The Future Of Video Ads Starts Today!

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.

15 comments about "The Future Of Video Ads Starts Today!".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 10:04 a.m.

    Paolo, I tend to agree that much shorter commercials are probably mandated for many digital venues and, especially, for mobile. In your commentary you noted a Pepsi "campaign" that utilized five-second spots in Pepsi's opinion, very effectively. Again, that may be true, however such short length messages were probably reminding audiences of much longer ads they had seen for Pepsi on TV, which means that their primary function was to reinforce the impact of the longer messages in the much broader ad campaign.

    My point is this. If three or five seconds becomes the accepted length for "effective" video commercials in digital then digital video can not be the primary communications platform for many branding advertisers but merely a useful secondary option to reinforce the total effort's impact and/or to help sustain it during hiatus intervals.

  2. Daniel Wheeler from Republican American, April 27, 2016 at 11:54 a.m.

    Gieco has been doing 5 second ads on YouTube for a while now.

  3. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., April 27, 2016 at noon

    @Ed - the Pepsi spots are on TV. "Video" is not monolithic: some things can be catpured quickly, others require more time. I would argue that ads should be like nibbles, and those who like them can go to the brand site to get longer-form video. Trying to stuff 30 seconds of "information" down the throat of unwilling audience makes zero sense in my opinion.

    Think about what Twitter did to communications: you don't need more than 140 characters to make your point. In fact, it's a great exercise in brevity. Vine is a similar idea, why not apply that to ads?

  4. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc. replied, April 27, 2016 at 12:01 p.m.

    @Dan, thank you for the pointer. Yes, GEICO is considered a leader with short-form ads, hoping to see a lot more in the future!

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 12:35 p.m.

    Paolo, Pepsi's message is nothing more than Pepsi is good---or cool---or something like that. Most brands have a lot more than that to say and they need the time to say it.

  6. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc. replied, April 27, 2016 at 12:39 p.m.

    @Ed - there is a fundamental disparity between what brands want to say and what people who are doing something else and get interrupted by these brands want to hear. As I have said in the previous post cited here: long video ads are lazy and disrespectful. It should NOT be the publisher's role to force its readers to pay attention to what the brands *want* to say.

    Until brands start to understand this, expect continued discontent an growing popularity of ad blockers.

  7. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., April 27, 2016 at 12:41 p.m.

    Addendum - I just read an incredibly relevant piece on MediaPost by Tobi Elkin, titled "GroupM Report Suggests It Might Be Time To Ditch The Zero In 30-Second Ads." Apparently even GroupM is telling advertisers they should learn to express themselves in a very short video format.

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 1:15 p.m.

    Those who believe that viewers can dictate the amount of time that an advertiser needs to tell a story are in for a big surprise. I also will be interested to see if any large ad agency switches a significant percentage of its TV ads to the five-second length. Somehow, I doubt that this will happen.

    This discussion reminds me of what some were predicting when 15-second message lengths were heralded as a major cost saving option on TV, roughly 20- 25 years ago. Then there was the same kind of speculation, to the effect that this was only the beginning. Soon, we were told, TV's "standard" unit would be the 5-second spot. Of course, it never happened. In fact, once advertisers found that they couldn't tell their full story in 15 seconds, many continued to use "30s" as their basic platform, augmenting it with "15s" which were used, mainly, to reinforce the effects of the "30s"---or to compliment them.

    I am sure that one can find exceptions ---mainly for brands with almost nothing to say---- but being realistic, a few seconds of time is not going to cut it for most TV ad campaigns. Moreover, I doubt that traditional TV sellers will accomodate 5-second ad units at one sixth the cost of "30s". But even if they did, imagine the effect of substituting 5-second ads for "15s" or "30s". Do that and you are  increasing the number of distinct ad messages per break by at least 25-35%. Is that going to improve the average ad's impact. Not likely.

    It may be perfectly sensible to use very short commercials for digital, so as not to disturb or bore viewers. But translating this idea to all of television advertising isn't going to work...except occasionally.

  9. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, April 27, 2016 at 1:17 p.m.

    Yet, shortly after Facebook acquired Instagram, they started to support 15 second video clips, then 30 and now 60 seconds - all of which the traditional agencies live on for linear TV. So isn't their purpose to attract ad buys that are adaptations of TV commercials, ro make ir an easier buy decision for the agencies and brands?

  10. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC, April 27, 2016 at 1:23 p.m.

    A video ad is best used as a tease, a scent of a delightful experience.  The best result is viewer curiousity and desire to know more about the brand.

    Interrupting user life to deliver a long (30 seconds is interminable) narrative is offensive, an unrequested intrusion.

  11. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 1:26 p.m.

    Henry, you may be right. All I'm saying in my debate with Paolo is that this is not going to be the norm for "TV". And let's remember that 90-95% of branding advertiser "video" ad dollars are going to "linear TV" not digital. Frankly, I don't see this situation changing  significantly in the next few years, if ever---again, I'm talking about TV-style branding advertisers, not other types of marketers.

  12. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., April 27, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    @Ed: I should point out that I made it clear my prediction is much more optimistic for online than TV. But I think you are overlooking the dramatic difference between TV 20-25 years ago and today. And the point I am making is NOT that brands should be able to "tell their full story" in 5 seconds. Rather, they should work to find a way to entice readers to learn more (thank you @Randall for your comment!).

    Ask yourself the following questions:
    * If in fact a brand needs 30 seconds to tell a story, is it appropriate/effective/intelligent to stuff 30 seconds of content down the throats of any reader who is trying to do something else?
    * How many 30-sec spots have you seen where you thought "wow, that was really useful, and I would have lost a lot of it had been shorter"?
    * How many 30-sec spots have you seen where you thought "wow, 90% of that ad was totally irrelevant to the brand"?
    * Why is it that Google, the clear industry leader, is promoting TruView ads and showing that they perform better?
    * Why are so many people installing ad blockers?

    What is it going to take for advertisers and publishers to realize that the way they are peddling ads online is just wrong and insensible???

  13. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 1:44 p.m.

    Randall, I sort of agree with you. However at some point the consumer needs to be told more about the product or service, isn't that right? If the idea is that one uses 5-second digital commercials to tease the consumer into rushing to the advsertiser's website---assuming that the viewer even remembers which advertiser's ad was seen---- then most ad campaigns will fall dismally short as most viewers won't bother. We have to remember that audiences expect commercial breaks in traditonal TV and that program conetnt is designed to accomodate these breaks so they do not interrupt scenes or sequential content segments. Consequently, the annoyance factor is mainly about ad clutter. And yes, there is a certain amount of ad avoidance on TV but it's far from universal. In fact a typical "linear TV" viewer sees about 55-60% of the commercials that appear on his/her screen and this estimate is amply supported by hosts of ad recall studies.

    So, once again, I conclude that if digital viewers can't tolerate commercials of, say 15-seconds--- but can only be "reached" by 5-second units--then digital media can not expect to lure anything like the ad revenues that are hoped for from TV branding advertisers. Yes, digital's short, short ads may tease  and remind  the viewer that the brand has something to say, but longer ads are needed to make the sale.

  14. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 27, 2016 at 1:58 p.m.

    Paolo, I have thought about some of the implications but give this some consideration. An average consumer uses barely 30% of the products and services that are advertised, so naturally many of the ads in any medium are not of great interest. Also, many ads are just plain stupid or are making irrelevant claims. That's nothing new nor is it likely to change.

    As regards ad length, I appreciate that you are thinking mainly about digital. Indeed, I would think totally about digital, regarding this particular subject. I have no problem with that. What I'm pointing out is that branding advertisers are going to be spending over 90% of their "video" ad dollars on "linear TV" for some time to come and if it is firmly established that the only ad length that "works" on digital is a 5-second commercial, and no steps are taken to see if longer messages can be made more acceptable---perhaps by creating "sponsorship" positions for premium video content where such breaks are tolerated---then digital video is limiting its chance to woo significant shares of TV ad dollars from "linear".

  15. Randall Tinfow from CLICK-VIDEO LLC replied, May 12, 2016 at 5:23 p.m.

    Here's a suggestion:

    Four second tease then commercial options or skip. We're doing it now and it works extremely well. The annoyance level is very low and the commercial options are selected much more frequently than you'd imagine.

    I hesitate to quote numbers now because the sample is not large enough. If the early numbers hold up this approach will inform a lot of our digital video efforts.

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