Thought Catalysts: Mike Halminen on Making Great Pre-Rolls with YouTube

July 20, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

So: you’ve been asked to create an awesome pre-roll for a client.

Whether it’s sheer determination or nervous sweats follow shortly after, we’ve all been here and we all want to deliver.

But with platforms changing everyday (don’t even get us started on viewers’ preferences), best practices are hard to nail down for any given time. Indeed, most best practices are found after lots of trial and error. By that point, are they even still the best things to do?

The Tite Group was lucky enough to have Google’s creative lead, Mike Halminen, stop by to let us know what’s up when it comes to creating pre-rolls with YouTube.

We chatted everything from being authentic, to creating 9 hour ads (yes, 9 hours), to John Cena.

It was a pretty awesome session. And now we’re going to help you wipe your sweaty forehead off with the following 4 methods of winning your audience’s minutes:


Did we mention mobile? Fifty percent of all views on YouTube are on mobile. According to Halminen, that’s pretty conservative considering the UK’s numbers are upwards of 60%.

This has implications for shooting. Marketers and creatives alike can’t look at this as those they’re editing for TV. We’ve all got to look at this in terms of how creators edit for YouTube.

This means no supers on the bottom, more relevant titling and definitely no wide shots.

Sounds like a lot of boundaries, but it just comes down to smarter content. Think about who the audience is and how they’re consuming the content.

The content means nothing if it won’t reach anyone.

2. Bumper ads need one purpose.

And they need to deliver on that purpose. With only 6 seconds, your brand can’t afford to waste any time.

Halminen says to think outside the :30. If your brand has a good print ad or perhaps a larger piece of content coming up later, why not tease it all first? Build up the excitement!

It doesn’t cost any more from a media standpoint to do multiple bumper ads instead of just one, so go for it. “Build a flock,” said Halminen. Doing a set of 3-5 ads can break up a story into multiple chapters or give brands a chance to showcase different ‘chapters’ of content.

Here’s a quick equation for you:

1 idea + humour or shock = good bumper ad.

If you’re going to interrupt people, at least make it memorable. Some of the brands who’ve done well with that include:

-Pepsi’s emojis: used summer keywords to create emojis related to peoples’ searches

-Universal’s Sing: to launch the official trailer, each character got their own 6 second bumper ad

3. True View should deliver experiences.

If people can skip, they will. So give them something that gets them hooked.

Your pre-roll should never be thought of as one video alone, instructed Halminen. “It should be a part of your bigger video strategy.”

Also, those floating logos? Yeah, they make people skip happy. When brand visuals are integrated into the scenery of the video people actually recall the information better.

4. Get creative with how you use YouTube.

Halminen wants you to understand something: YouTube can’t change how it looks.
BUT, brands can definitely get creative with its components.

Case in point?

Snickers created a game out of the pause button.

Pacifico Insurance wanted people to understand what it was like to drive while under the influence and took popular videos but had people slow them down to half their normal speed.

Sometimes the most creative things come down to using the basics in different ways.

So, when it comes to using YouTube it all comes down to targeting strategically, thinking interactively and being (everyone’s favourite buzzword) authentic. Ads can and do work, but they’ve got to be a part of a bigger narrative.

To find out more about advertising with YouTube, visit their hub to see how it’s done.

Did we win over your minutes? Get more great posts like this in The Tite Report monthly newsletter.

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