Commentary

Waste-Free Ad Spending: Hitbliss' Dramatic New Business Model

I’ve long held that the barrier to T/V (Television/Video) advertisers getting ads seen is not consumer ad avoidance, but rather interruption avoidance.

HitBliss, a new service in private beta trial right now, has addressed this problem by giving the media consumer a way to avoid interruption but not advertising (a la iTunes) or watching ads of their choice in a time of their choosing.

Co-founder Sharon Peyer spoke at MediaPost’s recent Video Insider Summi, and I asked her about HitBliss' challenges, successes and lessons in the first two months. Here’s what I learned:

Why is HitBliss necessary?

Current digital models don’t address the reality that

1) Viewers don’t want intrusive, interruptive ads

2) Publishers aren’t making enough on the ads that run

HitBliss proves that consumer content has value by inviting the viewer to share in the cost through verified attention to ads or by paying cash. It produces a quid-pro-quo exchange for content. In earning money that can be used to purchase content by viewing ads, viewers must click on “prompts” as they play to insure they are really watching. Advertising waste is eliminated, and consumers no longer need to be bombarded with ads that will never be seen and subsequently trained to avoid ad interruptions at all costs.

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Biggest challenge?

This concept doesn’t fit into current channels of ad buying. There is an educational effort needed for buyers to understand the benefits of unbundling content from advertising and asking the consumer to willingly participate in paying for content with their attention or money. HitBliss’ buying console allows advertisers/agencies to place auction-based, audience-targeted buys  -- much like search, but unusual for T/V.

What will HitBliss be down the road?

A payment platform that does not just deliver ads, but gathers real money to pay for a variety of content in two ways:

1) Advertisers paying to reach defined audiences with little/no waste

 2) Viewers paying cash if they don’t want advertising

While premium T/V and movies are the “beachhead” content for now, in the future HitBliss can be used by any company that wants to monetize content: gaming sites, text-based articles behind pay-walls, music sites, subscription media platforms and even VOD for cable and satellite systems.

What has HitBliss learned so far?

Consumers respond favorably to the idea that they have control over their ad experience and their privacy settings. Third-party research for one campaign showed 85% of surveyed viewers found the experience a positive one. Attentiveness measures are 4x non-HitBliss models. Comments from users included a statement that this model wasn’t advertising, because it helped make the browser experience more productive. (I guess advertising is seen by that respondent as nonproductive). Ad completion rates are far higher than pre-roll.

Closing thoughts

I really like this approach. It does two things that fix the current paradigm of ad-supported T/V which I see as a broken cat-and-mouse game where disengaged eyeballs are chased by way-too-many interruptive messages.

1)    It separates content from ad support. Who says that ad viewing needs to be adjacent to content? That was necessary when program demographics were a surrogate for ad viewing targets.  Now with behavioral and addressable targeting technology available, why not let self-identified viewers earn their uninterrupted T/V viewing by choice when and where it is most convenient for them?

2)    It provides never-before-seen levels of transparency for all parties. Consumers have control over which ads they see when and where, and what information can be used for advertiser targeting. This is presented in an easy-to-manage way (unlike Facebook, where privacy confusion is a pathway to “retention”).  Advertisers know which ads are requested and completed, paying only for tracked and reported engagement (the ads pause when volume is too low, when prompts aren’t responded to and when other documents are opened over the HitBliss page).

Fresh new thinking like HitBliss is inspiring, and provides hope that better ad-supported T/V models will arrive in the not-too-distant future.

3 comments about "Waste-Free Ad Spending: Hitbliss' Dramatic New Business Model ".
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  1. Michael Strassman from WGBH, June 13, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.

    This is interesting, but I've got major reservations. The verification mechanism seems a major pain in the ass, with pop-up questions and prompts and all...are there really that many consumers willing to watch ads instead of ponying up a few bucks, especially given how annoying the verification 'seems' from what I've read. Numbers is the other thing...the size of audience needed to make this a hit is huge, even if we accept the added value of really engaged watchers. I'd like to see this work, but I'm skeptical.

  2. Basil Dixon from HitBliss, July 19, 2013 at 12:03 p.m.

    To answer Michael’s reservations, we’ve found that the vast majority of HitBliss users actually enjoy the gamification we deploy to verify and assure attention. We’re running at a 25-1 approval rating, and because our audience controls which brands they engage with, as well as when and where they do so we’ve removed the “unwanted interruption” of more traditional models. Our users want to engage with advertisers. When ads you have not chosen are forced upon you at a time and in a place that is not of your choosing and someone is trying to force you to pay attention, that’s when you have the “annoying verification” scenario that Michael describes. HitBliss Earn is the opposite of annoying. It’s gratifying and empowering because it does not require users to watch ads or do anything else they don’t feel like doing. If they don’t want to engage, they don’t have to. As far as scale is concerned, we’re still in private beta, but if you look at audience estimates available from third party sources you can see the dramatic growth that we’re enjoying!

  3. Robert Martin from Add any news topic, May 3, 2014 at 9:26 p.m.

    Renting a new rekease reduced my Hitbliss balance by $4.99. To recoup my original max balance [$6.00], I watched ads from 5:54 pm to 6:07 pm -- earning $4.99 in 13 minutes.

    That's a payrate of just under $23 per hour.
    I don't know how Hitbliss makes a profit, but I guess it must work on paper!

    Yes confirming attention through the popups is annoying, but for many Americans the pay is better than their day-job.

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