Advertising for the New Digital Age

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”
Mae West, Actress

Too much Mae West can be wonderful.  Other things...I’m not so sure.

In advertising, as in most things, everything in moderation.  Too many ads benefit only shareholders and executives, rarely do they benefit the consumer.  Especially those viewing ads around digital video content.

At the NAB Show last week, I spoke a lot about maintaining a balance between content and advertising, branding and branded content, revenue and audience . Sponsored content that adds value to the viewing experience will almost always be accepted more than ‘buy me’ banner ads.

It’s no secret people hate pre-roll, but it’s the top money maker for digital video. The main reason is you have content people want to watch, so they tolerate pre-roll until the skip button comes up, skip the ad, then watch. Publishers countered this by forcing the viewer to watch the entire ad.  Which was subsequently countered by consumers - particularly younger viewers - blocking the ad entirely.

For a brand, the benefit of forcing pre-roll consumption is it guarantees viewability, but seriously under-delivers in engagement and positive user experiences. For a publisher, it drives revenue; because viewers are held hostage before reaching the content they really want, it is an easy product to sell

The huge flaw in the system is delivering the volume of views needs to drive enough revenue for the publisher and deliver on the inventory sold. Many publishers deliver one pre-roll ad per-viewer per-day or, at most, per video view. Either way, the value to the customer is extremely low for the amount it probably cost to acquire them. If you increase the number of ads per video view, you make a huge risk in alienating the viewer (see Hulu). There’s a great answer sitting out there…

Interactive content. Yes, ok, I’m obviously biased.  But it’s true! There are many ways to do it, but the fact is the tech is there and, depending on the tech, it’s scalable. With interactive and contextual content, you can start integrating brands without constantly disrupting the viewing experience. Best of all, you can actually deliver a great user experience as well!

As a publisher, you could deliver revenue generating pieces of content like sponsored voting, embedded twitter campaigns, behind the scenes content, and fun facts that audiences will appreciate and actually engage with. On the advertiser side, they get more impressions faster and measurable engagement that delivers ROI.

I know, it sounds like a major change. Before you go all out and change everything, here are a couple bits of advice:.

  1. Don’t turn off pre-roll as you begin to roll this out. Find a solution that plugs into your existing video experience and provides a bridge to the next era in ad sales.

  2. Look at your video catalog holistically and identify a few pieces of content that can immediately be sponsored across your entire content catalog. I.e.- a sponsored vote or branded trivia.

  3. Find a solution that can easily do these things!

The end result, everyone wins. Isn’t that the goal? Everyone involved understands the inherent quid pro quo with commercial content, but right now, it feels lazy and underwhelming. Let’s put a stop to it, and start driving a new vehicle forward.

More value for viewers = better engagement for advertisers.  That’s something we can’t have too much of.