Disrupting Disruption: How to Fix Video Advertising

Jeff MacDonald

When the cable bundle ruled the day and before every viewer in the house was a multi-device user, linear advertising worked. Today, everything about the way we watch video has changed. VOD culture has taken over our lives, and sitting down for scheduled programming in front of a TV is not our reality anymore. We now have the option of streaming any type of content, short or long-form, with the push of a button. We, as viewers, now determine the flow of content and binge on our own terms.

In our current video app landscape, where user acquisition and engagement is everything, an ad model built on interrupting content is broken and data from every side of the market supports that.

The industry is prime for new ad experiences which keep interruptions to a minimum, leverage the real estate on digital platforms, and give viewers a choice on how they engage with advertising content and formats.


Rules of Engagement

The success or failure of new video advertising models will be determined by the interaction between the publisher, the viewer, and the advertiser. The viewer has more power in the equation than ever before and this needs to drive change in how the publisher and advertiser behave.

The Viewer

Viewers can spend their time in an infinite number of digital properties. TV has to compete for attention against mediums such as video games, social media, and messaging platforms. Multitasking when watching video is the norm.

In fact, the average number of additional activities engaged while watching TV is four.


video advertising_multitasking

Source: Deloitte, Digital Democracy Survey, Eleventh Edition, 2016


Throwing ads into the mix begs the question, if an ad plays and no one watches it, does it even matter? Disruptive ad models are out of place in our multi-device content consumption world.

Advertising needs to become more personalized, compelling, and interactive. Viewers can and will turn their attention elsewhere if you can’t grab it.

The Publisher

In a direct-to-consumer (D2C) world, with an abundance of content and switching costs approaching zero, the focus needs to be on viewer engagement. Publishers need to focus on gaining attention, establishing loyalty, and making sure users return to the app. Successful viewer monetization follows engagement.

That means putting the viewer first.

If the viewer is in control of when, where, and what they want to watch, why can’t the same follow for their advertising experience?

Users Hate Disruption, Not Advertising

Advertising should be a value exchange between viewers and publishers. In exchange for their attention, viewers gain access to content at more affordable rates. They key thing here is attention, and publishers need to seek out advertising models that:

  • Are engaging enough to hold attention and avoid the multi-task trap.
  • Are as flexible as possible to let brands bring their messages to life in novel and creative ways.
  • Are easy to deliver to all screens where viewers live.

Simple, right?

The Advertiser

Video Advertising interruptions are the biggest concern among digital viewers. 42% of consumers list advertising as their top complaint, with buffering (33%), and A/V issues (32%) following.


video advertising_consumer concern

Source: Accenture Digital Consumer Survey, 2015


Viewers have spoken and advertisers agree. 52% of Brand and Agency leaders identified improving the advertising experience as the biggest challenge facing the video industry.

To date, advertisers are constrained to the same old ad formats to achieve scale, and that’s the exact reason why ad-blockers have become mainstream. They are being used as viewers pushback against the video and display advertising models that exist today.

Advertisers need to work in tandem with publishers to find personalized and engaging ways to make users care for their ads. The relationship should no longer be as simple as “I want a 30-second spot”. Brand experiences can be leveled-up on digital platforms. Premium content experiences deserve premium advertising experiences, and these things together are required to drive on-going viewer engagement.


Guiding Pillars

We believe there are two pillars to guide publishers and advertisers into developing stronger, more engaging formats that retain attention and increase engagement.

Those pillars are:

  1. Unlock new real estate; leverage the digital pixels on-top of, around, and within the video playback UX.
  2. Personalize ad-loads: mix new interactive and existing formats to suit viewer preferences.


Unlock New Real Estate

At You.i TV, we work with many of the leading media brands across the globe. A common goal in experience design is how do we minimize the number of clicks to get the user to the right piece of content. With a race to get users to content, why do we then accept a pre-roll that puts them 30+ seconds away from that content?

How about an approach where we unlock the app real estate and advertise over the video itself with exciting branding opportunities?


video advertising_monster energy


Creative treatments allow brands to get their message out there in playful ways without disrupting what’s happening on screen.


1. A full takeover of the player controls

video advertising_tonka truck


2. Interactive lower-third

video advertising_mcdonalds


3. Informational lower-third (click to expand)

video advertising_adidas


4. A squeeze-back during end credits

video advertising_camaro


This approach provides a far less disruptive viewing experience. Brand moments can be brought to life with more engaging formats that deliver more value for all stakeholders in the transaction.


Personalize Ad-Loads

I’ve already discussed how viewers are now in control of their digital experiences. Let’s take it one step further. Viewers should be able to choose how they receive their ads.

Some people are okay with sitting through 30-second ads if it means not having to pay extra for a 30-minute episode. Others cannot stand it. Everyone is different and ad formats should cater to these differences.

Giving viewers the option to choose which type of ad format they prefer makes the ad-viewing experience more agreeable. Fox Networks, in partnership with TrueX, use this very tactic in their VOD play.



The option of an interactive 30-second ad experience with zero follow-on commercial breaks is attractive for viewers, publishers and brands:

  • Viewers: Have a clear understanding of the terms of engagement and trade their attention for a much-reduced ad-load.
  • Publishers: Retain viewer attention and keep them connected with their content longer.
  • Brands: Engage with viewers on a deeper level, guaranteeing attention to their message.

Ensuring your ads have an element of interactivity greatly improve your chances of retaining user focus. In fact, 23% of users are more likely to recall a brand message from an interactive ad, with 2 out of 3 users favoriting interactivity over standard delivery.


 video advertising_interactivity

Source: Mobile Rising Stars Ad Interaction & Effectiveness


Bringing it all Together

Venturing into the unknown with new ad ideas can be daunting, but the research clearly shows, what’s familiar and comfortable isn’t working anymore.

Viewers have spoken. They don’t want to be disrupted. They are okay with ads as long as it doesn’t overtake the content they’ve chosen to watch. The only way to cultivate new ad experiences that users will accept–and perhaps even enjoy–is to stop cutting to commercial. Keep disruption to a minimum and focus on a fair and understandable value exchange. Crack open the user-interface real estate and overlay ads as an accompaniment to content. Most importantly, give viewers the option to choose how their ads will be delivered. And once they’ve chosen, make sure the ads are cool and engaging.

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