YouTube is getting rid of 30-second unskippable pre-roll ads

A screenshot of an advert on YouTube for Grammarly.com.

They’re arguably the most annoying video ad formats in existence, but soon they’ll be a thing of the past, at least on YouTube.

Google has announced that in 2018, 30-second pre-roll ads that can’t be skipped will no longer be available on the popular online video destination it owns.

According to Google, the goal is to improve ad experience for users. “As part of that, we’ve decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers,” a Google spokesperson told Campaign.

For obvious reasons, unskippable ads aren’t user favorites, particularly when they are 30 seconds in length and appear before a video begins to play.

But Google’s motivation for ditching unskippable 30-second pre-roll ads might not just be based on user preferences. As Callum McCahon, strategy director at agency Born Social told Campaign, “I’m reading this as a signal that YouTube is very worried about Facebook. We know that video is right at the very core of Facebook’s roadmap. Their video offering is becoming ever more attractive to brands by the day, and YouTube is panicking.”

Notably, Facebook doesn’t have pre-roll video ads because CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t like them. Instead, Facebook is currently betting on mid-roll ads, a format that YouTube also has.

Finding the perfect video ad format

Whatever Google’s motivation, users will likely cheer its decision. But what will Google push in place of the 30-second unskippable pre-roll ad? You guessed it: more unskippable ads.

According to Campaign, Google will continue to allow unskippable ads that are shorter than 30 seconds. Specifically, Campaign says that Google will more heavily push its unskippable six-second bumper ad format, which was launched last year.

Unfortunately for users, it seems unlikely that unskippable ads will ever go away. A recent IPG study found that skipping ads, when possible, is now an “ingrained behavior” for users and that most skip ads immediately. Users who complete skippable ads typically do so because they are in-market for the product or service being advertised, and with 67% of users skipping ads as soon as they can by habit, advertisers seemingly have limited opportunities to win with skippable ads.

IPG, which surveyed more than 11,000 users, says that unskippable six-second ads, like the aforementioned YouTube bumper ad format, “substantially increase both higher and lower funnel metrics and provide impressive value compared to skipped ads.”

Of course, creating compelling messaging in a six-second format will likely be a continued challenge for advertisers, so expect to see many advertisers continue to use unskippable ads of the maximum length offered.

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