MTVN Study: Unintrusive Ads Can Be Most Effective

MTV Networks this week released the results of Project Inform, a year-long study into what form of video advertising is most effective for brand building. The result? A relatively unintrusive five-second pre-roll ad followed by a 10-second overlay at the bottom of the viewer.

That specific combination of tactics proved least bothersome to viewers without being easily ignored, said Nada Stirratt, EVP of digital advertising at MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom.

“If you ask the consumer which ads they’d like to see, they’ll say none,” she said. “It’s a complex balancing act, but what we thought was interesting was that an ad doesn’t have to be disruptive to be impactful for marketers.”

That said, second place went to the much-derided 30-second pre-roll ad. Third was a more obscure combination: a five-second pre-roll ad coupled with something called a “sideloader,” which is identical to the bottom-screen overlay ad except it creeps in from the right side of the screen.

“It’s interesting to see that the 30-second spot did not fare poorly, and was almost No. 2 in every instance,” Stirratt said. “So there is definitely a role for them in a media plan.”

“But when consumers had the option to look at a five-second pre-roll and a lower one-third overlay that appears 10 seconds into the video, you’ve got this really great, expert framing of the marketing message the way they want it,” she said.

The study was based on more than 3,500 completed surveys and tracking of more than 50 million video streams on MTV Network sites such as,, and since early 2008. The streams, which appeared in shows ranging from The Colbert Report to America’s Best Dance Crew, carried ads from marketers in three disparate categories: a movie studio, a packaged goods brand and a grocery brand.

MTVN conducted the study in partnership with Web video firm Panache and market research group InsightExpress, and based its findings on brand metrics such as unaided awareness, aided awareness, and purchase intent. Stirratt stressed that the results for advertisers looking to drive direct sales might be different.

She also pointed out that while the results were fairly uniform across demographics, the group being studied, while large, did not include children or more mature audiences.

“We did not have this on TVLand, which is our oldest demographic, honestly just because of the volume of video across our portfolio,” she said. “We don’t have the highest of the high and certainly didn’t test this against children.”

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