5 Seconds To Be Unskippable

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How do you make people watch your ad when they have an option to skip? Probably one of the most important ingredients is: convince them in the first 5 seconds. Generally, when users see an ad, they have their thumb right on the bottom-right corner of the video, ready to tap right where the “skip” button appears. They only have to wait for 5 seconds, and that’s all you have to convince them to stay with you.

In this blog post, I share 4 examples of TV ads which were optimized for skippable formats on digital. Advertisers who spend most of their budget on TV, can adopt any of these tactics as a first step to optimize their creatives for digital.

Back to the basics: understand the creative canvas (do skip if you are already familiar with the TrueView ad format)

The first step for advertisers in digital (and their creative agencies) is to understand the creative canvas and then play with it. Here we are talking about the most common format of skippable ads, i.e. “TrueView” ads on YouTube. TrueView ads work in a very simple way: users can skip the ad after the first 5 seconds. Advertisers pay a CPV (cost per view) only is the user doesn’t skip the ad or if s/he skips after 30 seconds. It’s a win-win ad format: users are not forced to watch an ad if they are not interested; advertisers only pay for truly engaged users (i.e. better media efficiency) and can also collect valuable data on who is interested and who isn’t.

Now that the creative canvas is clear, let’s play with it. How do you maximize effectiveness using this format?

#1: Ask them not to skip

It can be as simple as asking viewers not to skip. Remember that many users on YouTube are looking for entertainment, so use humor while you persuade them to stay with you beyond the first 5 seconds.

Here is a good example: it is the movie trailer for “This is The End”, with James Franco and Seth Rogen. The movie trailer is the same, but the YouTube cuts have additional footage at the beginning of the ad. When James and Seth ask you not to skip, that’s pretty convincing.

1st YouTube cut

2nd YouTube cut

#2: Give the punch-line away

The punch-line always comes at the very end of a joke. That’s not how it works on YouTube. Recutting an ad to place the ending right at the beginning can generate intrigue and convince the users to watch the entire ad to understand the full story. In this example from Lakerol, the exact same TVC footage has been recut, and the story has been reversed.


YouTube cut

#3: Rejig the story

This is similar to the previous 2 techniques blended together, except that some additional footage is required for the YouTube versions of the ad. My favorite example of this tactic comes from Snickers. Watch the TVC first, and then the 2 YouTube cuts. What do you notice? In the first YouTube version, the story has been tweaked to make viewers curious in the first 5 seconds, and the actor is engaging directly with viewers by looking straight into the camera and asking them not to skip. The second YouTube version is similar, but the main actor is a wrestler now, and threatens the viewers not to skip the ad!


YouTube version #1

YouTube version #2

#4: Share your message in 5 seconds

5 Seconds could be long enough to say what you have to say (I just did it). I love this example from Horlicks in India: a 5 seconds intro was added at the beginning of the TVC, and it’s enough to drive brand awareness, mental availability for the product (it’s a 5 seconds product shot!) and also convey the main feature of their instant chocolate powder. Brilliant!

In summary: it doesn’t take an entirely different approach for video ads to be much more effective on YouTube. As a first step, just invest some more time when shooting and editing your ad, and play with the creative canvas to convince viewers not to skip.


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