I am not a conventional TV watcher. Since I discovered Roku and Apple TV, I have spent a lot of time watching programming on YouTube on my TV. Many don’t realize what a wealth of great movies and TV shows are available there. It’s a cornucopia.
So the other night, I decide I’m going to watch an “Avengers” episode on YouTube on my 42-inch Panasonic. I’m not talking about the Marvel Comics thing; I am referring to the classic British ’60s TV show with Diana Rigg as the delicious Mrs. Peel and the unflappable Patrick Macnee as secret agent John Steed.
I fire it up, and the credits for a Linda Thorson episode comes up. I can deal with that — she was pretty good, too, as the replacement for Rigg in 1968-69. But immediately after the credits, my TV programmatically takes me to an ad. Not a normal :30 or :15 spot, but an excruciating 5:40 abomination for something called getabsafter40.com. And worse, despite the appearance of a “skip this ad” link, it was not skippable.
More than five minutes of some toned-looking, 60-something schmendrick going on and on about how he used to be a schlub and now he’s all ripped. I can’t imagine anyone I know who could have sat through it. The graphics were particularly bad, replete with flashing arrows and the number repeated ad nauseum. Moreover, it was the kind of spot that tries to convince you that you can get toned up without exercising. Or something.
I tried another “Avengers” video, this time for one of my favorites, “The Masked Avenger.” And what comes on next? A Sandals video — the resort people — also more than five minutes. And just as bad as the “get-ripped-abs” spot.
Given what I write about, I thought about this a bit. All video ads on YouTube are programmatic, so I did not see these ads at random. It is true that I am over 40, but I have never bought any even remotely similar products, and I have never gone to a Sandals resort. I weigh what I did in college. I do not need this product. And if there is a programmatic indication that I will put up with five-minute ads, I would love to know what that is.
But the key point here is not how annoying the ads were, but their length.
We queried Google about this, and heard back from spokesperson Suzanne Blackburn. “I looked into this issue — we appreciate you flagging it to us as this was a bug within the app. You should have been able to skip the ad. The team is working to address this,” she stated.
We are pleased to have discovered a Google “bug,” but since when has Google/YouTube decided that consumers are ready for commercials that are over five minutes long? I visited a commentary area on IGN.com, where someone had posted this: “What is up with YouTube and their unskippable 5 minute long ads these days?” The first commentator notes, “F*****g Hell, I just want to watch a clip that is like a minute and a half long!” Followed by many other comments, all telling the first guy to get an ad blocker.
We also see a report on geek.com on this: “Multiple reports have appeared on Twitter that even with AdBlock enabled, YouTube is now able to show video ads. It gets worse, though, because Google has apparently disabled the skip option, meaning you are forced to watch the entire ad, which can be multiple minutes long. I guess they want to encourage you to disable AdBlock so the skip option reappears.”
But I don’t have AdBlock loaded on my TV, and I couldn’t skip the ad. And why does YouTube think that forcing viewers to watch five-minute ads would lead them to forego ad blockers? Google/YouTube are so starved for ads that they have to take spots that are more than five minutes long from marginal sponsors and get more $ for making them unskippable? Google ad revenue is growing at some 60% now, billions and billions. Do they really need to do things like this? Do they want everybody to reach for an ad blocker?