As video length has expanded on YouTube, the platform has been challenged to find an effective ad display solution that doesn’t mimic the inconvenience of commercial interruptions. This week’s announcement—doubling up on pre-roll advertising spots—sounds like more ad content, but the results appear promising so far. Brands and agencies who host long-form content on their YouTube channels stand to see benefits from this latest change; however, a need to be compelling and attention-grabbing from the start will be all the more necessary.
In the coming weeks, desktop YouTube viewing will afford viewers the option to skip ads (which won’t preclude ads from appearing later in their viewing experience) or to watch two ads at the start of a video. Free and ad-supported Hulu subscriptions presently do something similar; Mashable rightfully calls it a “TV-inspired solution.” Otherwise known at YouTube as “ad pods,” a brief explanation will come up as they decide: “choose when you see ads; watch two ads now for fewer interruptions later.” The option will then gradually deploy for mobile viewers, and then those watching on smart TV sets.
Khushbu Rathi, YouTube’s product manager for video ads, noted on the company blog that the early tests on the feature had increased staying power on long-form content. “Fewer interruptions is correlated with better user metrics, including less abandonment of content and higher rates of ad viewing,” Rathi wrote. Users who opt to watch both ads ahead of a video will see up to 40% fewer ad interruptions, and tested videos saw an 8-11% increase in unique user reach. For advertisers, there will be a 5-10% increase in ad frequency.
In some ways, this seems like the evolution of an announced introduction of non-skippable ads for creators this past August. At that time, YouTube announced, “any channel that can monetize its videos will soon be able to implement non-skippable ads” of 15-20 seconds in length. Previously, only a select number of creative accounts could deploy ads in this fashion. But a number of creators quickly voiced a prospective challenge: audiences might click away from unskippable ads altogether, therefore preventing any ad revenue from coming in. By offering more ads but presenting the details for users to make informed decisions about their viewing experience, YouTube seems to be retaining more viewers on longer videos.
While a few questions remain as this strategy rolls out—the timeline for deployment, if creators can select ad categories, and most notably: what runtime constitutes a “long video”?—Rathi and his team seem committed to evolving the ad experience for advertisers and viewers alike: “we’ll continue working to build the ideal video viewing experience, and keep thinking up ways to deliver value for our advertiser partners.”
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