Three tactical tricks for engaging viewers before they hit ‘skip ad’

Jeffrey Parrish offers three tips for those using online video ads, and how to get the best engagement in the five seconds before the ‘skip’ button appears.

Jeffrey ParrishDon’t want your ad to be skipped? Here are the three things you need to do to get viewers past the first five seconds.

Face it – despite the fact that you work in marketing, you’re probably like most people in that you hover your mouse over the ‘Skip Ad’ button counting the seconds until you can proceed with your video watching experience. While none of us like to admit it, almost everyone thinks of online advertising as intrusive and annoying – and the younger the viewer, the less they are willing to endure bad content.

So, how do we get viewers to avoid the skip and engage with ads?

At TubeMogul, we see hundreds of ads placed using our platform every single day – and the most successful ones have a few key things in common. Here are three tactical tricks that work:


1. Catch their attention

Seems like an easy one, right? The truth is that too many advertisers continue to ship out their standard TV ad and expect similar success online. Unfortunately, traditional TV advertising often tells a 30-second story where the pay-off occurs at the end of the allotted time.

This works for linear TV, but not on desktop or mobile where consumers have far less patience and incentive to keep watching.

Let’s take the famous Guinness horses ad as an example. Widely considered to be one of the best ad campaigns of recent history (and justifiably so), I argue that it would never have had the same impact if released online today. Why? Because the first five seconds only give you an image of the surfer’s face and the first line of the ad. Nothing else happens.

Now, we all know this ad has an incredible payoff and tells a brilliant story. But, there is little to entice the viewer during the skippable period of the ad – and therefore it would not necessarily work today for a purely online campaign.

So what does generate attention? Celebrity works to a certain extent. The Volvo Trucks ad featuring Jean Claude Van Damme doesn’t have a lot happening in the first five seconds, yet manages to capture attention due to the use of an action star. Failing a celebrity, humour, emotion and suspense also work – but you have to set the tone immediately.

Long-form storytelling simply won’t work if you’re still setting up when the skip button appears.

Related: Who’ll win the Facebook vs. Youtube online video war »


2. Make it relevant and/or personalised

Whether an ad is contextually relevant or personalised featuring data-triggered content in real-time, it will up the ante that the viewer won’t skip it. In basic terms, if you are targeting a single female aged 18-25 with your ad campaign, you probably don’t want to place that ad to run before an instructional video discussing prostate cancer.

Ensure your ads are landing on sites and placements where an 18-25 years old single female is most likely to be viewing videos – and that they aren’t seeing it hundreds of times in a day by limiting frequency.

Plan, buy and optimise your campaign on a single platform using all relevant data you can get your hands on. Personalised data can be trigged by: time, day, weather, language or location.

Ensure the ad’s message and content is pertinent to them – and the result is that you will have a better chance at having your ad viewed.

3. Try using engage-to-skip units

Sometimes you don’t have a choice regarding creative and the client (or bosses) approve a piece of content that you’re just not sure is whiz-bang enough. We’ve all been there. In this case, don’t force the content down consumer’s throats – make it skippable.

If people want to skip the ad, then let them. Seems odd, right? Not if you use engage-to-skip ad units that give you something in return for the skip.

Engage-to-skip units require engagement from the consumer, often in the form of a survey question, before the consumer is allowed to skip away from the content. While you might not get completed views of an ad, you do collect valuable information about your consumer that you can use to tailor future campaigns and messaging effectively.

So there you have it – three ways to make your programmatic creative work harder. Why not skip the skip by trying out one of the tricks in your next campaign?


Jeffrey Parrish is executive creative director at TubeMogul


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