What We Can All Learn From Clear Men’s YouTube Pre-rolls

If you’re a millennial, male, and have been on YouTube for the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen Clear Men’s latest ad featuring Cristiano Ronaldo.

But just in case you haven’t seen it, here it is (my sincerest apologies for those of you who may suffer through this again):

If you thought it was a bad ad, you’re not alone. The entire comment section for the video is flooded with hostile and negative reactions. While YouTube comments have notoriously been known to be toxic, you know you’ve messed up somewhere when 100% of your 136 comments are telling you in one way or another to stop.



But there’s always a silver lining! As we explore why the ad is so bad, we’ll also learn how not to run a YouTube ad campaign in 2016.


If it’s the first time you’re seeing this ad, you probably think it’s not that bad. That’s what I thought too, during my virgin experience. It certainly didn’t interest me, but I just ignored it and enjoyed my video. But then it happened again, and again, and again. 30 seconds, then a minute, and my wasted time just compounds from there. 

In theory, it should work great, expose audiences repeatedly to maintain top of mind, enhance your brand image and message, then get them to perform whatever your desired action is. Unfortunately, reality isn’t the bed of roses the marketing team on this campaign has made it out to be. It’s obvious from the comments that there are negative reactions to the ad and in turn the brand. What the ad does a better job of is to associate negative feelings and emotions to the brand through conditioning rather than actually selling the product. 

Adds no value

Sacrificing 30 seconds every time the ad appears and gaining nothing but a greater hatred for the product is a horrible feeling. The ad does nothing but list off product features and show off a celebrity figure doing some tricks with a ball. It’s hardly inspiring and adds absolutely no value at all to the audience. In contrast, the digital campaign they ran two years ago provides some hair care tips which is at the very least educational.

It’s unskippable

skip ad

While some ads on YouTube allow you to skip them after 5 seconds, this one does not. A grave mistake, especially if you intend for your ad to be viewed multiple times and offer no real value whatsoever. Allowing your audiences to skip your ad helps you filter out folks who aren’t interested in your product. It also shows some form of consideration for your audience. No one wants to be sold something before watching a corgi trying to jump over a gate, no one.

Giving someone the option to dismiss your ad entirely is a better option than giving someone 30 seconds to fester hatred towards your brand.

Treating YouTube like TV


This is a big one. One of the reasons why we see so many bad pre-roll ads is because of a misunderstanding of how people view videos and react to advertising on YouTube. We’re quick to assume habits would be similar to TV.  After all, YouTube is just TV on the internet or on your phone right?

But the fact is the way we interact with content and the way it’s structured on YouTube are different. When a TV ad comes on, you can switch channels, get a glass of water or spend a minute doing something else. On YouTube, ads last for 30 seconds or a minute. While switching tabs is an option, there’s not much you can do within that time to accomplish anything. Things are even worse on mobile when you can’t switch tabs as easily.

Part of the reason why the same ads are run frequently on TV is so you don’t miss them. That’s not a very big concern when it comes to YouTube. More often than not, audiences are forced to sit through it to get to the content they actually want.


These problems aren’t necessarily new or unique to Clear Men. Plenty of big brands struggle with these issues as well. But there are some solutions we can implement:

Allow skippable ads, but focus on the first 5 seconds

Rule number 1, respect your audience, allow them to skip your ads. Unskippable ads are a great way to tell your audiences what products NOT to buy. Chances are, if they’ve seen it once, they’ve seen enough.

The next thing you’ll want to do is to focus your efforts in creating strong and compelling visual within the first 5 seconds of your ad. Give people a reason to actually pay attention to what you’re saying. Way too many brands are just using what works on TV, thinking it’ll be the same thing on YouTube. Dedicate resources to creating ads dedicated to the platforms and watch your view completion rate go up.  Here are some great ideas on how to do just that!

Create content that attracts people

A stunning 95% of audiences skip YouTube pre-rolls when given the option. It’s something the market is clearly fighting against, and brands need to start looking at other ways to engage consumers instead of fighting against the tide.

Here’s an idea, why not skip the whole pre-roll thing? Instead, focus on creating content that attracts viewers to you! People hate being sold to, but love to be entertained or taught something new. Instead of coming up with a pre-roll about a seaside resort in Bali, how about a video showcasing the best of what Bali has to offer all within 5km of your resort? That’s valuable information your potential audiences would love to know, and a great way to build your brand and trust with your audiences.