How to Make Unskippable Video Ads

Lindsey Weedston Digital Advertising, Online Video

It can be really frustrating to spend so much time, energy, and money on an online video ad just to have people skip over it after five seconds. Why even bother to make the ad? Unfortunately, when it comes to platforms like YouTube, that infernal skip button isn’t going away. Not for most ads, anyway. That means that in order to get people to hesitate before going right for the skip button, you need to do something special.

Method #1: Make Your Ad Short

Mobile Video

We talked recently about how very short ads (five seconds or less) could soon become the norm due to the rise of mobile advertising. Longer ads will likely still have their place, but the skip button gives you yet another incentive to make shorter commercials. Ads on YouTube that are 15 seconds or less tend to come without an option to skip, since most people will sit through another 10 seconds of ad after the initial five second countdown to get option to skip. If you can pack your online ad into 15 seconds, you’re bound to get a lot more full views.

So ends the list of methods to get rid of the Skip button entirely.

Method #2: Stand Out

The only other way to get people to see your entire ad is to make it worth their while. It’s that simple, and that difficult. If your ad is 30 seconds long, it needs to be compelling within the first five.

There are a number of things you can do to pique a viewer’s curiosity.

  • Be Different – Simply go through YouTube and start viewing ads. You know how a lot of them start out looking and sounding pretty much the same? Don’t do that. Try to make an ad that’s obviously different right from the start.
  • Be Familiar – If you can’t come up with something to stand out from the crowd, try piggybacking on something people already love. Don’t straight up steal, but start your video with something like, say, a furry critter who appears to be very irritated. 
Old Spice Ad

Old Spice Guy

  • Dazzle the Viewer – Another way to catch attention is always to use fantastic visuals. Even just bright lights and colors will draw the human eye and make it more likely for people to watch beyond the obligatory five seconds. You don’t necessarily need a large budget for this – unique animation or compelling photography work as well as Michael Bay-level special effects, if done right.
  • Break the 4th Wall – People tend to pay more attention if they’re being directly addressed by the ad, even if it’s only for a second. The more commanding the speaker is, the better. Think Old Spice commercials.
  • Open Your Ad With Soft Guitar Music and a Camera Panning Over a Nature Scene – People just seem to love that.
  • Be Cute – Babies. Teacups pigs. Irritated cats. There’s no denying that it works.


Before you choose your method of attention grabbing, just remember that, as always, you need to tailor your approach to your audience. If your audience isn’t that into cute, put the teacup pig away. If they’re not going to be familiar with the latest memes, don’t piggyback off of them. You don’t just want people viewing your ad – you want the right people viewing your ad.