Mid-roll video ads on the rise

While many have argued for years that digital video advertising should not and will not resemble television advertising, it looks like publishers, advertisers and viewers are finding that television-like advertising is a healthy compromise for online video.

According to video ad tech firm Ooyala, pre-roll ads now account for 60% of online video ad inventory, down from 75% at the beginning of 2015. At the same time, mid-roll ads have risen to account for 33% of inventory, jumping from 20% in 2015.

What accounts for the jump?

More and more publishers, including some of the biggest brands on the web like Facebook, are experimenting with or adopting mid-roll ads, which may be seen as less annoying to viewers than their pre-roll cousins.

As Ooyala’s Paul Bernardini told AdAge, “Mid-roll is appropriate because the audience is already captive and already invested in the content.” In other words, viewers are more likely to accommodate mid-roll ads because they have decided that the content they’re consuming is of sufficient value by the time the ad is displayed.

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That seems to be reflected by Ooyala’s data, which found that mid-roll ads have a 90% completion rate as compared to a 78% completion rate for pre-roll ads. Post-roll ads are even less effective, with a completion rate of just 65%.

Of course, mid-roll ads aren’t usually viable for short-form content, which probably explains why completion rates are highest for video ads on long-form and live video. Indeed, one of the highest profile adopters of mid-roll ads is Facebook, which has been experimenting with their use with Facebook Live.

In addition to delivering higher completion rates, the rise of mid-roll ads could help advertisers deal with some of the problems they currently face with video ads. For instance, there’s the issue of sound. Many video ads, particularly pre-roll ads, don’t play with sound. On Facebook, roughly 85% of videos are watched without sound.

That’s a real challenge for advertisers since sound can be an important tool for creating an emotional connection with viewers in a video ad. While advertisers are becoming more adept at creating video ads that take this into account, mid-roll ads could help restore their ability to put sound to good use. As AdAge notes, “People who are already watching a program, however, are likely to have the sound on when a mid-roll ad starts playing.”

But as mid-roll inventory grows, advertisers will still likely find that there are significant differences between digital and television advertising ecosystems they must take into account. For example, with live streaming growing, advertisers will have more opportunities, but they’ll also need to address the fact that live video comes in many forms, from user-generated to professionally-created, and therefore inventory quality could remain a big issue.

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