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Ad Nauseum: Web Advertisers Need To Change It Up

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Written by Daisy Whitney.

Lately I’ve been tempted to do something I’ve never felt the urge to do before: hit the fast forward button when commercials appear in my favorite podcasts. I feel terrible — guilty even! — for admitting this. Because I really want to be a rah-rah cheerleader for online video and the ads that support them. But recently, I’m getting just as sick of ads in both web shows and TV shows online as everyone else is of commercials on oldteevee.

I’m not alone. When I reported on last week that Hulu users mostly like the service, a commenter named “Hulu fan” wrote, “I don’t mind the commercials, but please get a little variety. I now hate Best Buy.”

And that’s kind of the problem isn’t it?

We can recall the ads, no problem: CBS Interactive says 50 percent of consumers remember the brands, claims 86 percent do, reports 84 percent of viewers recalled ads, and Revision3 says 100 percent of its viewers could name at least one sponsor. But that recollection isn’t so cute when we feel animosity toward the sponsor, like Hulu Fan does.

But networks say they’re working on ways to improve the online ad experience.

ABC said it encourages advertisers to vary the creative for the episodes they sponsor on This is good advice. In fact, when I watched the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” on, I noticed that the sole sponsor, Comfort Inn, ran a series of different spots throughout the episode, which left me with some “warm” feelings about the brand. ABC also said ad recall is even higher for brands that mix up the creative or use interactivity than for those that simply repurpose 30-second spots.

Hulu is also working to change up the ad copy. “More diversity in ad creative is something that we’re working hand-in-hand with our advertisers to bring to our service,” said Hulu Spokeswoman Christina Lee.

Over at Revision3, the ads are usually different from show to show, according to CEO Jim Louderback. “It’s not repeatability, it’s watchability that drives the numbers,” he added.

Still, it’s my contention that networks and ad agencies should view the recall studies not as shiny, happy harbingers of success on the Web, but rather as evidence that they need to be more innovative with the kinds and content of online ads they run. Otherwise, they’ll be faced with a whole lot of “Hulu Fans” who are sick of their ads — and their brands.

Daisy Whitney is a contributing writer with TelevisionWeek and the host of the New Media Minute, a weekly webcast on the business of online video.

12 Responses to “Ad Nauseum: Web Advertisers Need To Change It Up”

  1. I agree that companies need to have a portfolio of a variety of creatives for each ad campaign rather than hitting us with the same exact ad over and over again.

    It sounds like BestBuy is just throwing money at the online video space just because they understand the importance of it now, and think being an early mover is an advantage.

    It’s going to take awhile for companies to really change their way of thinking about how consumers view ads. Ads need to become content themselves that emotionally integrate the brand into consumers minds.

    Creativity is the key, so these are the type of people that need to produce the ads, not stuck up corporate people that “specialize” in brand messages and communications.

  2. yeoman

    There’s a full-fledged recession here. do you really think that this an emerging field anymore? who cares what the tv and internet programming is when your house is getting foreclosed?

    all we have are millions of viewers who are getting free rides and hardly any creators are earning a living of this crappy process anyway so who cares? things aren’t going to change, it’s all mental masturbation.

  3. Joost has the same problem of repetive anoying ads with prerolls and midrolls being the worst .Joosts Ad-Bugs (overlays) seem to provide a bit more variety

    Although since I recently have been using my old Xbox as a media center I’m prone to download shows from Bittorent and use Torrent Episode Downloader …now if HULU and Joost would just work on a game console connected to my TV I would use them instead of the Bittorent route

  4. Spots, whether pre- or post-roll, are inappropriate conveyances of the traditional marketing paradigm in the online experience. Good social media strategists, like those from Forrester Research, have found that these conveyances generate negative attitudes towards the brands that they advertise.

    There are many creative ways to associate positive messages and images for a brand in and around online content. For example, earlier this week Daisy Whitney wrote about, Mars Starburst’ imaging campaign around DaveJr. Many more original examples are in the works.

    When will more of the traditional advertisers, agencies, creative shops, and media buyers collaborate on architecting the types of user experiences that enhance their brands rather than diminish them? It starts with a good listening program, and finding the right/brand relevant discussions that they can contribute to where they can create value, & for which their efforts will be richly rewarded.

  5. Cn’t agree more with ‘Hulu Fan’, I will never set a foot in Chilie’s anymore. This repetitiveness creates some sort of allergic reaction on me.

    Advertisers are a little short on their creative thinking there: Oldteevee used to be many viewers/many ads, but this doesn’t mean that Newteevee’s one viewer model should only get one ad!

  6. Good article. I agree with Jim and with your statistics. Ads are necessary. How else will we be paid? People need to remember why it is free to view all of this content on the interwebs. Hulu does have a lot of repetitive ads though…same with sites like

  7. Great article on a subject that most old school advertisers and ad agencies are still clueless about. I agree 100% That pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll advertisements are just as, if not more annoying that those on broadcast TV, for a number of reasons.

    First you have to ask yourself, why do I TV hate ads? 1. Because they interrupt the flow of a story you are invested in. 2. There is very little or no targeting efficiency, so the chance of seeing something that might interest you is very slim. Yes, many commercials can be entertaining and/or artistic and suck you in even if you are not interested in the product, but that becomes more a discussion about the effectiveness of the short film form as much as advertising.

    Advertisers have been intruding into our personal space since we started watching TV and listening to radio. Now of course they’re doing it on the web. In regards to the latter, It’s part of this lazy, old school thinking that tells someone. OK, we created this for television, print, or some other medium, now we’ll just slap (“repurpose”) it on the web. This approach shows both a lack of knowledge and short sightedness about what the web is; a medium for people to communicate, one to one or one to many. Be it a website, blog or a video, quality programming on the net is a conversation, it’s not just the same old- school approach of having some company shout their crap at you. I think traditional advertisers can really learn something from sites like Revision3 and the network NewTeeVee is part of, Giga Omni Media. These companies seem to grasp a fundamental idea of web advertising, authenticity, and the idea of respecting their viewer. They also seem to present their advertisements more organically in their programming so it feels more like it is for the end users “consideration”.

    I have a few other general suggestions. The first one is more of a wish. If you like it let’s try to spread it around the web:

    No ads in videos under 90 seconds. – I know, sounds crazy huh? But this is not an unreasonable request. Why should someone be forced to sit through 15 seconds of an ad for a 90 web video? That’s a much more invasive ratio than even broadcast.

    1. Park static ads outside the frame space of the video. Your ad is displayed all the time and with a well designed page you can have one on each side of your frame. You can even rotate them. My one personal request would be not to make them so damn flashy. An advertiser on the web needs to show a lot more respect for what consumers are REALLY on the site for, if their ad was targeted properly chances will be good that I will give it a look.

    Thanks again for a great article.
    Lawrence Jordan

  8. I have noticed that my favorite TV commercials are variations on theme. The Geico Caveman and celebrity translator series are great examples of these. I never get tired of those and always find myself looking over to see them one more time. What’s not to love about the Caveman in the fancy restaurant saying, “I’ll have the roast duck with the mango salsa” or James Lipton barefoot in a swimming pool saying “You had quesitons, how existiential!”? A good ad becomes like an old familiar friend, and the variations keep it interesting.

    However, when that Free Credit Report idiot with his obnoxious guitar jingles comes on, I feel like I’ve been Rick Rolled and have to change the channel or turn down the sound – even if it means missing part of the show because I forget to turn back to it. I’m fine with ads as long as they’re not obnoxious.

    Watching TV next to the computer (or with a browswer window open when watching web video) is the secret to not having to sit passively through commercials and only paying attention to the ones you find interesting.

  9. Les Cowbell

    Commercials = UNWANTED INTRUSION!!


    Commercials have completely destroyed watching a movie on cable television. With some cable channels running spots every 7 or 8 minutes, it’s torture to try to watch a movie on cable. Unbearable. The same will happen to content via the web if we tolerate even some ads early on.

    Vary the creative? In an ad space that is so budget challenged? Versions and/or additional concepts = more dollars.

    As for getting the advertisers to work harder to make their ads more compatible with the shows they support, try talking to the advertisers on about avoiding garish clashes with the color scheme and destroying the design aesthetic of this site and see what they say. Oh… it’s “attention getting” is it? I see….

    Advertisers pay the freight and therefore call the shots. In a delivery medium so starved for income of any kind, media portals will not be making any demands; token pleading… maybe.