Friday, March 08, 2013

Why People Aren’t Skipping Ads

People aren’t skipping ads.   I know, very few people will agree with me on this.  But it’s true.

People aren’t skipping ads.  They’re skipping interruptions or intrusions to what they are watching.  And those interruptions just happen to be ads.

I've been saying this for some time now.  John Osborn, a man much smarter than I, said the same thing this week.

In his article, Osborn points out that Merriam Webster defines interruption as “to stop or hinder by breaking in” and intrusion as “to thrust oneself in without invitation, permission, or welcome.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds a lot like how advertising works.

What does this mean?  It means that regardless of how wonderfully the ads are made, craftmenship is irrelevant if the ads still interrupt or intrude.

The old saying is you can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is.

With advertising, it’s how the ads are delivered that’s the problem.  Not necessarily the ads themselves. 

I know, most ads suck, are poorly created and bore the hell out of us, so there is no reason not to avoid them, but that's another post.

This post is about how we change the ways that ads are delivered.

Osborn suggests three possible ways of doing this. 

The first is to use a short message to ask if a viewer wouldn’t mind paying attention to an ad, and in return, get free, uninterrupted access to their program.

In other words, to announce the quid-pro-quo deal upfront, before the program runs.  Those who don’t want to watch the ad will be charged a small fee for uninterrupted programing.

The second is to eliminate all mid-roll (interruptive) advertising and run only pre-roll ads. The theory being that it's better to be interrupted once at the beginning than constantly throughout a program.  

Osborn’s third suggestion is to allow commercials to run within editorial content, not interrupting, but enhancing that content.  The commercial runs below the fold or after a paragraph, but the user can ignore it and just continue enjoying the editorial content.   No interruption.  Pure choice on the part of the viewer.

All of these options have merit.  But they’re all based on the current financial model of advertising impressions underwriting content. 

The advertiser/publisher/eyeballs paradigm is currently based on how many eyeballs the publisher can deliver to the advertiser.

Success is based on size.

If we want to change the interruption model, then we need to change the financial model first.  We need to find a way for publishers to be paid on something other than size.

My suggestion is viewer time spent.

For example, what if publishers were paid for data that indicates the amount of time that people spent with a commercial, rather than the data that indicates the amount of people that were exposed to that commercial?

Isn’t time spent with a commercial of value to an advertiser?  (Arguably, time spent is more valuable than impressions.) 

What's more, time spent data is something publishers have.

And, to be blunt, publishers are nothing but data salesmen.

Obviously, to start valuing depth (time spent) over reach (impressions), will take some time (no pun intended).

But with the fragmentation of the viewing audience, and control shifting ever more to the viewer, reach will be harder and harder to come by.

Value will need to be found outside of size. 

If fewer people see a commercial, then the key is to get those who do see it to spend even more time with it.  Depth scales when reach doesn't.

Osborn is right.  The current model is broken.

A new one is needed.

But the financial model needs to change before advertisers will follow.

Paying for involvement instead of interruptions or intrusions, seems like an interesting place to start.

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