The Biggest Challenge for Video Advertising Today is the Consumer Experience

Video advertising may be one of the most difficult channels to measure for ROI, but a new FreeWheel study [download page] says there’s a bigger problem: the ad experience. At least that’s the (slight) consensus among the people who should have some thoughts about this – decision-makers who’ve spent at least $1 million on video ads in the past year.

The survey asked 242 video advertising decision-makers (55% agency and 45% brand marketers) to identify the top 3 challenges facing the industry today from a list of 8. A leading 52% identified the creation of a better ad experience for users/consumers as a top challenge. For example, interruptive ads – such as ones with automatic audio in mobile video ads – tend to annoy consumers.

Close behind, 49% of the survey respondents cited inadequate measurement/cross-screen metrics as one of the key challenges facing the industry. This has been an industry challenge for some time, as advertisers seek to better integrate TV and video advertising metrics.

Ad blocking – a top-3 challenge for almost half (46%) of respondents – has also been well documented. Survey results indeed demonstrate that most consumers are aware of alternatives to block ad interruptions while watching video.

Improving the Ad Experience

One of the more annoying aspects of video advertising is having to sit through a 1-minute ad to watch a 30-second video. Video advertisers, it seems, have cottoned on to this frustration. When asked what media brands and publishers could do that would positively impact the consumer experience, the largest proportion (41%) pointed to dynamic ad loads based on content consumption as having a great impact, with another 38% believing this would have somewhat of an impact. Matching ad loads with viewing time also makes sense given that consumers tend to be more likely to view ads to completion when they’re watching long-form than short-form content.

Meanwhile, recent research indicates that consumers believe that less clutter would be the best way to improve digital advertising in general. Advertisers appear to feel much the same way: decluttering pages/sites would “greatly impact” the experience for 31% of respondents, the second-biggest level of strong agreement of the options provided. (Another 41% felt that it would somewhat impact the experience.)

Notably, while improvements center around clutter and frequency, advertisers feel that the underlying reasons for a poor ad experience owe more to issues with creative. For example, the lack of creative diversity for a single campaign was the single-most cited reason for a poor ad experience. Think watching the same ad over and over again alongside different videos… Also figuring prominently among the core reasons for bad experiences? Mandates to use linear TV spots instead of creative developed specifically for online/mobile video opportunities. On that end, there is research that suggests that repurposed ads don’t perform as well as new creative for digital.

Interestingly, only 17% of respondents say that creative is typically developed primarily for TV, with the vast majority (81%) reporting that creative is usually developed for cross-screen purposes (41%) or tailored to the screen (40%). Despite that, 61% of all the respondents said that they had indeed repurposed TV creative for a digital video ad campaign at some point in the past year.

Other Interesting Findings:

The survey also revealed some other interesting perceptions and results, which follow.

  • On average, respondents feel that a typical digital video campaign should have an ideal number of 4.7 creative options per screen format, though the typical number run in 3.3;
  • Agencies’ creative (37%) and media (38%) departments should have responsibility for the optimal amount of creatives per campaign, according to respondents;
  • More respondents feel that programmatic is a useful tool in delivering better video ad experiences today (55%) than believe that programmatic is a hindrance in that effort (37%). Worth noting, however, is that brand safety risk is higher for video ads when bought programmatically than purchased direct with a publisher.
  • Respondents are more apt to feel that it’s the agency’s responsibility than the marketer’s job to improve the ad experience.

About the Data: The FreeWheel survey was conducted by Advertiser Perceptions in late 2016 among 242 respondents across various job titles with a split of 55% agency and 45% brand marketers, each qualified by a minimum spend of $1M digital video spend in the last 12 months.