This post is sponsored by Digital Turbine.
If a video ad plays in a forest and no one is around to watch it, does it make an impact? That’s the challenge faced by mobile advertisers. Video ads often compete with content on cluttered social feeds and can be easily skipped or scrolled past. So, while advertisers may see social platforms as an opportunity to reach their audience, there is no guarantee that anyone watches their ad.
But there is hope. Advertisers have started to shift their campaign valuations from viewability to attention. New attention studies show some environments where consumers are willing to stay with an ad long enough for it to make an impact. These studies also show the more attentive seconds spent with an ad, the better the return is for brand recall, user growth, and sales.
To skip or not to skip: The ultimate concession.
A recent study from Statista stated that 65.9% will always skip an ad when given an opportunity to do so. This statistic is alarming when advertisers pay high costs to develop video ads. Having two out of three people skip your ad, no matter what, can crush your return on ad spend.
But therein lies the underlying truth about video advertising: even at its best, many video campaigns are already compromised. Publishers understand that what keeps them successful is the combination of ad money and a mass number of eyeballs. But this inherently puts video ads in a contradictory spot. Few people will watch an ad if there are more exciting things on the page.
While advertisers would love to have their 30-second creatives be viewed unfettered, concessions such as skip buttons and in-stream ads exist because publishers opt for formats that keep users scrolling through content.
So, publishers are given a choice: either favour the consumer and provide them with the option to skip; or favour the advertiser and force the consumer to watch an entire ad. Neither scenario is ideal.
Broadcast TV: The cooperative model to follow
Advertisers and publishers should strive for moments when ads occur at natural breaks in the action. The publisher can set consumer expectations for an ad break by finding the user at a natural pause. Consider watching your favourite broadcast TV drama: a scene plays, the music rises, and the screen fades to black. What follows is a few minutes of commercials before the action resumes.
While the consumer still could opt not to watch the commercials, they still understand this is all part of the experience. Meanwhile, the advertiser gets their spot to be captive on screen for 30 seconds with the audio on – with no skip button! This cooperation creates a win-win-win for all parties. The consumer is not interrupted unexpectedly, the network gets ad revenue without annoying consumers, and the advertiser gets to tell their story fully.
Believe it or not: Natural breaks on mobile do exist.
You may be thinking that this wouldn’t work on mobile. And for many reasons, you have a point. Mobile content is consumed on the go, whenever and wherever we want. As such, natural breaks for commercials don’t exist. Instead, ads compete directly with content. And, as described above, your ad better be super entertaining, or people will skip or scroll right past it.
But one place where natural breaks do exist in mobile is in games. Players pause after completing levels or making a move. This pause creates an opportunity for a moment of cooperation between advertisers and publishers. While the consumer takes a breath, the advertiser can tell its story, and the publisher can make revenue without interrupting the player.
Beyond that, many games also offer rewarded video ads, which aren’t interruptive and provide tangible benefits for the user that they can use in the game. That’s a cooperative win-win-win for consumers, publishers, and advertisers.
Studies conducted in collaboration with attention measurement experts Lumen and Amplified Intelligence revealed that interactive ads within mobile games significantly outshine social and web videos, capturing attention at a rate over 10 times higher. On average, Lumen found that rewarded video ads command 22 seconds of focused attention per ad compared to two to three seconds for ads in standard social formats.
A cooperative future
Relevancy, of course, will always be a vital variable when watching an ad. But how ads are presented also matters, whether or not the ad is relevant. Consider being at the theatre and seeing someone you’ve always wanted to meet. You could try to get their attention in the middle of Act 1. But your odds of getting them to engage go up if you wait until intermission.
Video advertising on mobile comes with the same choice. When someone is engaging with their favourite social content, it’s the equivalent of trying to get their attention during Act 1 of Hamilton. You have a chance if they really like you. But, overall, they are much more likely to ignore or even be put off by you.
Maximising attention in a cluttered landscape involves understanding where and when attention is given. By seeking environments where publishers give consumers cooperative moments to watch ads during natural pauses, savvy advertisers can put quality views at the forefront and find attentive outcomes, which is the key to achieving your brand goals in 2024.
This article is written by James Rogers, vice president of Digital Turbine’s APAC brand business.
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