Preroll PSA Ads Ask Viewers Not to Skip Over Homeless People

The campaign makes clever use of YouTube's 'Skip Ad' button

Screenshot of Theo Germaine in PSA ad
The ads star actor and trans activist Theo Germaine. Deutsch LA

A new PSA campaign is taking advantage of YouTube’s “Skip Ad” button to simulate how people ignore the plight of homelessness.

The pro bono series of preroll ads, created through a partnership between Deutsch LA, the United Nations and Tribeca Film Festival, star actor and trans activist Theo Germaine imploring viewers not to skip homeless people at the point at which the button appears on the screen, then going on to describe the problem in more detail. Each of the five short videos is timed to match the different lengths YouTube offers for preroll advertising.

“Wait, hang on—don’t skip me,” Germaine says around five seconds into one of the ads. “Thanks for staying.”

The campaign, called “Unskippable Humans,” was commissioned in accordance with one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which define the key pillars of the organization’s broad mission for 2030—in this case reducing global poverty. Google and the UN recently teamed up to tap eight creative agencies and eight filmmakers to create campaigns based on this type of video ad sequencing that would promote various of these goals.

“We chose to tackle the UN’s first sustainable development goal, poverty, through the lens of homelessness in Los Angeles,” said Ivan Perez-Armendariz, evp, head of experience, Deutsch Los Angeles. “We started by asking ourselves, ‘Is it is it OK to skip homeless people in real life the same way we skip ads online?’ The result is a tech-driven story powered by YouTube’s ad sequencing technology, featuring a thoughtful twist of ad conventions and a call to action that inspires people to bring change to bear.”

It’s not the first time that advertisers have made clever use of this particular YouTube feature. Geico famously ran a preroll campaign called “Unskippable” in 2015 in which subjects attempted to hold still after the button appeared, then riffed on the concept further in subsequent years. And Vimeo ran a YouTube campaign called “Interrupted,” which skewered the whole notion of preroll ads in an attempt to get viewers to switch to its ad-free platform.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.