Why Paying to skip video Ads undervalues what we do

My Opinion piece in NMA this week on the new Skipit service,  link here but behind a paywall

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In December 2003 a version of skippable Ads opened, it was called the M6 Toll road. Designed to make life easier for drivers they were offered the chance to pay a small fee and skip the bad traffic on the normal M6. Surely it is better to pay a couple of quid and get a luxurious stretch of tarmac without delays than have to sit in traffic for hours, especially when we are so time poor? Well the reality appears not. Demonstrating we are not as time poor as we thought. The toll road traffic has consistently fallen since opening, showing that perhaps paying to avoid inconvenience or bad experiences is not as high up on our agenda as some would have us believe.

And that is my view of the new format from Skipit where you can pay 10 cents to skip an Ad. You can build up credits through other means, by liking an Ad or interacting on some level with an advertiser, which I feel equally uncomfortable with.

Let’s stick with the principle of paying to skip an Ad though. Really? I am intrigued as to which Ad is going to push a person over the edge and make them sign up to an account. I find the idea of idly watching some content and then deciding ‘enough is enough, I am going to go to all the trouble of signing up to an account just to avoid a couple of minutes of Ads’ a stretch. As my colleague Paul says, perhaps it will improve completion rates as people are forced to establish the real cost of sitting through an Ad? Perhaps this system will improve performance on average Ads as people realise that it is not a big deal to watch them as long as they are engaged with the content.

Also, this isn’t going to pave the streets with the Gold that publishers might be expecting. To make this a meaningful revenue stream would require LOTS of video content being consumed outside of YouTube and the BBC. Recent Comscore research tells us this isn’t true. Google accounts for nearly 30 million uniques, the BBC accounts for nearly 7.5 million and VEVO (which again has most of its volume within YouTube) accounts for over 11 million. Consumers would also need to be willing to dip their hand in their pocket time and time again. Lastly, the rollout of such an initiative is unlikely to sit within the premium long form content owners. This is important considering the video Ad lengths which dominate the short form content space; am I really going to pay to skip 10/15 seconds of Ads being played on content that I am not really that engaged with anyway?

Now there are skippable Ads and skippable Ads. This approach is the caveman’s club vs. the surgeon’s scalpel where Google’s skippable Ads are the more sophisticated. Their approach is to incentivise advertisers to improve the quality of Ads by penalising bad creative; surely that is the right way round, not giving money to a publisher who carries bad Ads that people don’t want to see? VivaKi’s The Pool and their ASq® format offers users a chance to choose the Ad they want to watch, the impact on completion rates, engagement and memorability is considerable and encourages our advertisers to constantly see their video creative as something that should receive the same level of attention as their TV ads, but differently and with the end goal of their content being chosen over content from another advertiser.

Our job in this business is to make people realise that Ads pay for content, that Ads should be as high quality as possible, and that advertisers need to create content people want, whether that is an Ad or a short film or whatever. Paying for likes, watching an Ad to get something, all these models are blunt instruments and undervalue what we do. They are not what we should be aspiring to. 

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