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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007 at 1:13 pm

“Viewer-Friendly” YouTube Ads — Says Who?

By Robert Gorell
August 22nd, 2007

There’s been quite a stir since YouTube announced it would show banner ads in its videos. (If you didn’t catch this morning’s Times article, it’s worth reading.) The ads are essentially opaque banners at the bottom of the videos that appear 15-seconds in. For now, the ads will only appear on affiliate sections such as NBC’s YouTube channel and the other thousand or so like it.

Google calls the ads not just “engaging” but “viewer-friendly” — which, in PR-speak, roughly translates to, “Well, they’re not as annoying as they could be.”

Of course, in-video banners aren’t a new concept; VideoEgg has been doing it for awhile now. Yes, this approach is less annoying than “preroll” or “midroll” ads that interrupt the experience — and “postroll” ads are just silly, unless the idea is to push people away from the site altogether. Besides, YouTube had to do something, right? How long could they go before denying affiliates — and themselves — ad revenue beyond traditional banner ads?

But can anything that interrupts a 2-minute video really be considered “viewer-friendly”? Rough Type‘s Nick Carr sums it up perfectly:

[...] That’s like saying that being hit on the head once with a hammer is a pleasant experience because it’s not as bad as being hit on the head twice with a hammer.I liked the reaction of the first viewer to leave a comment on the YouTube blog: “yuck.” If you’re going to stick ads on the videos, go ahead and stick ads on the videos. But, please, don’t tell us you’re doing it on our behalf. We’re not idiots.

Over at Publishing 2.0, meanwhile, Scott Karp hammers on the need for relevance with in-video ads.

Not being interruptive is the very LEAST that online advertising needs to do in order to thrive — what it really needs to do is be RELEVANT.

The beauty of search advertising is that the format and the relevancy of the ad are PERFECTLY aligned with that of the “editorial” content, through the miracle of search keywords.

That will surely be the case in some instances of InVideo ads, but in many if not most instances, the ads will have nothing to do with the editorial content — and the relevancy to any individual viewer, unlike keyword targeted search ads, will be hit or miss.

And there’s a BIG problem with low relevancy — advertisers only pay if someone views the ads.

Still, in the Times article, VideoEgg’s chief marketing officer, Troy Young, claims that “Viewers click on them at a rate roughly five times higher than banner ads.”

Then what?

Once again, the conversation about online ad placement centers around a lesser-of-evils argument. That’s no surprise. The old media concept of relevance remains tied to demographics rather than customer motivations; a far better anchor. Create a clickable, holographic video widget that transmits banner ads across continents and click-through rates remain meaningless if the ads inspire fatigue instead of action.

UPDATE: Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire says YouTube overlay ads don’t work.

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Comments (7)

  1. YouTube is lucky enough right now to have the lion’s share, so they can afford to see if this will cost them viewers. But after reading about truveo today, I’ll check that out and YT will only be one of my destinations.

    Personally, I like simplicity, and I hate unsolicited noise. Actually, I resent it, so the advertisement starts out in the hole and has to do more work to affect me positively.

  2. I agree that the overlay ads are very annoying. Anything that distracts me from watching the clip I clicked on to watch is a very bad thing for the user. Ultimately these ads will be a complete failure for YouTube ->

  3. What I find misleading is that for some videos that don’t play the “Javascript is off” or “Old version of Flash” is displayed. When it really turned out to be was that my Anti-Virus software was detecting the ad in the video and not allowing to play.

  4. I’ve come to enjoy youtube and would be unhappy to simply stop watching because of these ads, but that’s what I’m going to do if they are not discontinued.

  5. The click-rate may be high, but they are forgetting a crucial element and that is that we’re clicking these ads by mistake while trying to close them. This does not relate to sales and in fact if a company annoys me enough I won’t buy from them.

  6. Now it’s up to a new site to give unfettered video streaming and Youtube will be no more.

  7. Personally I hate unsolicited noise/ad.

    And in case of such ad videos my Anti-Virus software detects the ad in the video and not allows to play.

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