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The First 5 Seconds of a YouTube Ad Can Keep People Watching

How successful ads keep you away from the “Skip” button

Woman reading while eating
Photo by The Creative Exchange from Unsplash

I bet you we’re all waiting for this image to appear as soon as the ad starts on our YouTube video:

“Skip Ad” buttonPhoto by

If you’re like me, you’ll even place your mouse on top of this countdown to skip it as soon as possible.

But there are instances when people will keep looking at the ad…even if the option of skipping it is right there.

What does it take for a video ad to make you watch it even if you have the option of avoiding it just in front of you?

Let’s look at what a Google study found out about the art of engaging video advertising while reviewing thousands of them during a two-year period.

YouTube Ads That Put the Logo at the Beginning Are Doomed

There’s always a fight between the creatives and the marketers when it comes to placing the brand’s logo. Marketers want it right at the beginning to be able to prime people into remembering the brand (or certain attributes of it, like “innovation” or “passion.”).

Priming refers to a technique that aims to change how people perceive certain contents on an unconscious level. Introducing a person to one stimulus will influence people’s response to all stimuli that come after.

For instance, if you put a McDonald’s logo at the start of your ad, people are more likely to think of hamburgers afterward or process information relating to hamburgers much faster.

On the other hand, creatives want to show the beauty of the ad first. They want people to engage with the content. Laugh with it. Get them surprised. Make them cry. And only then, put the finishing touch with the brand’s logo.

Google’s findings indicate that ads that mention the brand in the first five seconds (as a visual logo or audio mention) have a higher ad recall and brand awareness, but people will tend to skip them.

Setting the Right Tone of an Ad Will Lure People Into Staying Longer

People are engaged with videos that tickle their emotions. The more you activate people, the more you’ll grab their attention. Whether you got a nice giggle or saw something that made your jaw drop, you’ll most likely get hooked onto the ad and want to see more of it.

Now think what tone most of the ads set in this first five seconds. Do they make you wander into the abyss or get you spooked just a little? Well, definitely not the latter.

Google’s findings indicate that the most successful ads are the ones appealing to your humor. People are more likely to watch funny ads and they’ll reflect positively on time viewing and brand recall. Look at IKEA’s bizarre and humorous ad and see for yourself whether you keep watching it after the first five seconds.

When Ads Include a Real Human Face at the Beginning, They’re Already Halfway There

There’s something about other people’s faces that make us want to look at them. Don’t you wonder how we always meet the eyes of a stranger right away?

But remember, staring is rude. Just glance at them without looking too interested.

Well, putting a face on a Youtube ad is only one part of the equation.

Google’s findings say that ads that have familiar faces (usually celebrities) tend to engage people for a longer time. If this person also smiles during the first five seconds, the brand metrics will skyrocket. Having a recognizable face will make people want to stick around.

Certain Musical Styles Can Help Ads Break the 5-Second Barrier

Sound is an essential part of any video. It helps set the tone of the content and appeals directly to people’s emotions.

We are usually not aware of the musical element and thanks to this lack of attention, it can get under our skin much easier. There’s no rational barrier filtering out the musical content, so it goes directly to our hearts. Just mute a suspense or terror movie for a while and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Google found that when an ad contained calming, relaxing, or action-oriented music, people were more likely to skip the ad. However, ads containing humorous music encouraged people to keep watching and also helped them better recall the ad.

Another interesting finding related to music’s effect on brand awareness. No matter which musical style was included in the ad, people had a lower brand awareness. But if the ad featured no music within the first five seconds of the ad (and only inserting it afterward), people responded more positively. They might think that the video is not an ad right away or the lack of music might mess with their usual expectations of ads containing music.

Either way, it’s noteworthy for creatives to play around this idea.


There’s an interesting science behind making ads more appealing to the public, but we shouldn’t reduce these findings to cold formulas for success.

These findings point out some general trends that can help creatives shape how they make their ads. What makes people want to stay tuned to a Youtube ad are summarized in the following features:

  • Placing the brand’s mention at the beginning of the ad video, either as a visual logo or as an audible mention, will dissuade people from watching the rest of the ad.
  • Setting a humorous tone in the ad video will most likely hook people into watching the whole video.
  • Having a familiar face with a smile on it at the beginning of the ad will catch people’s long enough to keep watching the video after the five-second mark.
  • Humorous music is more likely to encourage people to continue watching an ad video. However, delaying the appearance of music after the five-second mark can also be beneficial to the ad’s effectiveness to keep you hooked to it.

As in any other creative expression, ads should combine art and science in their battle for people’s attention. Pre-tests can help in this endeavor. However, they should be considered as a guide rather than the ultimate answer to an ad’s success.

We’re still flawed and somewhat irrational beings so luckily things are not set in stone.

There’s always room for innovation!

By Pavle Marinkovic on .

Are you curious about the world of sound and music? Learn how music can enhance a plant’s growth, the way sound changes our sense of taste, understand the music industry, and much more! Join my newsletter to embark on this journey of sound awareness.

If you were interested in this article, I recommend you follow this link: Audiobranding


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