Who will reign Supreme? Pre-Roll / Auto play Video ads?

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OPINION

By Sandeep Casi

With Facebook introduction of showing auto play ads on unsuspecting users newsfeed to compete with YouTube TruView (skippable pre-roll ads), the age-old debate of which of these gets more user attention has resurfaced.

Let’s look at a few issues of Pre-Roll & auto play video ads.

Click Bait & Negative Association

  • The majority of the time, the user is click baited into watching a pre-roll ad. They clicked on the advertised thumbnail/title of the video that promised them an entertaining clip. Even if the ad was interesting, the fact that they were misled into clicking, and the abandonment that follows leads them to feel that time was wasted which in turn leads to negative association with the ad.

Negative Disruption

  • Even in the event that the user decided to sit through a pre-roll ad, they are laser focused on the count down clock before ‘skip video’ can be used. A majority of them had no idea what the ad was all about. I often ask people if they remember the ad they saw and almost always they see only the countdown.

Mobile Cost Burden on Viewer

  • One of the major issues that we don’t seem to hear is that auto-play is eating up mobile data on unsuspecting users browsing either facebook newsfeed or websites. The argument that I hear most of the time is that the user can turn it off in settings to allow auto play while they are only on WiFi. The counter argument is that most of us (in Asia) are using data dongles to surf the net even while at home and this shows up as WiFi on all our devices. So in reality, the auto play ads (Mainly Facebook) are devouring my data on a daily basis and killing my maximum cap set by the telecom by mid-month and in turn forcing me pay more to top up my data to last the rest of the month. In reality, my facebook newsfeed has turned itself into a video pay wall for my Telco.

Truth in Measurement

  • Facebook claims that they are getting more engagement on auto play videos (3 Billion a day) on newsfeed. I think this metric is flawed. Facebook counts a view as complete after 3 seconds of video play time. Basically a user scanning their newsfeed stopped for a few second because they saw something moving. This is a typical human behavior of rubbernecking even if there was really no interest nor intent other than a fleeting curiosity as they browse past their newsfeed. To claim that this some how leads to a consumer buying into product is optimism at it’s best.
    Neither pre-roll nor auto play video ads will reign supreme. At best the competition of these formats is a grand experiment to iterate and to innovate beyond these two models.

In summary, for video ads in general to be less disruptive for the consumers and effective for the advertisers/publishers, the ads needs to morph contextually with consumer video interest and not just spray and pray into every conceivable channel as it is done today.