Cannes Lions

Search-Synced Pre-Roll


Case Film
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Our goal was to change typical user behavior on YouTube, which usually involves watching a pre-roll ad for the mandatory five seconds, then hitting the “Skip” button as fast as humanly possible. To entice users to stick around and listen to what we had to say, we created search-specific pre-roll ads that were tailor-made for the videos they’re about to watch. When they searched for cat videos, they got an ad with cats frolicking around a GMC Yukon’s premium interior. Baby lovers got to watch adorable infants sleeping peacefully in the supremely quiet GMC Acadia. In total, we created nine pre-roll ads made specifically for the nine search terms our audience searched for most: wildlife, cooking, comedy, martial arts, workouts, puppies, music, and, of course, cats and babies. Instead of the typical, very skip-able pre-roll experience, users got to enjoy entertaining content that actually aligned with their interests, and learn about the latest and greatest from GMC in the process.


Our S&A team pinpointed the YouTube search terms our audience searched for most by gathering viewing data on viewers ages 25-54 who are interested in a premium truck. Once we had our list of most popular search terms, the creative team found entertaining ways to bring each term to life in a way that demonstrated a specific vehicle feature and captured our target’s attention before the “Skip” button appeared. Once the campaign was live, we assessed the campaign’s performance and user engagement through number of video views and video completes. A Google survey was also conducted to gain additional insights into attitudinal performance.


The success of our search-specific pre-roll was grounded in listening to the data and aligning with consumer interests. Instead of casting a wide net and hoping our message would resonate with a few viewers, our targeted data-driven approach allowed us to pinpoint the type of content our audience loves and tailor a GMC message to capture their attention quickly and effectively. In short, we matched the right people to the right content. And in doing so, we were able to overcome typical user behavior on YouTube. Instead of anxiously waiting for the “Skip” button to appear, users were drawn to pre-roll content similar to the video they just searched for and stuck around to hear what we had to say.

The result was 3.7 million impressions in the first 10 days, a 20% video completion, 60% better performance than the previous GMC benchmark, and sales of GMC vehicles are even up X% since the start of the campaign. We got more eyeballs and engagement with our work, GMC got improved sales and more interest in their vehicles, and users got engaging pre-roll that felt like it was made just for them. Everyone’s happy.

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