A few months ago I wrote a post in which I argued that 30-second and 60-second video ads, especially when they cannot be skipped, are a terrible idea because they are considered the most annoying ad format, and because I don’t believe you need that much time to get your point across. This should be of great concern to publishers, because ad annoyance causes readers to leave and to be annoyed with the publication, not with the brand.
In the article, I mentioned my experience in Europe with five-second TV ads, which are extremely common during soccer matches, where a 30-second ad in the middle of the game would cause national riots to erupt. My conclusion was that publishers should push for shorter or skippable video ads.
Since that time, three things have happened that give me hope that I am not alone in my views. First, Cadreon (in collaboration with IPG Media Lab and Integral Ad Science) released a study about viewability.
Among other things, they found that in some cases video ads that are in full view for more than four seconds are as effective as those in view for seven seconds, and that video ad recall after four-to-seven seconds of exposure is nearly three times as high as for one-sec exposure.
Second, a recent article in USA Today described a new TV campaign by Pepsi that uses five-second video spots. That article cited several reasons for the choice, but I found one quote particularly telling: the author cites Chad Stubbs, Pepsi's vice president of marketing, pointing out that 15 or 30 seconds worth of pre-roll ads “kind of irritates even us. We already know consumers can take short-form entertainment. That’s where the entertainment journey is headed.”
The third thing that has happened since my article ran, is that I have been directly involved with a study on ad annoyance. I will write about those results in a separate post, but the punch line is that we have found that more intrusive ad formats appear to generate more attention, but in fact generate a strong negative emotional reaction without actually engaging the viewer’s attention at the cognitive level.
There is a related finding, albeit less recent, also worth considering: YouTube and Google have long been promoting TrueView ads, with increasing data suggesting that this ad format (which allows users to skip the ad after five seconds) is substantially more effective than non-skippable video ads.
Taken together, I see Pepsi’s move as the harbinger of major changes in video advertising.
With the relationships between advertisers, publishers and readers at all-time lows, and the proliferation of ad blocking, it is only a matter of time before advertisers will come to their senses and turn five-second video ads into an industry standard. This is particularly likely to happen online, where the duration of the video ad is not built into the ad trafficking system, as it is for TV. And publishers should be at the forefront of this wave of change, because it is in their best interest.
In fact, I am so excited about these recent events that I will go out on a limb and make a “5x5=25” prediction: within five years, 5-sec video ads will make up 25% of all online video ads. For TV I am slightly less optimistic. Perhaps the prediction should be “5+5=10.”
Of course, even if I am right about this, there are some lingering questions. Will advertisers pay more attention to consumer behavior and annoyance? Will visionary companies conduct more studies to systematically test the effectiveness of ad formats and duration? Will publishers be able to steer the industry toward less annoyance, thereby improving their relationship with readers?
Only time will tell.