How Many Online Video Ads Will Viewers Tolerate?

June 17, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Europe & Middle East | Global & Regional | Mobile Phone | Television

QuickPlayMedia-Expected-Accepted-Video-Ads-Mobile-Devices-June2013Research from comScore has shown that the average TV show is about one-quarter ads, while new figures from comScore indicate that online video ads accounted for just 2.6% of all minutes spent watching online video last month. The frequency of ads seen by online video ad viewers did spike last month, to an average of almost 100 – but how many ads will viewers tolerate in one sitting? A couple of recent studies take a look at this question, from the perspective of online video viewers overall, and according to the smaller subset that are mobile video viewers.

The former study, called “Getting the Balance Right,” [download page] was conducted by Murdoch University, RMIT University, and the Disney Media & Advertising Lab in Austin, Texas. Although framed as a way to see how newspapers can make money online, the results have wider applications.

The study examined acceptance of TV ads online, finding that the ideal number for viewers and advertisers is 6 30-second clips per hour, or 3 minutes on average. That’s about 5% of time spent watching online video – and means there’s room for growth, if compared to the comScore figure suggesting that video ad consumption is currently about half of that amount.

The study recommends that ad breaks be limited to one commercial, saying that the ideal amount of 3 ad-minutes generates significant product recall. Going too far – such as 10 30-second ads per hour – results in viewers perceiving the interruptions as “significantly intrusive.”

What About Mobile Viewers?

The data concerning mobile video viewers also suggests that there’s a little room for growth in ad loads, with a small gap between the number of ads viewers expect to see and the number of ads they would accept.

The results are from a survey conducted by QuickPlay Media [download page] among roughly 1,400 smartphone and tablet owners who use their device for live TV and video-on-demand (VOD) viewing, spread across the US, UK, and Canada.

Before their video starts:

  • Americans expect to see an average of 1.64 ads, but would tolerate 1.87;
  • Canadians expect to see an average of 1.75 ads, but would only accept 1.71; and
  • The British expect to see an average of 2.06 ads, and would accept 2.16.

So for pre-rolls, it appears that the British expect to see – and would accept – the most amount of ads. (Yes, it is impossible to serve 1.64 ads, but the level of detail in response is kept here for directional purposes. It’s also possible to watch 64% of an ad…)

The picture changes when it comes to ads viewed during a video. In this case:

  • Americans expect to see an average of 1.81 ads, and would accept 1.86;
  • Canadians expect to see an average of 1.48 ads, but find only 0.97 to be acceptable; and
  • The British expect to see an average of 1.69 ads, but would accept only 1.6.

For mid-rolls, then, Americans are most tolerant of higher ad loads, while Canadians appear to reach their saturation point much more quickly. Also, Americans don’t mind being interrupted in the middle of a video by the same number of ads as before that video, while Canadian and British respondents tolerate significantly fewer ads mid- than pre-roll.

Apparently, the biggest room for growth is in ads coming after a video ad ends. For these:

  • Americans expect to see an average of 1.23 ads, but would accept 1.73;
  • Canadians expect to see an average of 1.14 ads, but would tolerate 1.83; and
  • The British expect to see an average of 1.56 ads, but would accept up to 2.

Those results suggest that mobile video viewers would tolerate as many ads – if not more – after a video than before it. It’s worth noting that completion rates tend to be lower for post-rolls than for pre- or mid-rolls (at least when it comes to broadcast content online), which might be why respondents want to save them for after, when they’re no longer as captive an audience.

The survey also looked at attitudes towards video ads on mobile devices, finding that in general, Americans appear to be the most favorable to them. Among US respondents, 30% said they are more likely to react to a video ad on a smartphone or tablet than on a TV, 27% said they would pay more attention to video ads on their mobile device than on a TV, and 25% said video ads are more appealing on their device than on TV.

Of course, the flip side of all of that is that a majority disagree with those above statements and find ads on TV to be more appealing and engaging.

Turning to a different respondent sample – those who recall seeing video ads on any device other than a set-top box (which could include a computer) – the data also shows that Americans are more accepting of video ads than Canadians or British.

Overall, 38% of American respondents reported being irritated by video ads, compared to 60% of Canadians and 51% of British. Part of that discrepancy may owe to the relevance of the ads seen: 29% of American respondents said that more than half (17%) or all (12%) the ads they saw were relevant to them. Only 12% of Canadians could say the same.

About the Data: The QuickPlay Media data is derived from a survey of 631 Americans, 619 Canadians and 612 British conducted May 14-17, 2013 via Springboard America. All respondents were 18-60 years old who watch Live TV or VOD using one or more electronic devices: smart TV/connected TV, desktop computer, laptop computer/netbook, tablet computer, smartphone, subscription-based set top box, games console, streaming media device.

Smartphone and tablet users watching live TV or VOD numbered 457 in the US, 466 in Canada, and 479 in the UK.

The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the 18-60 years old population of each of the global markets.

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