Ad-supported videos give consumers access to content in a way that’s familiar to them, meeting the well-established expectations set by the television era: ads are intrinsically a part of watching content.
With the great migration of audiences from TV to online, the ad business has certainly evolved. Activity during the recent Rio Olympics attests to that: Bloomberg reported during the games that NBC’s primetime TV broadcast ratings were down 17% compared to the 2012 London games, while its online streaming audience was up 24%. Meanwhile, according to FierceCable, the network’s digital ad sales by the start of the 2016 games were up about 33% from London. The greater demand for online video is causing content providers to invest in more teams and resources dedicated to video, increasings costs while simultaneously demanding more return on investment through advertising dollars. As such, the internet is seemingly flooded with advertising across properties. Unfortunately, it’s led companies to produce, and consumers to adopt, ways to bypass ads completely, be it through skipping pre-roll videos, using digital pause functions or simply using ad-blockers.
Even as marketers refine their ability to reach out to viewers with personalised ad experiences, ad-blocking remains a grave threat to the digital advertising industry. According to a recent study by Juniper Research, ad-blockers will cost the digital publishers over US$27 billion in lost revenue by 2020. Further highlighting the gravity of the situation, a survey by Accenture found that at least 42 percent of respondents across 28 countries would be willing to pay to eliminate ad interruptions.
The digital media industry has a tough battle ahead against the ad-blocking trend. The solution might not be as simple as disabling ad-blockers, so marketers and publishers alike need to look at addressing an underlying opportunity. If publishers wish to reclaim blocked ad revenues and bypass ad-blockers, they should consider a two-pronged strategy – emulate the TV experience, and become the viewer’s personal curator.
Better TV experience
In the face of disruptive technology that is ad-blocking, publishers can take a page from television. Pre-roll ads, while one of the most commonly used video ad formats, are considered to be the most intrusive ads. Publishers need to move away from what they presume to be a “safe” advertising strategy and instead look at how they can adapt to what audiences are used to seeing.
Cue the mid-roll ads. TV viewers have long been accustomed to ads being aired during breaks in programming. This is especially so in the case of long-form content or those with natural breaks, such as sports. Running mid-roll ads during these breaks will be far less intrusive to the viewer, and thus lead to a far more seamless viewing experience.
In Live videos, publishers have the edge
In the case of live online videos, publishers have another tool at their disposal to combat ad-blocking. The introduction of Server-side Ad Insertion (SSAI) technology has made it possible to thwart ad-blockers by merging programming and advertisements into a single video stream, making the content and the ad indistinguishable from each other, thus preventing the ads from being blocked. Additionally, SSAI removes the need to buffer the video ads, emulating the lag-free live TV experience we’ve been accustomed to receiving.
SSAI works effectively because it allows publishers to circumvent ad-blockers while delivering highly personalised ads to the user at the same time. The way technology providers can add value for publishers is by exhaustively leveraging relevant data to provide viewers with ads that are most relevant and useful to them.
Turning up the volume on personalisation
Fundamentally, ad-blockers exist because viewers are tired of advertisements getting in the way of what they want to see. Frankly speaking, this is somehow indicative of marketers’ success getting noticed – just think of the many ways an ad has been pushed in front of content – through home page takeovers, pop-ups, roll-over ads, auto-play videos, and of course the aforementioned pre-roll ads. It’s little wonder why audiences are tired of ads.
If publishers want to recover lost revenue from ad-blocking, they must become curators of the advertisements served to their customers. The mentality needs to shift from, “How can I get my viewer to see this ad?” to “How can I best serve an ad without disrupting the viewing experience?”
With content right at our fingertips, consumers will continue to be selective of the brands with which they will engage. Just like a date, publishers will need to pay attention to their audiences – know what they like, what they need, what annoys them, and what gets them excited. You take note of all this information, and are careful not to hinder the relationship, but rather help it grow. Similarly, once you gain viewer loyalty, ad-blockers become irrelevant.
Taking cues from the TV experience and prioritising personal ad curation will help publishers overcome the ad blockers and put them on the path to greater advertising returns.
Vicki Lyon is director of adtech, Asia Pacific and Japan, for Ooyala and can be found tweeting at @VickiLyon13