Banner fatigue: is there a limit to how many pre-roll videos and pop-ups readers of newsbrands will tolerate?

Time was when the viewing of all pre-roll videos on websites and social media could be limited to five seconds.

This gave visitors to the site the opportunity to get the gist of the message and decide for themselves whether they really wanted to see the remainder of the ad. Given the extremely clever targeting capabilities computer workof a number of the ad. platforms, interested audiences were – sometimes – happy to watch and listen to a sales message that was (typically) brief, engaging and entertaining.

And, perhaps as important, one over which they had some control, as the “Skip this ad. in 5 seconds” option offered them the opportunity to move on to what they’d really come to see. The popularity of the pre-roll format (using the expression to apply not just to pre-rolls on video platforms but also to website landing pages) has grown exponentially as more and more advertisers have experimented with the medium and seen cost-effective returns in terms of viewthroughs and CTRs.

Common sense suggests that the medium will always be particularly powerful when viewed via mobile, enabling the advertiser to dominate the viewer’s field of attention. And data from the Mobile Video Benchmark Study carried out by the MMA in the US last year revealed very high completion rates (90+%) for mobile video ads.

“Using CTR as an initial proxy for engagement for mobile video is very strong”, said the MMA, “with CTR ranging from 1.41% to 2.66% depending on the ad format. Results are robust even for skippable video advertising despite the option for viewers to bypass ads.”

But … when is enough, enough?

It seems to me that this golden goose is already on the chopping board and is in mortal danger of its life, as more and more non-skippable ads. are roadblocking the entrance to websites and imposing unacceptable delays. The rapidly growing proliferation of non-skippables may have been exacerbated by 2013 research by MetrixLab showing that 94% of those who had seen pre-roll ads. had skipped them, 52% doing so frequently.

However relevant and well-targeted the video, the frustration experienced by visitors will surely reflect on the brands responsible for the annoying interruption, if the whole genre becomes seen as a curse. The great danger is that visitors decide to skip such non-skippables by leaving the site altogether – perhaps never to return.

Advertisers need media to be successful. By crowding out editorial and taking unfair advantage of the ability to impose their messages into the viewer’s eyeline, too many pre-roll videos and pop-up ads. may ultimately have a negative effect on brand perceptions, ie perceptions of both the media brand and the advertiser.

Perhaps we’re not quite at that point yet. But it’s certainly the case in some newsbrand sectors that so many pop-ups, pop-unders and non-skippable auto-audio advertisements are changing the very character of media that are valued sources of information and entertainment for their visitors.  When a visit to a website triggers multiple launches of videos and audio tracks, the screen often becomes a scene of chaos and confusion – and something is seriously wrong.

Ad. sales departments everywhere really should wise up to the adverse perceptions they are building by continuing to allow such clutter to be produced. It’s certainly disconcerting, as a media planner, to make a “secret shopper” visit to a newsbrand website and attempt, unsuccessfully, to see what’s behind the latest unskippable ad. or barrage of pop-ups.

Without question it can still be cost-effective for advertisers to use pre-rolls and pop-ups with discretion, in a controlled media context. We will continue to review and recommend such opportunities where appropriate.

But as more and more visitors tune in, turn on … and then leave without waiting for the end of elongated pre-roll movies or struggle with pop-ups where close boxes don’t appear until after a set time period, questions about our clients’ brand image may well begin to play into the media planning assessment process.

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