Preroll: An Actual Example

We’ve talked about pre-roll. Like, a lot. But we’re guessing you’re less interested in theories about why it’s powerful and more interested in straight talk about what results you can expect.

To give you a practical example, here’s a breakdown of a campaign we ran for We created a 60-second video for them, then we pared it down to 30 seconds to run as a pre-roll ad. With a distribution budget of about $5600, their campaign would be considered fairly small, but that’s the beauty of pre-roll: they paid exactly what they wanted to, down to the dime. And got more than they had hoped for.

While your mileage may vary, we think this is a pretty realistic snapshot of pre-roll results.


We knew we would have an uphill battle with this one. Pre-roll typically works best as a mass media tool, while the audience for this video is pretty narrow. For that reason, click-through rates were never going to be high; someone would have to 1) have fears of having an STD and 2) be interested in seeking discreet consultation. Not quite as likely as a McDonald’s pre-roll reaching a hungry viewer.

STRATEGY: Our gameplan was to split the campaign into two halves — broad awareness using TubeMogul (a video ad-buying platform), and targeted engagement using YouTube pre-roll (and Google AdWords). To translate that into human terms, half of the campaign focused on getting lots of viewers to watch the whole video, while the other half focused on clicks.

TUBEMOGUL: We ran these ads as unskippable, meaning a very high proportion of viewers would watch the ad to completion so they could then watch their content. We also bid aggressively to serve the ad to a wide number of people across the country. Our objective wasn’t to get a lot of clicks, but rather to spread awareness.

Runtime: June 17th to August 1st

Budget: $2499.58

Impressions: 249,587

eCPM (cost per 1000 impressions): $10.01

100% completion: 63.49%

100% complete views: 158,462

Click-through Rate: .02%

Clicks: 62

These ads ran on health, news, and sports sites popular with 21–35 year old men and women. Given the very specific nature of the call to action, we didn't expect a lot of clicks. But for a fairly small budget, the ad performed very well. Note that while “only” 63% of people viewed the ad to 100%, that number doesn't account for people who watched it nearly to the end.

YOUTUBE: For the other half of the campaign, we wanted to maximize click-throughs and drive traffic. While we knew views would be lower than with TubeMogul, we predicted engagement to be much higher.

July 10 to August 15th

Budget: $3132.00

Impressions: 230,083

eCPM (cost per 1000 impressions): $13.61

View rate: 6.24%

Views: 14,357

Click-through Rate: 5.6%

Clicks: 807

The YouTube ads surpassed our expectations. To put things into perspective, the typical YouTube pre-roll gets a click-through rate between .5% and 1.5%.’s video got 5.6%.

We attribute a lot of this success to the targeting we could do through Google AdWords, letting us show the ad around searches for specific STDs, sexual health, and other closely related queries.


Total Budget: $5,631

Total Impressions: 479,670

Total Clicks: 869

We were really pleased with the results, and so was the client. With a very lean budget, we delivered a high number of quality impressions and a high number of clicks. 869 may not seem like a lot, but considering the price/return of the client’s service and the very specific nature of the audience, that ROI is actually very strong. And, given the subject matter, we can know these clicks weren’t coming from idle curiosity. They were coming from people who were highly likely to purchase.

We knew from the start that it’d be a tough campaign. Fortunately, pre-roll’s flexibility let us find a way to make it work.

Written by Joe Lee, Content Marketing Specialist