Let’s face it — video ads can be really annoying. If you’ve ever done one of these:

… then you might be pleased to know that many, many people agree with you. According to Unruly Media, 81% of consumers regularly mute video ads, 90% are open to using ad blockers, and 63% are straight-up annoyed by pre-roll.


Clearly, those statistics are abysmal. And at a time when consumers are tuning out advertising by default, it’s probably best to ditch the incessant in-your-face marketing. Consumers don’t want to be interrupted by ads any longer; instead, they want ads to be entertaining, shareable and platform-native.

Video ads, as Mary Meeker says, can work. But to get there, we may need to discard the old thinking that has given a stinker name to ads in general.

So let’s get on with the discarding and start creating some cures for snooze-worthy video ads.

1. Butting in? Cut it out

Perhaps the biggest problem with a traditionally interruptive video ad (like pre-roll) is it throws off your groove. You’re excited to consume a piece of content, but your anticipation is dampened by someone trying to sell you something. Honestly, it’s like getting excited to go out with your friends but being told you have to do your homework.videoads_image02Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way forever — marketing agencies have been creating alternative video ad formats that blend in with platforms instead of tearing users out of engaging experiences.

One example is Snapchat’s 3V format, which fits videos to mobile phones’ vertical screens. 3V blends amazingly well with the Snapchat experience — so well, in fact, that you might not even be able to tell you’re watching an ad until a brand logo pops up.

Another example is the newly developed ad format In-View, with which ads are only launched when users click on them. In-View ads are reportedly placed at natural breaks in articles and linked to words likely to trigger clicks. We marketers might not be the ones creating new ad formats, but we can be pickier about which ones we use to reach our audiences. As ad technology evolves, it’ll only get easier to reach consumers in less intrusive ways.

2. Hook your viewer in seconds

Much has been written about how competing stimuli constantly vie for our attention these days. It’s all true, and it’s a given that video ads sit among the least intriguing creations known to humankind. This means you have to hook your viewers right away… or lose them.

As Vidyard says, pre-rolls are basically five-second videos. If your viewer doesn’t like your ad immediately, they’ll hit the “Skip” button or tab away while you finish your spiel.

Here are a few things you can do to capture your viewer’s attention quickly:

Get the action going right away. Lots of ads take their sweet time making something interesting happen, then lose their viewers in the process. To avoid the same fate, thicken the plot, pronto! In this ad, barely a second goes by when water falls on the main character’s head — and now you’re curious.

Say something shocking. SEX! Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you that being edgy can be a great hook. Kmart plays this masterfully in its “Ship My Pants” commercial:

Lead with an unusual visual. If your ad doesn’t look like an ad, you’ve tripped up your viewer (in a good way). Try staging your ad in a situation nobody expects; your audience will wonder why they’re not watching a typical ad, and they’ll want to find out why. Here’s a commercial from Pepsi Max. It doesn’t look anything like a Pepsi commercial at first, does it? Instead, you see a guy in a car going for a test drive.

The key that unlocks it all

Have you noticed similarities among these ads that make you want to keep watching. Here’s one thing: They make you curious. You want to see why water drips on the guy’s head. You want to see why a guy in a store says “Ship my pants?” (and you’re asking yourself whether you heard him right?) Furthermore, you’re wondering why you’re looking at an FBI surveillance-esque view of a guy in a dealership Camaro. The only way to find the answer is to stay tuned.

3. Create something irresistibly watchable

Okay, so video ads can induce sleep better than Nyquil. But in a strange twist, some can actually be totally worth watching. As WordStream points out, for example, two of the most-viewed YouTube videos of 2015 were — gasp! — ads. There was the Clash of Clans Super Bowl TV commercial featuring Liam Neeson (which yours truly admits he willingly watched multiple times):

And Ad Council’s advertisement “Love Has No Labels”:

These videos lay waste to the claim that people don’t watch video ads. In fact, they turn that claim on its head: Not only can people be okay with watching video ads, but they might actively enjoy them. So if you want your audience to stick around for your ad, make it worth watching. (If it’s particularly good, viewers might do your job for you by sharing the ad widely across social media.) Here are a few suggestions to create a bang-up video:

Be authentic. Common wisdom states you have to create something elaborate for an ad to be any good. The problem is, overly polished ads can backfire and come off as corporate and sterile. It’s the internet we’re talking about here, so we can loosen up a little. Show off your brand’s personality and even consider creating an ad that looks as casual as it gets. Here’s an example that does it right: Dollar Shave Club’s ad “Our Blades are F***ing Great,” which starts off with a normal guy opening with, “Hi, I’m Mike.”

Be outrageous. One reason we advertise is to become memorable to our audiences. A good way to accomplish this is to journey far from the typical realm of normality, getting viewers curious and electrifying the YouTube comments section. This ad for Squatty Potty undoubtedly sets some kind of record for outrageousness:

Tell a story. I’ll just let the words of 99U’s Sean Blanda do the talking: “Want your message to stick? Tell a story.” There’s scientific evidence that stories powerfully shape human behavior, yet storytelling is still an underused tool in advertising.

Consider trying it. It’s the mechanic, for instance, that catapulted Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” ad to the top of USA Today’s Ad Meter chart:

Play on “the feels. We can point to that “Lost Dog” video again for this one. When you stir strong emotions in your audience, your ad makes viewers stop saying, “Ugh… they’re trying to sell me something” and start saying, “I’m going to share this on Facebook.” Content that evokes strong emotions is more likely to be seen as valuable and shareable. Does this “Maddie” ad from Chevy bring a tear to your eye or what?

Above all: Be entertaining

If you tried to sum up all of the tips we covered (and didn’t cover) above, you’d do well with the pithy phrase “be entertaining.” These days, most ads fall into two buckets: “Typical Boring Ad” and “Enjoyable Content.” Ads in the former bucket get ignored and, at worst, build negative brand perceptions. Ads in the latter bucket ascend to the golden land of internet buzz, brand lift, and free word-of-mouth advertising.

The key is creating video ads that don’t interrupt your audience’s entertainment but become the entertainment. When you do that, you’ll have content that pays dividends many times over.

For more on video marketing, mosey on over to our article Visual Content Marketing: The Rise of Video on Social.

Also, did you know millennials are the most likely demographic to share video ads they enjoy? Find out what resonates with them in our guide Marketing to Millennials: Engaging a Generation of Visual Buyers.

Want vertical video that doesn’t disappear in 24 hours? Check out Curalate Tilt, which brings longevity and shopping to the mobile video experience. Tilt allows brands to aggregate their vertical video content on a mobile landing page, showcasing a collection of videos telling their brand’s story. Brands can even tag products within each video to make them shoppable. Learn more here.