>> perspectives

Showdown: Pre-roll v. Outstream

What’s All the Hype?

Reach into your pocket or your purse and pull out your smartphone. In the palm of your hand you now hold insanely high quality video recording technology that was previously reserved for film industry pros. It’s truly incredible, and as a result of this widespread accessibility, video has become omnipresent.

You’ve read this stat before, but it is so astounding that it bears repeating—300 hours of video (nearly two full weeks worth) are uploaded to YouTube every minute. In the social media world, media companies like The New York Times regularly release 360-degree video experiences. And even traditional out-of-home media are ditching the posters in favor of digital screens that capture passerby’s attention with motion picture. This obsession with video makes sense—when done right, the medium delights consumers with a rich auditory and visual feast.

In the world of mobile advertising, video continues to dominate. Brand advertisers are turning to mobile video in droves to increase brand awareness and drive favorability (eMarketer 2016). The demand is so great that mobile video ad revenue is expected to reach $5.87B in 2017 and shows no signs of slowing down in the years ahead (eMarketer 2016). A lot of this growth can be attributed to the efficiency and scale that programmatically offers, as 81% of that 2017 revenue projection is expected to come via programmatic (eMarketer 2016).

This demand has spurred tremendous innovation and given advertisers ample opportunities for video campaigns. But it has also created some confusion, namely around which executions make the most sense to achieve brand campaign objectives. So today, we are tackling one of those confusions—pre-roll or outstream?

Pre-roll v. Outstream: What’s the Difference?

Before we get into the debate, it’s important that we all understand the differences between pre-roll and outstream video.


If you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube, a show on Hulu, or an on-demand movie on HBO GO you have sat suffered through a pre-roll video ad. These units appear “in-line” or “in-stream” with other video content—usually playing before the video content you intended to watch. Oh, and if you’re lucky you’ll find yourself with a “Skip” button after 5 seconds so you can more quickly get passed the interruptive experience.


Contrasted to pre-roll, outstream video ads are independent from other video content. You’ve seen outstream video placements while scrolling through your Facebook feed (“in-feed” outstream) and as you read articles on your mobile phone from publishers like Fortune (“in-content” outstream). Outstream video ads are viewable by design, meaning they only begin playing once they’ve entered the viewable window and stop playing after they’ve left the frame. And most do not play audio until the user initiates it.

Which Should I Choose?

What’s the #1 rule of business? The customer is always right. So, if you’re wondering whether pre-roll or outstream is best for your video campaign, just ask your customers which they prefer. Better yet, we’ve already done this for you.

In a study conducted by an independent research partner, Applause, Yieldmo found that 73% of U.S. consumers preferred outstream video ads over pre-roll. As if that is not conclusive enough, consumers also label pre-roll ads as “frustrating” (73%) and “disruptive” (66%). Consumers dislike the interruptive experience of pre-rolls so much that they cited them as the 2nd most common reason for using mobile ad blockers. Even YouTube has recognized how frustrating the forced pre-roll experience is and recently announced they will stop supporting unskippable 30-second pre-roll ads starting in 2018. Contrast that to Yieldmo outstream formats, which were seen as “enjoyable” (67%) and “unique” (72%). How do you want your brand message to be remembered?

In addition to consumer preference, marketers also need to consider the reach of their video campaigns. While it is true that publishers are producing more video content to drive engagement with audiences, pre-roll inventory is still inherently limited because of its dependence on video content. The demand exceeds the pre-roll supply so much so that Facebook is even experimenting with putting ads in the MIDDLE of videos. We’ll let you guess how consumers will react! And if you’re a blue chip brand looking for only premium pre-roll inventory, the scarcity is only more pronounced. Outstream, on the other hand, can offer far greater supply because it is not dependent upon other video content to run.

How Do I Measure Success?

Just as advertising creative must be adapted to each medium, so too do success metrics need to reflect the ad placement type. While both video ad placements, pre-roll and outstream are two very different video executions and marketers need to know what to measure to ensure they are getting value from campaigns.

To understand the best way to measure pre-roll, just think about the pre-roll experience. This “in-stream” placement forces viewers to watch video ads in their entirety or up until the point when skipping becomes available. Pre-roll is therefore great at driving high completion rates, which should serve as the primary KPI. A valuable secondary KPI that few marketers consider is brand favorability. Given the negative consumer sentiments surrounding pre-roll, it’s important to monitor any decreases in brand perception resulting from this disruptive experience.

Now consider outstream ads, which give users far more control over their experience rather than forcing them to complete the ad. This requires a much more holistic approach to measuring success to make sure all of the user-initiated actions are captured and evaluated. How much time did the user spend with the outstream video ad? How many quartiles of the video did the user complete? Did the user enter full-screen mode? And because Yieldmo outstream video formats add an additional layer of interactivity to the video asset (more on that below), it’s important to look at things like scroll rate.

And the end of the day, it’s important for marketers to understand that since outstream does not force users to watch the video ad overall completion rates are likely to be lower than pre-roll. However, in exchange, advertisers get far greater user engagement and satisfaction with outstream video, which should be used as the metrics for success.

What Outstream Formats are Available?

We’re so glad you asked! Yieldmo announced the launch of two premium outstream video formats last year: Windowplay and Hyperplay. These best-in-class units feature all of the benefits of outstream video ads generally, but add an additional layer of thoughtful design and interactivity to further drive user engagement and ensure maximize brand exposure. And in staying true to the Yieldmo mission of promoting an optimal user experience, our outstream video units appear in-content without ever pushing page content down and feature proprietary loading technology that prevents any hang time due to buffering issues. As a result of these additional design and user experience considerations, Yieldmo outstream video formats outperform other outstream executions with a 10X increase in user-initiated play rate, and an 86% increase in completion rate.


Complementary brand imagery wraps your brand’s video allowing for immediate and constant brand association and an additional layer of interactivity that reacts to users’ scrolls.


Hyperscroller technology gives users the control to fast-forward and rewind your brand’s video frame-by-frame.

Learn More

If you’re a brand, agency or publisher that wants to learn more about our outstream video formats, get in touch with us at video@oldsite.yieldmo.com.
Posted by: Lucas Piazza, Director of Marketing