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How can Google break the ad-free culture on YouTube?

Will people disappear the minute Google puts pre-roll ads on YouTube?

These are depressing times.

The stock market is drifting towards Antarctica, the President of France's wife is singing about him being her 'orgy' and Google is, apparently, thinking of putting pre-roll ads on YouTube.

It's not easy for a company that sees itself as a modern purist to admit that it is considering moldy-worldy strategies.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that Google can only sell advertising around video that is not of questionable legal provenance.

And then there's the other little problem. Real people.

The minute they see a video of an angry woman whose husband is treating her badly introduced by a cuddly bear selling toilet roll, will they give YouTube the bum's rush and decamp to sites unknown?

To some extent, this situation mirrors that in American movie theaters.

In countries such as the UK, people used to go to the pictures, as they so quaintly call it, early just to see the adverts.

I know that must sound strange.

Daniel Morrison

But the cinema companies were very clever in encouraging agencies to create ads for movie theaters that the TV authorities wouldn't accept.

You know, ads with scenes of social disharmony and jokes about nipples.

Strangely, in the US, the nation that has created a whole new plane for commerce, ads in movie theaters are still something of a surprise.

Even in the last couple of years, I have heard US movie audiences hiss the very presence of ads, as if by clutching their popcorn and putting their feet up on the seat in front, they have suddenly become a VIP audience at the Cannes Film Festival.

So Google has to find a way to be innovative in their introduction of pre-roll.

In the movies, for example, you now see special pre-preview programming which incorporates some advertising.

But with YouTube, Google has the issue of a dedicated following whose attention-span rivals that of a hamster having a nervous breakdown.

Talk of pre-roll being their only choice reflects the fact that perhaps 95% of all online video advertising is actually pre-roll.

Those sites that incorporated it early have the benefit of advertising already being part of their culture. is a good example, a site that claims to do 400 million page views a month. Its video clips seem to have been ambushed by a very beige Brad Paisley ad for Hersheys for at least the last month. Yet viewers seem to accept it as they do any TV ad.

Google, on the other hand, in the search for something a little more clever, a little more Google, has slipped into cultural quicksand.

It will find it very hard to expect its devotees to watch an ad before every video. (tmz offers a series of videos daily. You only have to watch one ad. And the one I just looked at was for Herbal Essences, which promised to treat my non-existent hair to a luscious fragrance.)

Perhaps the company can offer points for every ad watched?

When you have accumulated, say, fifty thousand, you could get a prize. Maybe free child care for a year or something?

Just a thought.