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Paying people to watch ads? Yes, it really is working. 90% ARE watching

April 13, 2013 | 6 min read

Paying people to watch ads! That's the concept Sharon Peyer and husband Andrew Prihodko introduced in Massachusetts last month with the video streaming service HitBliss. Customers watch targeted advertisements - and get cash credits to rent top movies like Argo . HitBliss tracks screen activity to ensure the ads are being watched . And it's working ! In the last four weeks audiences have increased by over 350%, and video completion rates for advertisers are in the 90% range. Here Sharon blogs for the Drum on this amazing "disruptive model"...

Sharon: Stop interrupting

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By Sharon Peyer

Didn’t your mother tell you it’s rude to interrupt? Put the consumer in control and they’ll engage with your brand. Just don’t interrupt them. It’s rude.

For decades media buyers have been crossing their fingers and hoping that “opportunities to see” or “impressions” would somehow miraculously translate into “engagement” for their clients’ brands.

The fundamental problem with this model, however, is that many people don’t actually want their content interrupted with advertising (You’ve only got to look at the message boards of some advertising supported VOD providers to understand how people feel about this).

After skipping, ignoring or just plain not being interested, consumers are avoiding ad messages in droves. This is negatively affecting marketing ROI. Even with advances in analytics, we’re still not that much further along from when John Wannamaker (or Lord Leverhulme for our UK audience) stated “I know that 50% of my advertising is wasted . . . I just don’t know which 50%,"

This ratio was supported by a TV advertiser study done by Deutsche Bank back in 2004 which showed that only 45% of the brands they analyzed showed any long term ROI. Today a significant portion of media spending is still an expense, not an investment.

Having said this, consumers do actually rather like advertising. McCann’s recent “Truth About Advertising” study in the US showed that 67% of respondents “feel positive” about the ads they see and 39% go so far as to actually say they “love advertising”. The problem is not with advertising itself . . . it’s with how we’ve been delivering it.

We’ve been abusing people. As advertisers, we’re somewhat arrogantly interrupting consumers, expecting them to engage with us on our schedule, regardless of how absorbed they may be in the movie they are watching, the article they started reading or the games they are playing. I

t’s no wonder that according to a study by Weinman Schnee Morais in New York proven recall scores are averaging only a shade over 20%. To quote Microsoft’s VP of Europe from a recent Drum article “We are training consumers as an industry to avoid ads”

Somewhat surprisingly we’ve not only known this problem but more importantly, we’ve feared the solution for a long time.

When was the first time you heard “The consumer is in control?”10 years ago? 15? Well guess what. They are in control. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a glaring message to advertisers that their “old way” of doing things isn’t working. The advertising industry just needs to accept this and run with it by giving consumers control over the advertising messages they receive and choice over when, where and how they consume those messages.

That’s what we have done at HitBliss.

At HitBliss, consumers can watch movies online, commercial free, as early as the day they are released on DVD and purchase TV episodes one day after they air.

HitBliss users can now stream some of the latest content because they pay for it with real money separately earned when they chose to engage with brand videos, games, or polls in HitBliss Earn, our advertising platform.

In HitBliss Earn, the consumer is totally in control of her ad consumption experience. She decides when, where and how to engage with a message. And guess what? She’s paying attention! (HitBliss is not yet available outside of the US).

The keys to the HitBliss Earn model are consumer choice and transparency. The consumer must opt-in to receive targeted messages and is never forced to watch a single ad. Instead, they can select which brands to engage with, and when.

Consumers are smart. They “get” the fact that they are trading their time and attention for discretionary spending power. . (Our positive/negative feedback ratio is 25/1).

In fact, our US consumers understand that the more personal data they include in their private profiles, the more likely they are to receive valuable messages that will decrease their earning time leaving them more time to spend watching their favorite new movies and TV shows. (Over ¾ of HitBliss consumers have so far opted in to allow targeting by browser and search history).

For folks concerned about privacy, all personal identification data is stored only within the HitBliss Earn App on their devices under their control. It never leaves their device or their control.

Advertisers in HitBliss Earn don’t purchase impressions, rating points or someone else’s audience. We have no inventory spots or slots or placements. We have no proxies for audience. Our advertisers are buying attentive engagement among their own targeted audiences.

Which is really what they wanted all along. They just had to stop fearing the consumer in control and stop interrupting.

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