Pre-roll video ads' effectiveness and user acceptability is getting a boost from 3 different research studies this week. Results were released by Break/Panache and Tremor Media and by Jupiter Research, which focused on the European market. Taken together, they are an encouraging sign for the many broadband video providers who have chosen ad-supported over paid as their business model of choice.
A key highlight of all three reports concerns user acceptance and engagement with pre-roll ads. This format, whether 15 or 30 seconds, has accounted for the bulk of video ad revenues to date, and yet has been a key source of tension in the industry. Advertisers like pre-rolls because they feel like the well-understood TV model and in fact, where off-the-shelf TV ads are often just re-used (for better or worse). The downside of the interruptive pre-roll approach is that previous research has shown users hate the format. Contributing to users' feelings was the fact that many content providers have been undisciplined about implementing frequency caps or any sort of targeting (I myself have seen far too many tampon ads!).
Yet the Break/Panache results show that 78% of users viewed pre-roll ads for more than 15 seconds and the click-through rate averaged an impressive 10%. Similarly, the Tremor research showed completion rates for both 15 and 30 second ads of approximately 80%, a level it believes is reached because of its ad targeting and focusing on premium content only.
Meanwhile the story was about the same in Europe. According to Jupiter's research (as reported by AdAge), audience drop-off upon the introduction of pre-rolls is under 5%. Jupiter also makes the important point that at least 10% of users drop off after 15 seconds even when there's no ad present, simply because they're in channel surfing mode. That means some percentage of abandonment is due simply to behavior, not a specific ad type. This makes sense when you think about it.
I attribute much of these new positive results to users recalibrating their expectations about broadband video and the presence of ads. Here's what I think has happened:
Since the Internet's introduction, there's been a sense among users that "content is free." And with the exception of annoying popup ads, I think many users have learned to look past unrelated banner ads on standard web pages so they've come to perceive their whole online experience as largely "ad-free" as well. (If you don't believe me, ask yourself when you last clicked on a banner ad unrelated to your work.)
But as broadband video usage has grown, pre-roll ads that actually did interrupt the content experience felt jarring for many users. Naturally, when asked, users said, "ugh, we hate them." Fair enough. But consumers are smart, and have quickly recognized that, just like TV, to get high-quality video programming, someone has to pay, and since most users would rather that not be them, they've become more accepting of all ads, pre-rolls included. With premium sites employing some targeting now and becoming more judicious in their insertion practices (ABC.com and Hulu are great examples), users have become more accepting. Hence these positive research results.
To the extent that pre-roll business practices continue to improve, I think research will continue to show positive results. Whether you personally love pre-rolls or hate them, I see them very much here to stay.
What do you think? Post a comment.
The broadband content provider Crackle is notching a win with its new comedy/interview series "The Jace Hall Show." I received a press release that it generated 500K visitors in the first two days following its launch on June 5th and a million to date. I'm always intrigued with what kinds of original broadband programs are working - and why - so I grabbed some time yesterday with Mary Ray, Crackle's VP of Marketing to learn what's behind Jace's success.
For those of you like me who are not gamers, Jason "Jace" Hall is probably unfamiliar. But Mary explained that if you're in the gaming community he's a fairly well-know producer who has a wide network of relationships in the industry. His show brings you into the world of his relationships, making you feel more connected to gamers' movers and shakers. And since he has his finger on the pulse of what the young male gamer audience is looking for, that gives him a real edge. Plus Mary believes that Hollywood still hasn't paid much attention to this market, despite gaming's huge following.
In the program's first episode Jace provided a sneak peek at a Duke Nukem Forever game that has reputedly been in development for 12 years. Gaining this type of access is practically like having exclusive content. Mary said that Crackle didn't do any advance paid marketing for the show; rather the audience was driven purely by word-of-mouth and buzz-building. I joked with Mary - spend no money but gain a big audience - the show sounds like a marketer's dream!
I asked Mary what she thinks the most important takeaway from Jace's early success is. Her feeling was that tapping into what the audience is hungry for is the key. While I agree, I'd go a step further. I think that trying to find talent that already has a following - whether in gaming, TV or some other medium - is a genuine way to improve a program's odds of success. I'm not necessarily talking about A-list talent per se, but rather talent that is at least known within some kind of niche (e.g. finance, comedy, woodworking, etc). That's not say "don't go with unknown talent looking to break out," but I do think it's important to recognize that doing so carries more risk.
The whole area of original broadband content is surging with players like Crackle, Next New Networks, 60Frames, ManiaTV, Break, Heavy, MyDamnChannel, FunnyorDie and lots of others pioneering the model. It's going to be very interesting to learn more about what works and why.
What do you think works in original broadband video? Share your comments now!