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YouTube Pre-Roll Ads: Why You Should Use Them

Whether you’re looking to drive product sales or grow brand awareness through digital marketing, you’ll first need to grab the attention of your target audience.

Sounds simple enough, right? 

But this is easier said than done. 

Modern consumers are absolutely bombarded with digital content, from paid ads to social posts and recommended videos. Attention is a priceless commodity in the online world – and it can be tricky to acquire.

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So how can advertisers cut through the noise and secure audience attention?

Say hello to YouTube pre-roll ads. 

YouTube pre-roll ads are the perfect way for marketers to reach data-driven audiences, increase brand visibility, and most importantly, capture valuable user attention.

Let’s take a look at how you can utilise Pre-Roll ads to achieve tremendous results in your next campaign. 

As a specialist Youtube ads agency we can help you with your campaigns just get in touch for a free consultation.

What are YouTube pre-roll ads?

YouTube pre-roll ads are delivered through the Google Ads platform.

In basic terms, a pre-roll ad is any advert that automatically plays before a YouTube video starts. 

Although there are different variations, all of these placements appear in the same slot. Pre-roll ads are a brilliant way to engage your target audience because you’re appearing around video content that they’re interested in.

Youtube pre-roll ad
(Source: youtube.com) 

YouTube pre-roll ads are also ideal for short and snappy marketing messages. 

Users are highly likely to watch pre-roll ads because they’re waiting for their chosen video content to begin. If you can deliver a punchy message with eye-catching video assets, you’ll be in a great position to engage your audience and achieve your campaign goals. 

How do these ads work? 

YouTube pre-roll ads can be set up and targeted in a few different ways – and this is what makes them so valuable for advertisers.

Since YouTube advertising is connected to the almighty Google search platform, there are plenty of opportunities for smart search-related targeting. 

For example, let’s say that you’re selling men’s wallets online. 

You might target keywords like ‘stylish wallets’ and ‘men’s accessories’ – if a user has recently plugged these search terms into Google, you can target them with relevant pre-roll ads the next time they watch videos on YouTube. 

Powerful stuff, right?

You can also choose to run your YouTube video ads alongside particular sub-categories and topics on the platform, such as ‘Travel’ and ‘Gaming’. 

If your products align closely with a certain type of content (e.g. gym gear and the ‘Sports’ topic) this can be a great way to reach a relevant audience. Brands can even target their pre-roll ads around specific YouTube channels or creators. 

Advertisers can also utilise a range of Google audience segments for targeting, including:

  • Demographic targeting
  • Interest targeting (e.g. Affinity, Life Events, In-Market) 
  • Audience retargeting
  • Customer Match targeting

With so many targeting options available, advertisers can quickly build reach and convert highly valuable prospects on YouTube. 

Google provides brands with a wealth of data-fuelled targeting tactics, and since YouTube is part of the Google family, pre-roll ads can be hugely effective for marketers. 

Why you should be using YouTube pre-roll ads

YouTube pre-roll ads can be incredibly useful for digital marketers. 

With accurate targeting tactics, dazzling creative assets, and strategic optimisations, you can achieve outstanding results with pre-roll ads. 

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits.

The scale of YouTube is mind-boggling

The YouTube platform is absolutely enormous.

Ready for some jaw-dropping statistics?

YouTube has around 1.7bn unique monthly visitors, and the platform offers the potential to reach around 51% of the entire internet population. 

What else would you expect from the second largest search engine on the planet? 

The ability to access this colossal audience is hugely valuable for advertisers. Not only can brands rapidly increase their campaign reach and brand awareness, but they can also identify highly profitable customers in this enormous audience pool. 

The size of the YouTube user base also means that advertisers are unlikely to hit a ceiling when it comes to audience reach. Brands can reach, engage, and convert a steady stream of high-value prospects with the right marketing strategy. 

Pre-roll ads are designed to grab attention 

Pre-roll ads are almost impossible to ignore – which is partly why they’re so effective.

Since pre-roll placements are served immediately before video content, they’re perfectly positioned to instantly capture and maintain user attention. 

Audiences are waiting for their chosen video to start, so they’re unlikely to click away or ignore your ad. Plus, the best performing pre-roll ads tend to be short and sweet – so you don’t need to worry about communicating a long, complex product message. 

As a marketer, all you need to do is fill this pre-roll slot with the right type of ad. 

If you can deliver a brand message that’s creative, direct, and genuinely interesting, you’ll be in a strong position to attract new customers. 

The pre-roll format is super versatile 

The pre-roll format can also be utilised in a few different ways. Although the idea of the placement is fairly straightforward, that doesn’t mean it’s not highly versatile.

For one thing, there are several types of Pre-Roll ads that can be used to achieve a range of objectives – advertisers can launch Bumper ads, Skippable ads, and Non Skippable ads.

(More on these formats in the next section.) 

You can also deploy pre-roll ads for different purposes in your ad campaigns.

For example, many brands will use pre-roll ads to retarget users with a short and succinct reminder message, or a nudge towards a specific CTA. 

Alternatively, you might use multiple pre-roll ads to showcase the range of different products or services that you offer. This versatility is extremely useful for digital marketers! 

The different types of YouTube pre-roll ads

There are three main types of Pre-Roll ads that marketers can use – Bumper ads, Skippable ads, and Non-Skippable ads.

Each of these formats offers its own unique advantages and can be used to tackle different campaign objectives. 

Let’s outline the differences between these pre-roll placements, and explore how they can contribute to your marketing goals.

Bumper ads 

Bumper ads are non-skippable pre-roll ads that last for 6 seconds. 

This format is brilliant for delivering rapid-fire brand messages, or retargeting users who have been exposed to your wider video campaign. 

However, if you’re going to make an impact with your Bumper ads, you need to ensure that you’re delivering a crystal clear message with a striking video asset. 

Skippable ads 

As the name suggests, Skippable pre-roll ads offer the option to skip after the first five seconds are complete. Skippable ads need to be a minimum of 12 seconds long. 

Skippable ads can be very cost-efficient because you won’t pay for an impression unless a user watches at least 30 seconds of your ad, finishes your ad, or clicks your ad.

This is obviously a huge bonus for efficiency, but it does mean that you’ll need to produce a video asset that keeps users engaged and prevents them from hitting that skip button. 

YouTube skippable ad
(Source: youtube.com) 

Non Skippable ads

Non skippable ads are fairly self-explanatory. These video ads can’t be skipped by users and can run for a maximum of 20 seconds. 

Since your target audience can’t skip your ad, you know that you have a little more time and space to communicate your campaign message. 

However, you’ll also be paying for every impression served, even if your target audience doesn’t engage with (or pay attention to) your ad. That means you need a creative asset that’s going to work hard and keep users engaged. 

Non skippable YouTube ad - Gillette
(Source: youtube.com) 

How to create Pre-Roll ads 

Now let’s look at how you can create your own wildly effective YouTube pre-roll ads.

Producing a video ad

The first step is to create a top-notch video ad that will smash your marketing goals.

When it comes to pre-roll ads, the key is to produce a creative that maximises the time you have available in front of your audience. 

That means showcasing your branding as early as possible in the video, rapidly delivering your core messages, and using attention-grabbing visuals. 

You should also make sure that you stick to the YouTube ad specs to avoid production headaches. 

Uploading your video to YouTube

Once you’ve got your hands on a show-stopping video ad, it’s time to upload it to the YouTube platform.

And fortunately, the process of uploading a new video to YouTube is super simple. 

Just log in to your YouTube business channel, click the camera icon at the top of the page, and select ‘Upload Video’.

Choose your video file, input some basic information, and you’re good to go. 

Creating a new Google Ads campaign

Once you’ve uploaded your video to the YouTube platform, you’ll need to create a new Google Ads campaign.

Sign in to your Google Ads account and click ‘New Campaign’ to get started. Choose a campaign goal that aligns with your marketing objective, and then select the ‘Video’ option for your campaign type.

YouTube ad campaign types

From here you’ll also be able to choose your campaign subtype, which includes Bumper ads, Non-Skippable ads and Skippable ads. 

Enter a memorable name for your campaign and then progress to the next step. 

Setting up your ad budgets

You’ll now have the option of setting up a daily budget or a total budget for your campaign.

A daily budget can help you to control your spend evenly across your campaign, while a lifetime budget can help you to maximise conversions.

If you need more guidance on setting YouTube budgets and managing your bidding strategies, check out this page.

Once you’re comfortable with your budget, confirm the start and end dates for your campaign. 

Choosing where your pre-roll ad will play

At this point, you’ll need to confirm where you’d like your pre-roll ads to be served. 

Since you’re setting up a YouTube video advertising campaign, you’ll want to select the ‘YouTube videos’ network. 

You’ll also be able to select the locations and languages of the audiences you’d like to target. 

Establishing your targeting tactics 

It’s now time for one of the most important stages of the campaign setup process – selecting your audiences and targeting strategies.

Picking the right target audiences can totally transform your YouTube ad performance, so make sure that you’re paying close attention here. 

You’ll be able to choose from a range of targeting options, from Interest targeting to keyword targeting. Think about the products you’re selling and your creative messaging, and set up audiences that are likely to respond well. 

YouTube ad targeting

You can also choose specific YouTube video topics or channels to target. 

It’s always a good idea to test multiple targeting strategies, but just make sure that you’re ready to make swift optimisations to improve performance. 

Refining your bidding strategy 

Confirm your bidding strategy and input the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a successful bid.

While setting a competitive bid is extremely important, it’s also vital that you run quality advertising that’s targeted toward relevant users. 

The YouTube algorithm rewards advertisers who are running engaging campaigns that resonate with their audience, so bear this in mind. 

Make sure that you’re happy with your maximum bids, and review your campaign reports closely to monitor performance. 

Launching your pre-roll ad

To launch your pre-roll ad, you’ll first need to copy and paste your YouTube video URL into Google Ads.

YouTube ad creative link

Confirm your ad format (i.e. Bumper, Skippable, Non Skippable) and input the URL for your desired landing page. 

Setting the right landing page is incredibly important for a seamless customer journey, so think carefully about where you’re sending users who click on your ads.

At this point, you’ll be prompted to set up a Call To Action button for your ads and a Companion Banner that will appear to the right of your video placement. These features are optional but can be a great way to increase the likelihood of clicks. 

Once you’re happy with your campaign setup, just hit ‘Create Campaign’. Congratulations – you’ve launched a brand new ad! 

Proven best practices for YouTube marketing

You now know how to launch the ads, so let’s explore how you can maximise the performance of your campaigns.

By following these proven best practices, you can rest easy knowing that your YouTube marketing budget is working as hard as possible for your business. 

Start your ad strong

If you’re looking to run highly effective pre-roll campaigns, you need to grab the attention of your audience from the very first second of your ad. 

Make sure that your video assets start strong – include clear branding, eye-catching visuals, and ideally motion and sound. 

If you’re selling a specific product, try to place a bold product visual in centre stage during the opening seconds of your ad. 

There’s no time to waste, so think carefully about the production of your creative assets. If you don’t immediately hook your audience in, you may struggle to drive results. 

Nail your core messages 

When it comes to these ads, and particularly Bumper and Skippable ads, every second counts. 

Before you even think about producing a new video, iron out the most important brand messages that you want to land during your campaign. 

If you try to cram too many messages into your pre-roll ads, your audience will struggle to remember any of them. Focus on your most persuasive product or service message, and deliver it in a compelling way. 

(This also applies to your CTA. Make sure that your audience is abundantly clear on the action you’d like them to take!) 

Set up accurate and data-driven targeting 

Producing a red-hot creative asset is important, but you also need to ensure that you’re delivering it to the right people. 

Take full advantage of the advanced targeting options that YouTube offers. Custom Segments and Customer Match audiences are particularly powerful, so use them wisely. 

It’s also a smart idea to experiment with multiple audience strategies. Once you identify your best-performing segments, shift your budgets accordingly and enjoy the results. 

Expert tips for high-performing YouTube campaigns

Now that you’re equipped with all of this golden YouTube marketing knowledge, you’re ready to run effective pre-roll advertising. 

But we don’t just want you to run ‘effective’ pre-roll ads.

We want you to launch pre-roll ads that grip your target audience, smash your performance targets, and generate mountains of revenue. 

Below are some expert pre-roll pointers to help you achieve outstanding performance. 

Focus on your key metrics

If you’re launching YouTube ads without a clear goal, you might as well be running your campaign blindfolded. 

Establish a relevant and measurable objective for your campaign that aligns with your business priorities. This could be clicks, sales, video views – whatever matters most.

The world of digital marketing is packed with endless data and metrics, so you need to stay focused on the numbers that matter. Set up campaign reports that highlight your priority metrics, and use this data to gauge success. 

Make consistent optimisations

Establishing a crystal clear marketing objective is only half of the equation – you also need to give yourself the best chance of achieving it. 

And that means implementing regular, data-driven campaign optimisations. 

This is where a strong focus on your core objective is key. If you can instantly identify the assets and audiences that are contributing to your primary goal, it becomes infinitely easier to make the right optimisations and improve performance. 

Identify your best-performing strategies, and don’t hesitate to pull budget from any ineffective tactics. 

Stand-out examples of YouTube pre-roll advertising 

Looking for some creative inspiration for your next campaign? 

We’ve got you covered. 

Below are some glowing examples of YouTube ads that maximise the impact of the pre-roll format. 


This Skippable pre-roll ad from Dropbox is simple but super effective. 

The asset is only 15 seconds long, but it delivers all of the key product information in a highly engaging and succinct way. 

The video opens with eye-catching visuals and bold text that instantly grab the attention of viewers. This is quickly followed up with a neat summary of the Dropbox offering (i.e. file protection) and a clear CTA. 

Interesting visuals, punchy product messaging, and a direct Call To Action – everything you need to run an effective pre-roll ad. 

YouTube Dropbox ad
YouTube Dropbox ad 2
YouTube Dropbox ad 3
YouTube Dropbox ad 4
(Source: youtube.com) 


This Indeed pre-roll ad is a brilliant example of speedy and creative storytelling.

The video opens with a shot of the Indeed website, instantly showcasing both the company branding and the product offering. 

The rest of the asset shows how the Indeed platform can support and delight its target audience, telling a simple but engaging brand story in a matter of seconds. It finishes with a clear end frame that re-emphasises the brand logo and delivers a neat tagline. 

The ad manages to build brand awareness, highlight the Indeed service offering, and tell an interesting story – all within 15 seconds. 

YouTube Pre-roll ad examples
YouTube Pre-roll ad examples
YouTube Pre-roll ad examples
YouTube Pre-roll ad examples

(Source: youtube.com) 

Getting started with YouTube marketing 

Keen to get started with your own YouTube pre-roll campaign?

That’s the spirit.

If you need any additional guidance on setting up a new campaign, just check out this guide for more information.

To make sure that you hit the ground running with your campaign setup, try to have everything on this checklist prepared before launch.

  • Video assets (with the correct specs) uploaded to your YouTube channel 
  • Desired campaign start/end dates
  • Campaign budget
  • Target audience(s) 
  • Chosen ad formats 

Useful resources for YouTube advertising 

You didn’t think we’d send you on your way without some handy YouTube marketing resources, did you?

Take a look at these guides for more information on running insanely effective YouTube advertising. 

Upbeat – How to use YouTube Bumper ads 

32 Must-Know YouTube Statistics For Digital Marketers

YouTube pre-roll ads can be incredibly powerful for your brand. But if you want to make the most of this unique format, the usual rules apply.

Focus on creating attention-grabbing assets, targeting the right audiences, and making intelligent optimisations. 

If you can tick all of these boxes, you’ll be enjoying jaw-dropping results from YouTube marketing. Best of luck!


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