The 5 secrets to an unskippable pre-roll youtube ad

Did you know that the average attention span on a social media post is 1.7 seconds? That means that when you pour your heart and soul into creating the perfect video for your ad, you only have 1.7 seconds of someone’s attention to prove to them you are worth their time to pause the scrolling. Unless… you are advertising on YouTube. 

YouTube Pre-roll Ads

That is just one of the huge advantages of using YouTube as an advertising platform. You have a guaranteed 5 seconds of someone’s time! It’s easy to look at all of the numbers and look at the cost per click and cost per view as your main metrics, but more important than that is the consumer’s attention. It’s a commodity that is becoming so hard to obtain that a 5-second uninterrupted moment in time is nearly priceless.

How do you leverage those 5 seconds? 

There are 3 main components that we are going to go over to capture your audience’s attention and convert them to a lead or a customer.

  1. Hook the viewers. This sounds like a no brainer, but it’s easy to overlook as you are filming the video. You can do this by showcasing your product, showing your service in action, selling them on a dream, or something else creative and different.
  2. Bring up a pain point. A tried a true method in marketing is to bring up the consumer’s pain points. These first 5 seconds is a great opportunity to do that.
  3. Set it up for a CTA. The way you lead the ad should correlate with what you are going to ask from them. If you are advertising an e-book you created, make sure the ad is based around that and setup to ask them to download at the end. 

Basically, make sure you have a story planned out. Hook the viewers, don’t delay on your message and set the video up for your “ask”.

Don’t go too short (or too long)

YouTube ads and Facebook ads are very different. It’s suggested that for Facebook, your video ads should be 15 seconds or shorter. Most of us have advertised on Facebook a lot, and it trains us to advertise a certain way. YouTube is a different animal though.

The trick to youtube is that people are on YouTube to watch videos (duh, right?). It seems obvious, but we really need to consider the audience that we are marketing to. Since we know that we are marketing to a consumer that enjoys watching longer videos, we need to tailor to that.

I have literally seen a 12-hour long video ad on YouTube before. I’d like to think that that may be a bit ridiculous, but who knows. I’d like to see their conversion numbers! What I’ve noticed to work best though, is 45 seconds up to 2 minutes.

It’s enough time to say your hook, tell a story, explain your product and make your ask.

The 5 secret components of an unskippable ad

  1. Audience Engagement
  2. Acknowledging The Skip Button
  3. Invoke Emotion
  4. Be Weird
  5. Make Them Laugh

You won’t be able to use all of these components all at once when you make an ad, but utilizing 2-3 of them can make for a powerful unskippable ad.

Audience Engagement

The book “Purple Cow” explains it perfectly, that you need to be remarkable with your marketing in order to be effective. The purple cow itself refers to how boring regular cows are after seeing thousands of them, but how remarkable it would be to see a purple cow.

You want to be a purple cow.

Image result for purple cow

One way to do that is by interacting with your audience or have them interact with you. You will have to use your own creativity on how exactly you’re going to do that, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make a fun Pop Quiz
  • Make a Countdown Timer
  • Have them click on a certain object on the video

Acknowledging The Skip Button

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Everyone watching your ad has their cursor hovering over the skip button, just waiting for it to give them the green light to skip to their video. One way to combat them from hitting that skip button is by acknowledging their ability to skip.

Imagine for a moment…

“HEY! I see you mouse hovering on the skip button! Don’t be like the last loser that hit skipped and missed out on…”

You have the power to immediately call attention to their ability to skip your ad and then give them a reason not to. This can be a very powerful way to hold your audience’s attention longer.

Invoke Emotion

St. Jude Children’s Hospital does an incredible job with this. Their YouTube ads always start out with a person telling a story and very quickly turn into a story that makes you feel sad and empathetic. 

This is a powerful tool to not only make your ad unskippable but also convert your audience into customers.

You need to create a connection.

You can talk about the benefits of your product/service until you are blue in the face, but that just doesn’t always cut it.

If you can reach your audience on an emotional level and introduce your product/service as a benefit while telling your story, then you got them. 

When you make a connection to someone, it makes them want to take action.

Be Weird

It’s no secret that being weird gets people’s attention. Some companies have built their entire brand off of the very mantra of weird.

A great example of how well weird can work, even for an everyday product, is a company called Birddogs.

Image result for birddogs ads

Birddogs has let their freak flag fly, as they say. Birddogs is a clothing company with a focus on gym and leisure shorts. Not too crazy of a product, right?

While the product may not be too crazy, their marketing certainly is, and it has WORKED!

Their videos are very strange and always push beyond the societal norm. Whether they are snapping pencils in half at work or stealing Lululemon clothes and rebranding them Birddogs with some tape and a sharpie, their ads can get a little crazy.

This approach isn’t for everyone, but if you think you can pull it off, it could be the marketing tactic that builds your brand.

Make Them Laugh

This is all about breaking someone’s attention away from what they were doing. One of the best ways to do that is with humor.

Have you ever seen the company, Manscaped?

Their product is very simple. It’s a hair trimmer. But they came up with a clever name and have a hilarious marketing strategy that gets your attention and makes you laugh.

As you can see, their advertising material is hilarious! Their videos are just as funny too. They have perfected the humorous approach to capturing your attention and keeping you from hitting the skip button.


There are many ways to make your YouTube ads unskippable. If you implement just one of the 5 ways we went over, you will be headed in the direction of high conversions! Hopefully, this helped you with your video marketing. 

Now go make your video and get that ad rolling!

Thanks for reading,


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