What is a YouTube Pre Roll Ad? [+9 Examples to Inspire You]

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Erin Rodrigue
Erin Rodrigue



Even if you aren't completely sure what a pre roll ad is, odds are you've seen a few of them.

Marketer watches a video on her laptop

Click on any YouTube video and, more often than not, a short advert will automatically play before the video. This is known as a pre roll ad. Here's an example: 

A pre roll ad on YouTube

For consumers, these ads can feel like a digital thorn in the side. But for marketers, they pack a powerful punch in terms of brand awareness and ad recall.

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Let's learn more about pre rolls ads, how to get these ads on YouTube, and look at some effective examples in action.

There are three main types of pre roll ads on YouTube:

  • Bumper: Available in select markets, bumper ads are non-skippable, six-second ads.
  • Skippable: In a skippable video ad, viewers are given a choice to skip the ad after the initial five seconds. In order to work, these ads must be more than 12 seconds long.
  • Non-skippable: In a non-skippable video ad, viewers are not given a choice to skip the ad. These ads can be a maximum of 15 seconds.

There are many benefits to incorporating pre roll ads in your digital marketing strategy. To start, let's look at the medium — YouTube.

YouTube is the second most popular website in the world (behind Google, which owns YouTube). In fact, users worldwide collectively consume 1 billion hours worth of videos on it each day.

Yes, you read that right — 1 billion hours in a single day.

With so many people watching, it's the perfect opportunity to engage with potential customers. Just a handful of seconds is enough to expose viewers to a brand and create an impression — making it a great addition to your “top of the funnel” marketing strategy.

Second, one of the biggest hurdles for marketers is reaching the right people at the right time. YouTube makes this process easy with targeting. Powered by Google Ads, you can target your audience by interests, topics, demographics, geography, keywords, and language.

For example, suppose you own a yoga studio and you currently offer a free yoga class for new members. You could target your audience by their location and demographics, and select categories that mirror their interests, such as "Health & Fitness" or "Yoga Lovers" (psst: these are actual categories from Google Adwords).

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to pre roll adverts is, well, making them. Here are nine examples to help you brainstorm the best way to delight your YouTube viewers without getting in the way of their chosen video.

9 Exceptional Pre Roll Ads on YouTube

1. Lyft

Campaign: #HowtoHuman

If you're like me, you've fumbled through a few post-lockdown conversations in your day-to-day life. Lyft decided to showcase these awkward encounters under a humorous lens for their campaign #HowtoHuman.

In this ad, we hear the internal monologue of a man who isn't sure how to talk to his Lyft driver after a year in hibernation ("Just say hello! Maybe wassup? Or howdy there?").

The advert is not only funny, but it also leans into the category of "how to" videos that are popular on YouTube. But what really makes this advert shine is its relatability. We’ve all felt out of practice with day-to-day interactions — so why not laugh about it.

2. The General

Campaign: Driving Without Insurance is a Bad Idea

What happens if you get a tattoo with a cold? Watch this six-second advert to find out (hint: it's not pretty).

Just like getting a tattoo with a cold is a bad idea, so is driving without insurance. The General does a stellar job in conveying this message with humor and a touch of absurdity. If you have a few more seconds to spare, check out the extended version of this ad featuring the legend himself, Shaq.

3. Dove

Campaign: #WashtoCare

Many call-to-actions ask you to click a button, subscribe to a newsletter, or visit a website. But have you ever been called to wash your hands?

Dove's #WashtoCare campaign conveys a poignant message: the act of washing your hands is actually an act of compassion for yourself, your loved ones, and the world.

Dove's ad is not only timely, but also hits at a simple truth about today's consumers: they are belief-driven. Increasingly, consumers want to see brands improve the world along with making a profit. Dove aligns with this shift, stating, "Washing your hands is the best way to show you care. No matter what soap you use."

4. Domino's Pizza

Campaign: #FreesNotFees

We all know giveaways are a great way to delight customers and increase engagement, and Domino's does just that for its #FreeNotFees campaign.

The ad pinpoints a common pain point for customers — ordering food, navigating to the checkout, and feeling slighted by all of the hidden fees. By flipping the experience on its head (offering surprise freebies instead), viewers are enticed to order from Domino's the next time dinner rolls around.

Of course, the close-up of the gooey chocolate lava cake doesn't hurt, either. 

5. Sketchers

Campaign: You'll Never Want to Stop Walking

Imagine walking for days upon days and… enjoying it. According to Sketchers, that dream could become a reality with their GO WALK 6 shoes.

Viewers are left with one question: could the shoes really be that comfortable? It's the sense of intrigue that makes the advert so engaging. Of course, the distressed husband, the oblivious wife, and the tumbleweed rolling in the background make for a funny lasting impression, too.

6. Vistaprint

Campaign: Ready for Anything

Small business owners are often warned to "be ready for anything." But what if that "anything" was a large asteroid about to hit the Earth? That's the premise of Vistaprint's Ready for Anything advert.

The ad starts with a business owner opening a package of brochures and stickers for her new yoga studio. Before you know it, the asteroid scorches right through the studio.

In an extreme act of adaptability, the business owner buys a new batch of marketing materials from Vistaprint — this time for a hot yoga studio.

While funny and ludicrous, the ad also reflects on the importance of adaptability and resilience in business. Vistaprint wants you to know that it will be a steadfast partner in times of uncertainty, and such honesty signals confidence and builds trust.

7. Chewy

Campaign: All the moments

Do you know the saying, "Look good, feel good?" That extends to our pets, too.

While videos of cute, soapy dogs in the bathtub play on screen, Chewy artfully narrates its breadth of products, from shampoos and toothbrushes to grooming tools. In the last few seconds, we shuffle through a variety of homes, all of which have a blue Chewy box sitting on the front stoop.

Sure, there's some psychology to adding animals to ads. But where Chewy exceeds is capturing both the excitement of getting a package delivered with the love we have for our pets. Sounds like a winning combo.

8. H&M

Campaign: #HMConscious

What makes H&M different from other fashion brands at the mall? All it takes is one listen to this ad to find out.

This ad is effective because it shines a light on H&M's unique selling proposition (USP): to create great fashion in a sustainable way. And in the age of fast fashion, this USP certainly takes a loud stance.

Remember, some of the most effective ads don't push consumers to buy or do something. Sometimes, simply sharing your brand story and what makes you different from the rest can be just as powerful.

9. Mercedes-Benz

Campaign: Mercedes-AMG GT S

Mercedes-Benz targets the Singapore market in this bumper ad for a new two-door sports car. The video uses swift video cuts and a roaring engine to engage its viewers' senses. This way, its audience can actually see and hear the intensity of reaching 60 MPH in only 3.8 seconds.

Pre roll ad rates

How much does a pre roll ad cost? Like most other types of online advertising, it depends. 

The cost of YouTube ads is based on views. Each view can cost between $0.10 and $0.30, depending on your industry and target keywords.

You set yourself a budget of what you are willing to spend per day, which can be as little or as much as you want. For instance, a business may allot $10 per day for its YouTube advertising budget, and then raise or lower this rate according to its goals.

YouTube will also ask you to set a maximum figure you are willing to pay per day. This means you can avoid any surprises should you find more people watching your ad than anticipated.

And remember, you only pay when somebody engages with your ad. For example, a viewer may watch your skippable ad for 30 seconds, or click on your website. If no action is taken, you don't pay. Not a bad deal, right?

How to Get Pre Roll Ads on YouTube

By now, you probably have a few ideas for a pre roll ad. Now let's outline the steps to bring your idea to YouTube.

1. Shoot a video and upload it to YouTube.

To state the obvious, you first need to create a video that will become the pre roll ad. Once the video is shot and edited, upload it to your YouTube channel (not your personal account).

2. Create a new campaign in Google Ads.

Now you're ready to create a new campaign in Google Ads. First, go to your Google Ads account. If you don't have one, you can sign up through Gmail.

In the dashboard, select "+New Campaign."

Next, you will be prompted to select a goal, such as leads or website traffic. Choose whatever goal you'd prefer.

Under campaign type, select video. Now you have the option to choose a campaign subtype, including a bumper ad, a skippable ad, or a non-skippable ad.

Pre roll ad settings in Google Adwords

Lastly, enter a name for your campaign.

3. Define your budget.

It's time to crunch the numbers. You can set your budget per day or for the entire campaign. Setting a daily budget can help ensure you have an even distribution of your ad spend throughout your campaign.

Then, input the start and end date. Some marketers leave the end date open and stop the campaign manually when needed.

4. Select where your pre roll ad will (and will not) play

Now it’s time to decide where your pre roll ad will (and will not) play. These options are known as networks. Since we want the ad to appear in videos on YouTube, select "YouTube videos."

Next, choose the locations of the users you want to target. You can also exclude certain locations.

Lastly, choose the languages that your target audience speaks.

5. Choose your targets.

Here comes the fun part — choosing your targets.

In this step, you have the opportunity to target your audience based on demographics, including gender, age, parental status, and household income.

Further refine your audience using the Audiences section. Here you can choose the type of videos most relevant to your ad by inputting keywords and topics, such as Finance, Health, or Food & Drink.

As in our earlier example, if you are the owner of a yoga studio running a new membership deal, you could choose Health or Beauty & Fitness as a topic.

You can also choose specific Placements for where you want your ad to play. This means you can target specific videos and channels on YouTube, such as those that feature yoga workouts.

It's a good idea to run multiple campaigns to target different groups of users to see who is most engaged, rather than including everyone you want to target in one single campaign.

6. Place a bid

Next, determine the max price you will pay for each view. On YouTube, a view is when someone watches your ad for at least 30 seconds (or in its entirety for videos under 30 seconds). You can always increase or decrease this figure later.

7. Create the Pre Roll Ad

At last, your ad is ready to run. Well, almost.

Remember the video you created in step one? Now it's time to copy and paste its URL into Google Adwords. Then, select the video ad format, such as a bumper ad or skippable in-stream ad.

Next, input the URL where you want people to go when they click your ad. This could be a custom landing page or the homepage of your website.

Finally, you have the option to create a call-to-action button that appears over your pre roll ad, and a companion banner that appears to the right of the YouTube video.

Once you're satisfied with your ad, click Create Campaign.

Final Thoughts

As a part of a video marketing campaign, pre roll ads are effective vehicles to boost brand awareness and ad recall. And, when done correctly, you can provide an interesting or entertaining break to viewers, who may convert to customers.


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