Don't Demonize The Brands

 

Maybe it’s the 15 years I spent running a marketing agency.  Maybe it’s my love of brand building and advertising.  Or maybe it’s my annoyingly persistent sense of fairness.  Whatever the reason, I find myself increasingly disheartened by the prevalent and seemingly universal acceptance by video networks that it’s okay to demonize the brands that pay our bills in the name of keeping viewers happy. 

Clearly, it’s important for any video network to maintain its integrity, and create a positive, happy user experience.  People come to a network wanting to browse around a bit, find what they’re looking for, and watch their selected video.  Fine.  And they want to do it for free.  Also fine.  It’s the networks’ responsibility to provide that if they want to keep users entertained, informed and coming back frequently.  But in an apparent fear of consumer backlash, it seems more networks are adding options that allow users to bypass pre-roll ads altogether in order to get to their desired video a bit faster. 

In the grand scheme of things, people will have worse things happen to them than having to wait an additional 20 seconds for their video to begin to play. 

The need to create a positive experience for viewers has to be balanced with the responsibility to create value for the brands that support the network and spend money to reach those viewers.  Brands can’t be positioned as the enemy, and their ads can’t be presented as roadblocks if value is to be maximized or even realized at all. 

Much of the issue here is simple wording, but as we all know, words matter.  For example, when a viewer is watching an ad, and there is a countdown clock that says “You Can Skip This Ad In: XX Seconds” what does that really say?  At the best, it says that the video you're waiting for isn't really worth the wait. At worst, and far more likely, it sends a clear message that the network acknowledges the ad that's playing isn't worth watching: Sorry you have to sit through a few seconds of this über annoying ad. It's a necessary evil and we hate to inconvenience you by making you suffer through it. But don't worry, we'll let you ignore the rest of it in just a few seconds - that'll show 'em! Oh, and by the way, Mr. Advertiser, here's your invoice for the thirty million impressions you ran through us last month. Sorry for the low completion rate, but if you could pay us within 45 days, we'd appreciate it.    

The agencies and brands that partner with video networks rely on those networks to present them in the best possible light.  Networks need to rise to the challenge and find ways to promote those brands as worth a few extra seconds, and stare down the growing sense of audience impatience.  

If ad-skipping capabilities are an absolute necessity, networks should seek to create a better mechanism that doesn’t cast marketers as the villain. Replacing the standard skip button with a picture of the advertiser's logo would at least create a bit of interaction between viewer and brand. Even a simple phrase change from “skip this ad” to something like “This commercial's great, but I can't wait to watch my video!” might seem a little cheesy, but it doesn’t downplay the importance of the marketer.

BlurbIQ has an interesting solution, in which viewers who want to skip an ad are asked to type a specific word (like the brand’s name).  In fact, that little bit of interaction -- typing the brand name -- might be more powerful than watching a full ad, and lets everyone benefit. 

On the flip side, marketers need to meet audiences halfway, and create ads that are more accepted.  As a recent survey by Poll Position showed, the majority of viewers believe that 15-second spots are the appropriate length to showcase before a video.  Creating more of these spots will keep viewers watching, and take the pressure off networks to find ways of allowing viewers to bypass the ads altogether. 

Whatever the solution, networks need to respect the brands that generate the revenue as much as they respect (fear, cater to, bend over backward for) the audiences.  Brands allocate their marketing dollars to those media vehicles that can produce the best results. But the recent increase in ad dollars spent on online video networks will be short-lived if those networks demonize the brands and ultimately fail to provide value. 

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4 comments about "Don't Demonize The Brands".
  1. Brad Parsons from Sticky Consulting , April 17, 2012 at 4:04 p.m.
    While I agree with the general message of this article, I think the marketer needs to meet the audience at more than halfway with ads that are accepted. If the marketer has only 5 seconds before the viewer decides whether or not to watch the video ad, then that's the challenge online video advertising presents. Some video networks do not charge the video advertiser if the video ad is abandoned part-way through. In this situation, the skippable ad is actually valuable to the advertiser, as you're not paying for ad impressions being delivered to uninterested viewers who don't take the time to watch your entire ad. Only paying for completed video ad views is an excellent form of qualifying your audience before spending ad dollars to reach them.
  2. Mike Mcgrath from RealXstream PTY LTD , April 17, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.
    "This video brought to you by brand X" needs to mean more than "this random ad has been slapped in front of your content by an algorithm so that we the network can pay our bills and our advertisers can grab your attention". Producers want to create content, networks want to share content, consumers want access to content and advertisers want to fund that process in exchange for the opportunity to sell their products. Everyone in the relationship is participating in a value exchange and no one (advertiser OR consumer) can abuse this for to long before that relationship breaks down. New disruptive media / technology companies can grow their user base by offering content for free (paid for by deep pockets of VCs or other) for a finite period of time, but the downside is that this establishes a false expectations on the part of the consumer of getting "something for nothing". Basic economics tells us that this cant last. At the end of the day a new business model needs is required. Ideally one that facilitates a more meaningful exchange between the 4 parties. Consumer, producer, network and advertiser. Don't just disrupt, improve....
  3. Jay Miletsky from MyPod Studios , April 18, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.
    I think you're both right - marketers need to do their part, and provide ads that will be more relevant to the viewers. Marketers, unfortunately, don't always hold online advertising with the same degree of importance as they do more traditional TV advertising, even as they spend more on placements, and in the end wind up losing significant value in the process. But while marketers need to play their part, I believe the networks need to remember that if their viewers are their audience, then the advertisers are their clients. And although I don't subscribe to the adage that the "client is always right," I do believe that it's important to not downcast the people who pay the bills.
  4. Len Bowcott from PlutoCrazy , April 24, 2012 at 11:10 p.m.
    Unfortunately, how best to satisfy advertisers and users is a trade off video channels are going to have to come to terms with, but so are their users. There isn't anyone able to get online that thinks content is free, no matter how much they would like it to be. Maybe they don't have to pay directly, but someone does and that someone is advertisers. I find television far more annoying, those rare times I watch it, with the 5 minutes of commercials ever 10 minutes at best. The few seconds an ad displays at the beginning of a video I want to watch is a small price to pay. But, given the opportunity to skip it after 5 seconds I do. And there lies the solution actually... if an advertiser has 5 seconds, get the message across in the time allotted. No "skip this ad" message, just a short, hard hitting, to the point message would be my solution. The initial reaction of advertisers will be that they can't get their message across in such a short time span. They can. It just takes creativity, and the reality is that's all the time they have. One of the most watched videos on YouTube is of a kitten raising it's paws like it's shocked or scared. The entire video is only 23 seconds long and has millions of views, many from people watching it over and over again. Consider the brand imprinting from a few second commercial that's so creative, captivating, or interesting it's watched over and over again.