• New Data Indicates Almost Half of Online Viewers Watch Pre-Roll Ads Even When They Can Choose Not To

    Two recent data points share a common, though somewhat surprising, conclusion: almost half of online viewers watch pre-roll ads to the end even when presented with the choice to opt out and skip the ad entirely. Clearly two data points aren't enough to form a real trend, but they do provide insight into how online video advertising may ultimately differ from traditional TV advertising.

    The first data point came from YouTube and Scripps, via this article in Online Media Daily. Scripps ran ads for 3 different programs on YouTube using its "True View" format that allows users to easily skip past the ad. It turned out that 44% of viewers actually watched the ad through to the end (a key benefit of the TrueView model is that advertisers only pay for ad views, not for skips).

    Then separately this week, video ad manager AdoTube released its Q1 2011 In-Stream Ad Format Index, which provides data on the 4.25 billion ad impressions generated across AdoTube's network (slides here). Among the key findings: 45% of viewers of its "Polite Pre-Roll" which allows skipping, watched through to the end. That was a 7% increase from the prior quarter and on par with conventional pre-roll ads. Another interesting finding was that when the Polite Pre-Roll is used, the abandonment rate for the content itself is 18% lower than when conventional pre-rolls are used, suggesting that ad choice enhances the content experience.

    Now it could be a complete coincidence that the 44% from YouTube/Scripps and the 45% from AdoTube are so close. Or it may be early evidence that when reasonably good targeting is used and the viewer feels more respected because they've been given a choice, ad viewing is more palatable. Either way, this is part of the larger debate about whether consumers don't like ads period, or just don't like irrelevant ads and an uncontrollable viewing experience, the resolution of which will have broader implications for online video advertising.