YouTube launched the TrueView ad format this week. The product, which had previously been in beta, gives users the option to skip ads after five seconds. Currently only available to advertisers with managed YouTube accounts, TrueView is not widespread across the site. Advertisers can choose whether to activate the option — and they only pay for the impression if the user chooses not to skip the ad.
User control during TV or video viewing is nothing new. Nielsen reports that over a third of US homes now have a DVR (source: Nielsen Three Screen Report, Q1 2010), up 51% from two years ago. As online viewing becomes more commonplace, providers, like YouTube, may be seeking to replicate the experience that viewers are used to in their offline viewing. Hulu, one of YouTube’s top competitors, offers viewers the opportunity to choose their ad delivery method – e.g. watch a longer advertisement at the start of the program in exchange for no ads throughout or to pick the ad they view from a choice of three. In September, Vivaki made public the ASq unit, which allows viewers to choose which ad to watch before their chosen piece of video content. YouTube, along with Hulu, AOL and Yahoo! all signed up as partners.
As online video providers continue to evolve their ad delivery methods, marketers will have to adjust to the fact that they are no longer guaranteed a captive audience. Google reports to have data correlating skip rates to ad quality and reports 20-70% view throughs on TrueView ads. That’s a pretty wide range, but it makes sense for marketers to test it for themselves.
Similar to Google’s approach to paid search ads, relevant creative will be rewarded with higher user interaction. Putting control in the users hands (or mouse) will push advertisers to make their video ads more entertaining, relevant or appropriate for online viewing (i.e. shorter). Giving users control will, hopefully, make the advertising that they actually end up watching resonate more than it would have previously.