Volvo Makes Pre-Roll Ads…Wait For It…Interesting By Matching Ads To Videos

Grey Canada and Havas came up with a campaign that matches a video’s theme to a car feature to witty effect.

It’s estimated that 6 billion hours of video is watched on YouTube every month. And with all that video comes what feels like 12 billion hours of frustrating, irrelevant pre-roll. But what if the pre-roll ad seemed to know what was about to come next? Wouldn’t that be more compelling?


While discussing how to make pre-roll more interesting, Grey Canada and media agency Havas hit upon an idea that did just that while also cleverly showing off the 60 new attributes of Volvo’s new XC60. Rather than great a single–or even a handful of–ads to run on YouTube, the creative and media agencies came up with “6 Billion Hours,” a campaign that matches a video’s theme to a car feature to witty effect.

So, for instance, someone looking for storm-chasing videos would see a pre-roll clip related to the XC60 rain-sensing wipers. Interested in footage of Vine’s most famous twerker, and the pre-roll would encourage you to stop shaking the junk in your trunk (literally) with its grocery bag holder. And if you were one of the 40-plus million to take in what it’s like to walk through NYC as a woman, you’d be met with a video that touts the XC60’s Rear Park Assist Camera with the line “See what’s creeping behind you.” Watching the increasingly unstable antics of Justin Beiber? The car’s City-Safety Auto Braking was accompanied by “Make him stop.”

Patrick Scissons, chief creative officer at Grey Canada, says the agency and Havas prepared hundreds of pre-roll concepts to topically relate to trending videos. “The approach was to look at pre-existing tagging themes on YouTube and identify car features that fit against those. But then it was to look at the data of individual trending videos and create specific and targeted messages for those that were growing from one million to 5 million to 10 million views,” says Scissons. “The campaign engagement was one month, so ultimately our goal was to create enough pre-roll content that can link to 6 billion hours of YouTube content.”

Executing the campaign was a surprisingly low tech affair, says Scissons. Teams from each agency pored over data and identified where the creative opportunities were. “A data analytics person would come to a creative person and say, ‘Hey this video is something that is growing exponentially right now and fits our target’s profile…what can we say to them about XC60?’” says Scissons. “Then it was just hyperlinking. And lots of coffee.”

In all, the campaign was so successful for Volvo that Scissons says the agency is now looking for other car nameplates within Volvo with which to replicate the concept. While the content will change for any new iteration, one thing is likely certain based on Scisson’s experience with “6 Billion Hours”: we’ll probably see more of the Biebs. “Justin Bieber was an easy target.”

About the author

Rae Ann Fera is a writer with Co.Create whose specialty is covering the media, marketing, creative advertising, digital technology and design fields. She was formerly the editor of ad industry publication Boards and has written for Huffington Post and Marketing Magazine.