The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Longest 5 Seconds On Earth Are The 5 Seconds Before You Can Skip A YouTube Ad …
January 22, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

See that picture above?

See it?

That’s a screenshot of a pre-roll ad on a Youtube video I was trying to watch in December.

Now see that number on the far left hand side … the one that says 2 minutes 16 seconds … that’s how long the fuckers who made that ad expected me to wait until I could see the video I wanted to actually watch.

How egotistical can you get?

How utterly bloody insane can you be?

Do they really think I’m going to spend longer watching a crap video about a brand/product I have no interest in, than the actual thing I want to watch?

Christ, the opening scene features a pair of slippers.


That hardly constitutes the sort of thing that would grab the attention of the average person.

Even grandma’s would not want to see that and I swear to god they keep the slipper industry alive.

Who made this?

Who sold this?

Who told the client it was a good use of time?


Before anyone on here was born, I worked for an amazing agency called HHCL.

They were true pioneers, but more than that, they were brilliant at understanding what was really going on in cultures and individuals hearts and minds … which is why the stuff we made that people initially thought was mental, was exceedingly successful.

The reason I say this is because years before the internet was invented [well, it was invented, but it was classified to the military or something] there was this thing called the ‘video recorder’.

This machine would play big tapes [another thing you will have to look up] that – among other things – featured movies on them.

You would rent these things from something called a ‘video store’ and it was basically be a massive library, but instead of books, it was full of video tapes.

Anyway, at the beginning of these films would be ads … a bit like the pre-roll on youtube ads.

In the old days, rather than a ‘skip after 5 seconds’ button, you had this thing that allowed you to fast forward past the ads and get to the movie.

People used to do this all the time and yet – like on Youtube pre-roll ads – clients and agencies kept shoving on their products at the beginning of the film.

And this approach carried on for years until the brilliant folk at HHCL – when asked to do something prior to the main feature starting – decided to do something that was devious and effective.

Knowing full well people fast forwarded past the ads, they created a commercial – just featuring words – that was so slow that when the person sped past the ads, they could read what was being said clearly across the screen.

Yes I know you could argue that’s invasive, but it’s also bloody brilliant – but then that’s what HHCL were, bloody brilliant.

They took this approach even further in 1994 by making an ad so deliberately fast that only those who videoed it, could read it:

Sure, it’s sort-of playing on reverse psychology but it’s also mental brilliance.

Yes I know some agencies and clients are trying to do similar stuff these days, but they are still in the minority, which begs the question … with so many people banging on about how innovative the creative industry is and how informed the media agencies are, how come so many seem to operate without any appreciation of what the audience do/want and look for?

Of course, there is a bigger issue as regards making products people want rather than what companies want them to want – but every time I see a pre-roll ad on Youtube, I genuinely want to ring the client up and ask them whether they are insane or just an egomaniac.

I’m not saying pre-roll can’t work, but I am saying if you base your execution on the premise that ‘your brand/ad is so interesting that people will delay what they want to see, just to watch it’, then all I will say is that it must be utterly brilliant on their planet.

33 Comments so far
Leave a comment

youre wrong campbell, the longest 5 seconds are when you reach this blog, look at all the fucking shit youve written about some bollocks and wait for your back button to work to get you the fuck out of here.

Comment by andy@cynic

but the hhcl reminder was a nice touch.

Comment by andy@cynic

or it could be its just the one bit of semi class to ever appear on this shit. it was for mazda after all and theyre middle of the road bollocks.

Comment by andy@cynic

Lets be honest, if someone did that now [acknowledging it would be sad given no one uses video recorders these days] it would still be seen as interesting. So while the car was a bit dodgy – though surprisingly well made as I remember – the approach was, as ever, interesting and provocative. God I loved my time there.

Comment by Rob

It’s ironic that you have written a post that takes 10 hours to read about how stupid it is to make people wait 5 seconds to get to what they want.

Comment by DH

In future I’ll use this blogs version of “skip ad” and just go straight to the “add comment” button.

Comment by DH

you mean you were reading his shit? unfuckingbelievable.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes, I do realise that. But all people are hypocrites – how many times do I have to remind you!?

Comment by Rob

I can’t wait to hear George and Pete’s comment on the Youtube preroll ads. It should make for fascinating reading, especially for the google HR department.

Comment by Bazza

Just for transparency, I agree with every word you have written Rob. Over to George and Pete.

Comment by Bazza

My comment is that Robert is entitled to his opinion and I enjoyed watching the Mazda ad.

Comment by George


Comment by Bazza

I agree with everything George said.

Comment by Pete

Must be so much fun on those company buses.

Comment by John

I wouldn’t get too cocky Baz … how are your 5C’s selling.

Comment by Rob

What the fuck is wrong with you??? Those are Birkenstock slippers in Will Scarlet red… A perfectly targeted ad for someone with no fucking taste… They saw you coming mate.
Check out AdScam’s iToilet. You’ll never use your iFilth again.

Comment by George Parker

They’re not Birkenstocks George … if they were, I’d obviously would have rushed out to buy them. Birkenstocks would let you see your toes, those slippers don’t which leads me to believe they are far more likely to be made by Crocs than the German sandal peddlers.

Comment by Rob

I like the VPN symbol on your screen grab. Proof you do live in the Middle Kingdom.

Comment by George

Interesting point Rob.

Contrary to what Baz thinks, I will respond to this. The point, as you mention in your post, is not simply that for some people, it can be frustrating having to wait a few seconds before they can see their chosen content (though it is a statement on society that 5 seconds is regarded as a distressing period of time) it is the way companies are using that time to best communicate with the viewer.

It is a similar to your argument that people should not blame powerpoint for bad presentations, but the person who made the bad presentation.

If my employer was to do anything, it could be to provide brands with ideas on how best to use that, though I was under the impression that was what their agency was for.

Comment by Pete

Five seconds can very well be a distressing time (just ask Billy’s dates) and in the context of online it’s now an eternity. It’s not a comment on society, it’s a comment on how technology companies have conditioned their data sources.

Comment by John

When you’re sacked, there’s a job at our place going. Good pay, good benefits and we even supply the mop.

Comment by Bazza

Nice try Pete. I get you guys have to make money … I understand your reference to my powerpoint argument … I even get that adland must take some of the blame, but it’s not entirely ‘everyone else’s fault’, but I hope you get the promotion you are obviously pushing for. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I’m impressed Pete went for it. More of a man than that wimp Bryant.

Comment by DH

so is fucking a stick of celery. but at least he has famous friends, pete just has his fucking shadow.

Comment by andy@cynic

Respect by association. How reassuring.

Comment by George

keeps you in friends/parasites.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve given up smoking. Good afternoon.

Comment by Marcus

Congratulations Marcus.

Comment by George

Thanks George. Long way to go yet.

Comment by Marcus

not as good for your health as giving up coming to this blog though is it.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve cut down. Sadly.

Comment by Marcus

Once, I went online to to see a movie trailer, but I was interrupted by a pre-roll. The pre-roll happened to be the trailer I was trying to watch, anyway, so all was good.

Comment by May I Offer A Very Different Scenario

[…] Not quite as flashy in the innovation department, but it is still a repurposing in a way.I read this article, recently written by a guy I admire in advertising. In it he talks about preroll ads and the […]

Pingback by Innovation: Not building the wheel, just repurposing it | Bearing the Untold Story.

Leave a Reply