YouTube is testing out a new pre-roll ad setup across the site that looks a lot like the current Hulu offerings. The new ad displays before the video starts, where a pre-roll ad would normally begin playing and offers the viewer to pick their poison. Update below.

The ads offer the ability to view a longer ad up front or shorter ‘commercial breaks’ during the video. The longer ads we’ve seen range from 2 minutes to 30 seconds and are likely affected by the length of the video. You can check out this one (signed out) which is over thirty minutes, to see the new ad.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 12.24.02 PM

If you don’t make any choice, the video will eventually play with whatever number of ‘commercial breaks’ are calculated for the length of the clip you’re trying to watch. On the video above, those two clips appeared at the very beginning and very end of the video, like so:

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 12.24.30 PM

This pre-video choice isn’t all that new, as Hulu has been doing something like it for a while now. In an October 10th, 2011 post about Hulu’s experiments with choice-driven advertising, SVP of Advertising Jean-paul Colaco said that “users are tired of seeing ads that are not relevant to them, and are eager for more control over their ad experience.”

Hulu found that  offering ad control improved ‘unaided brand recall’ by 93%, brand favorability by 27%, purchase intent by 35%, and stated relevancy by 46%.

Google has a habit of testing features and design tweaks across its products in limited runs and then picking out the best bits. YouTube is no exception and this is likely a limited test. When contacted for comment, a YouTube spokesperson provided the standard boilerplate:

With more videos coming to YouTube every minute we’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch and share the videos that matter most to them. As always, we’ll consider rolling changes out more broadly based on feedback from these experiments.

But, if these pre-roll choice ads play well, it seems likely that we’ll see more of them in the future.

Update: Well, we were right about it being in testing, but YouTube has now informed us that it’s actually been in testing for two years as a part of its TrueView ad program. So whatever decision they’re trying to make on it yet, they apparently need more data to do so.

Top Image Credit: Jason Trim