What is the ideal online video ad experience?

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Ad blocking, at its core is a reaction against negative advertising experiences. As the debate around its use continues to rage across the industry, Brightcove recently conducted research to examine consumers’ evolving relationship with online video advertising, asking 4,000 viewers across the UK, France and Germany about their experiences, feelings and preferences.

One of the major findings of the report was that a huge 92% of consumers identified at least one improvement that could be made to today’s online video advertising experience – from the quality of the ad itself through to its frequency and relevance.

So how can publishers go about solving the riddle of ‘the perfect online video ad’ in order to fight back against ad blockers? And what would the end-result of these improvements look like?

As part of our research, we delivered a range of video advertising scenarios to consumers – varying from the length and number of ads, to the device and social platform they are viewed on – and asked them to provide feedback on their preferences.

Optimal length and frequency varies

Two thirds of consumers stated that the length of the content they want to view effects whether they are willing to watch an ad in order to get it – with tolerances differing depending on the content type.

They are more willing, for example, to watch an ad in front of a movie (48%), or TV episode (46%) than a video from a vlogger or social media star (11%).

In terms of duration, around three-quarters of respondents felt that any online video ad shown on a smartphone or tablet should be no longer than 30 seconds – interestingly, this figure rose slightly to 45 seconds if the viewing is taking place on a smart TV or laptop.

However,  getting your ad length correct is counterproductive if you then show it too frequently.

Here, perhaps optimistically, while over half (53%) of the surveyed consumers said that they would be willing to watch two or more ads during a 30 minute episode of a show on a smart TV, six in ten (60%) said that the maximum number for viewing on a smartphone would be one.

Social platforms also play a part

Linked perhaps to the length of the source content, respondents named YouTube as the social media platform that they would be most willing to watch an ad in front of (63%), while Pinterest (42%) and Snapchat (16%) are the platforms on which they are the least willing to do so.

Of those who use at least one of the main social media platforms we listed, almost two in five (37%) believe that online video ads on Snapchat should not exceed 10 seconds, with only 28% saying the same for YouTube and 26% for Twitter.

Meanwhile few respondents reportedly believe that online video ads should exceed 30 seconds on Pinterest (28%) and Instagram (25%).

The importance of interactivity

Consumers also fed back that they are more likely to tolerate ads if they are interactive. In fact, nearly 58% felt this way, with this number rising to 70% amongst 18-24 year olds. 

One fifth of those who have downloaded an ad-blocker also pointed to ads’ lack of interactivity as a reason for doing so.

The bigger picture

While the majority of the responses in our research erred on the low side, both in terms of the length and number of ads consumers would be willing to tolerate per device or platform – and are likely unachievable from a revenue perspective – they should at least be a starting point for publishers.

In order to ensure consumers continue to accept the ad-supported content model, publishers will need to strike a deal with their audiences – to balance their ideal with something that is more realistic commercially.

After all, one in two consumers also told us that they weren’t willing to pay for any form of online video content.

Changing up the approach

The good news is that we’re already seeing movement in the way in which publishers approach the online ad experience.

One such example is the increasing number of publishers turning to programmatic video advertising – a method of advertising which has proven efficacy at targeting the right message to the right consumer.

Not only does this address the issue of irrelevancy, but, unlike the techniques of old where ads were bought in bulk and shared in large untargeted volume, programmatic ads are targeted much more narrowly (i.e. by age, gender, geography, interest and behaviour).

Similarly, the evolution of the HTML5 VPAID 2.0 standards has been a clear response by the industry to the need for more interactivity.

Launched by the IAB, the relatively new video format establishes a common interface between video players and ad units, and - unlike its predecessor Flash - allows great cross-platform interactive ad experiences.

If publishers are able to continue taking steps like these to get the balance right, then with video consumption showing no sign of slowing (58% of consumers admitting that the amount of online video content they watch across their devices has increased in the last twelve months), the future opportunity could be massive.

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