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


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. 

VivaKi Nerve Center: The Pool field trial goes live

Its taken some time I cant deny but we are now live with a great array of publishers and clients. Heineken, Samsung, O2 working with Microsoft, Youtube and Channel4 – that is not something you see often! Its really exciting and the subject of choice formats is never so relevant. The ASq, VivaKi’s own video Ad format has now been fully researched in US, China, Spain and is going to be in France, making it the most research format on the planet. The VivaKi clients and beyond VivaKi clients will be able to choose the ASq safe in the knowledge that it will be good for their clients and the publishers will also deliver a great user experience.

As we move through the initial trials and results the plan will be to roll out to other publishers and really make a consistent format cross publisher and indeed cross markets for our advertisers. Below is the coverage in NMA yesterday with some input from Ed Couchman from Channel4.

Channel 4, YouTube and Microsoft trial ad selector video ads with Heineken and O2

Channel 4, YouTube and Microsoft are the first UK publishers to launch trials of an ad format that lets viewers pick which ad they want to watch from multiple brands ahead of video-on-demand content.

The three-slate ad selector format, called ASq, has been developed by Vivaki as part of The Pool, its global research project kick started last year to identify the best ad format for the online industry (nma.co.uk 7 October 2010).

Advertisers Heineken, O2 and Samsung are the first to run campaigns using the format across the three publisher platforms, the latter of which will have exclusive use of the ad-selector format for six weeks. Vivaki will then work with ComScore to examine consumer response to the ads, including metrics, such as brand recall, view-through rates and intent-to-purchase, ahead of a full market roll out next year.

Vivaki has already established the ASq three-slate format as a standard in the US, where 30 publishers are running the format, according to Vivaki Nerve Centre’s MD of EMEA Marco Bertozzi (pictured). He said the format has seen strong results in the US market, adding that results have shown 300-400% increases spanning across metrics including view-through rates, purchase intent and brand recall.

“This is the first time three major publishers and three of the UK’s leading clients have been brought together to work on such a project and we are really excited about the results and moving towards better monetisation of the space,” said Bertozzi.

Channel 4’s commerical controller of Future Media and Advertising Ed Couchman said ASq roll out marks the latest iteration of its existing ad selector format Ad Elect, which allows viewers to choose which ad to watch from different creatives from the same brand. Adidas, M&S and Red Bull were among the first brands to sign up for the format earlier this year (nma.co.uk 3 March 2011).

Couchman said the new format ties in with its strategy to offer advertisers a different “creative canvas” beyond driving incremental reach to TV campaigns.

Meanwhile YouTube revealed its own in-slate video ad format in the UK a few months ago. However, The Pool trials represent a collaborative effort to understand the effectiveness of the selector format over the traditional pre-roll format. All three publishers will use campaigns from the same advertisers Heineken, O2 and Samsung.

Link to story is here