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Summary:

Recent studies show that online viewers hit by a higher load of ads aren’t dropping off the way they might. In fact, they may be able to watch more ads on content — perhaps as many as those on television — especially if ad formats continue to evolve.

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There once was a golden era of my life that was largely commercial-free, thanks to my TiVo. It ended when I started writing about online video and found myself sitting through pre-roll after pre-roll — and it sounds like things are only going to start getting worse.

Two different studies by Turner Broadcasting and the CW reveal that online viewers who are hit by a higher load of ads while watching videos aren’t dropping off the way most thought they might — in fact, they could watch even more ads online, perhaps as many as those on television.

Turner Chief Research Officer, Jack Wakshlag, yesterday told the New York Times that when studied, online viewers watched approximately the same amount of a TV show no matter how many ads were placed on it:

Viewers of 30-minute TBS sitcoms like “Meet the Browns” watched, on average, 40 percent of the episode, including the ads, if there was one minute of ads and 37 percent of the episode if there were 16 minutes of ads. Viewers of hourlong TNT shows like “Memphis Beat” watched 59 percent of the episode if there were one minute 15 seconds of ads, and 49 percent of the episode if there was 20 minutes of ads.

Meanwhile, Ad Age reports that the CW found its online viewers watched 95 percent of the commercials on a show — with an ad load that nearly matches broadcast.

Those ads are performing well for publishers, too — video advertising, according to the Center for Media Research, is outpacing other online ads by at least 25 percent, with 94 percent of publishers citing the pre-roll ad as the most reliable performer.

But do more ads mean lower user engagement? Cheryl Kellond of Panache, which provides ad solutions for publishers like CBS, Fox and MTV, doesn’t think so. “As ad loads increase, user interaction remains high. We haven’t seen a decrease with user retention online,” she said via phone.

To Kellond, though, what matters is the type of ads being delivered. “It’s not just about increasing the ad load,” she said, “but finding the right combo of ad load and format mix to maximize revenue, maximize user engagement, maximum advertiser retention.”

More and more advertisers are pursuing online-only ad campaigns, a distinct improvement over the days when online ad buys would be packaged with other publisher deals — meaning that you’d watch the exact same ad for cat food over and over again. “Online video has enough reach and enough frequency to attract advertisers on their own,” Kellond said.

Advertising online is also evolving; according to Kellond, more advertisers these days are attracted to interactive ads, which are usually anchored in pre-roll ads on videos and attract a higher CPM rate than pre-rolls on their own. One recent example she cited was a AT&T promotion on MTV.com that featured a virtual phone that site visitors could really use for calls.

So the ad loads on streaming content are increasing, but if we have to watch more ads in the future, at least they may have some interactive flair.

Picture courtesy of Flickr user PaulPod.

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  1. Yikes, that research is scary news. I hope all these ads don’t end up on paid online video services (thanks Netflix, no thanks Hulu plus).

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