Blog Post More Ads Fine, More Variety of Ads Better

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Users do not mind seeing double the number of ads — eight vs. four — interspersed in an online broadcast of an hour-long TV show, according to new research done by News of the study came during a panel discussion yesterday including Disney-ABC TV Group’s EVP digital media Albert Cheng, and we followed up with ABC (s DIS) to get more of the numbers.

abccomadRegardless of how many ads were shown, 90 percent of viewers continued to say they’d rather get the show for free than pay to get it without ads. (Though that’s a self-selecting group, because people who want to pay are probably over at iTunes.)

ABC also found that viewers actually prefer a greater variety of ads. (Amen to that!) Decreasing the number of times a single ad was shown actually improved people’s opinion of a brand or their likelihood to buy its product. We viewers get the point the first time.

We’re not talking about anything seriously game-changing since the ABC study only ever considered 30-second spots. The research used 11 different combinations of 12 ads on the same episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

One interesting part of’s implementation is that unlike most other video sites, users must click through after ads conclude to continue watching a program. From my perspective, it’s unclear if this makes ads more or less effective (on the one hand, you have to look at the ad to click on it, but you can also walk away without missing the start of the next segment). But that wasn’t part of the study, to our knowledge.

ABC noted that it has not decided when to implement new ad models based on its research.

In related news, Disney-ABC made hundreds of layoffs today, but it’s not clear how they will affect digital initiatives.

8 Responses to “ More Ads Fine, More Variety of Ads Better”

  1. ohigotchya

    “Users do not mind seeing double the number of ads — eight vs. four…”

    That doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t annoyed by them. It just turns out the cost of their annoyance isn’t valued in monetary terms for them to opt out of receiving them. Because this is the internet, and if you pay for anything (other than eHarmony or iTunes), you’re a sucker. Yes, that includes porn.

    And of course they want variety. Imagine being held in a holding cell, for the rest of your life, hearing only Fran Drescher’s voice, over and over again. Wouldn’t you, too, prefer a variety of annoying voices? A little Gilbert Godfried? William Hung maybe?

    Ads were traditionally tolerable on television because they were, for the most part, inevitable. With all browsers today on the internet, I can open up more tabs than a banker at happy hour the second I see an online ad, making me feel, over and over again, like I am perfunctorily beating the system. In fact, I get a type of joy out of diverting my eyes from where banner ads are, or where pop ups arise.

    Maybe I’m being extreme, but I represent a large contingent of people that don’t want anyone selling me anything, and that’s why ads are most likely diluted, overvalued, and not wanted. (if viral marketers didn’t use our disgust with ads as fuel, then there’d be no reason to trick us into watching their latest sneaky viral videos)

  2. The point about audience self-selection was something accounted for in the study design. The subjects were recruited from a general panel, and not from users, who, as Liz points out, might have a preference for ad supported content.

  3. @ connectpctotv — I’m with ya in theory, but the prevailing argument is that the web is not TV. If thats the experience you want, you get much better picture quality with your DVR than using your PC (unless you’ve got an over-the-air HDTV antenna and capture card.) So other than the geek-chic factor (which I COMPLETELY subscribe to, btw) there’s no real reason for you to do that unless it is content that you can’t get through the cable box (ie if you don’t get Showtime).

    @ Matt : Not to be too critical, but you seriously want more crap covering up 1/3 of your screen? Gimme a break.

  4. I personally watch online content on my HDTV. So, no I don’t want to have to click on anything. It’s nice to start a stream, go full-screen, kick back and relax. Just because it’s delivered through to a PC through the Internet does not mean that folks will be watching on a PC.