Major online video publishers including Hulu, Yahoo, and AOL will begin offering users the opportunity to choose which ads they watch when viewing online video, starting September 15th. Instead of pre-defined pre- and mid-roll ads, users will be offered two or three choices, with the intention of providing a better experience for users and better return on investment for advertisers.
The ad-selection system, called ASq, is based on the findings of a research project conducted by Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi unit, dubbed “The Pool.” That research – funded by a total of seven online publishers – aimed to help maximize the potential of video advertising for both advertisers and publishers. VivaKi developed the technology in partnership and with funding from the publisher partners.
“The act of selecting an ad greatly improves its results,” said Tracey Scheppach, Pool co-founder and SVP, innovations director at Starcom MediaVest Group’s SMGx unit. Scheppach said click-through-rates using the system were 240 percent higher than those of standard pre-roll ads, according to VivaKi’s research. In addition, she said “top of mind awareness” rose by 438 percent, and purchase intent rose from “essentially zero,” to around 44 percent. “In online video the ad load is lower than on television, so we have to find a way to make the units worth more,” Scheppach said.
Following the implementation, users viewing video content on sites such as Hulu and Yahoo will be presented with a choice of ads from either two or three different advertisers, and prompted to select which one they would prefer to watch. If the user doesn’t make a selection within a designated period, the unit will default to one of the ads automatically. Scheppach said three options has proved optimal so far, with too much choice proving almost as bad as providing users no choice at all.
“In the early days of TV, advertisers were using their existing radio spots until the industry eventually coalesced around the 30-second spot. We’re at a similar place for online video,” Scheppach said, suggesting the new units could become the standard for online video advertising.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say it will be the only unit, but advertisers need something to pour the majority of their money into,” she continued, adding “This is intended for the entire industry.”
The technology will be ready to deploy from the 15th of September, with Hulu currently preparing to launch on that day. A Yahoo spokesperson confirmed that it too intends to launch the new format, but that it wouldn’t be doing so next month. Other publishers currently committed to the format also include AOL, MSNBC, Discovery, CBS, and video ad network BBE, all of which contributed financially to VivaKi’s research, and subsequently will not be charged to make use of the technology.