first 5 seconds are undoubtedly crucial for the viewer's initial impression of the content. However, many pre-roll creators mistakenly try to cram all the essential information into these first 5 seconds in its entirety. This can look very cluttered and leave the viewer bewildered.

What's far more important in these initial 5 seconds is to establish the style, dynamics, and pace of the video to engage the viewer in terms of emotions rather than providing them with purely rational information.
It's considered that if you include the 'Skip ad' function in your pre-roll, then your video is customer-centric. Is this the right approach?
It all depends on the information that needs to be conveyed through the pre-roll.

For example, marketers often aim to create pre-rolls that primarily evoke emotions, making the advertising message resonate with the viewer. In this context, having people in the frame is more likely to trigger this effect because it's easier for the viewer to imagine themselves in the place of the person in the video. However, there are other formats capable of eliciting emotions from viewers, such as animated cartoons.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer because each advertisement has its own goals and objectives, as well as the specifics of what needs to be advertised.

In the CPA (Cost Per Action) industry, the trend of showcasing a luxurious lifestyle remains consistent, and in this case, the presence of people in the video (scenes from parties, yacht parties, and so on) is very justified. This is precisely the case where it's important to evoke the right emotions in viewers so that they think they can achieve the same.
How important is it to have people in the frame for a pre-roll to be successful? Or is the information more crucial, and is it possible to do without people in the frame?
As mentioned earlier, it all depends on the goal of each advertising video.

In my opinion, in arbitrage, it works well when everything - information about the brand and the product - is combined in a way that doesn't create confusion.

What's much more important is how the information is presented, the logical connection between the scenes, and whether the main message is clear throughout the entire video. The goal is to keep the viewer engaged and ideally, the pre-roll should not leave an overly promotional aftertaste.
What should an effective pre-roll look like? What should it include? Share the top 3 tips for creating a pre-roll.
There is no one-size-fits-all template for an effective pre-roll because it depends on the initial goals set for the video. Therefore, here are the top three tips that can significantly facilitate the process of creating an effective pre-roll:

  1. Define the goals and objectives of the advertising message (then determine the objects being advertised: a product/item or the company itself).
  2. Study motion graphics trends, compile a folder of references, and select those that align most closely with your specific needs.
  3. Assemble a focus group to discover the most obvious associations people have with the goals you've outlined in your advertising message.


Pre-rolls are a form of art, crafted by the advertising department. Creating them requires the skill to present information succinctly, effectively, and engagingly. It involves shooting compelling footage, selecting the right music, and finding a unique recipe that combines these ingredients in the necessary proportions to capture the user's attention.