Are Media Giants Forgetting User Experience?

By Kerry Forsberg, Head of Programmatic Solutions at Widespace

Video has never been a more important part of mobile strategy. With video consumption continuing to rise it’s clear why it has become the preferred choice for advertisers, but striking the balance between grabbing attention and annoying a user is tricky.

Naturally, user experience should be at the heart of digital advertising, but increasingly we are seeing different platforms and publishers turn to invasive ad formats in order to target their audience.

Facebook, for example, is struggling to come up with new ideas about how it can best interrupt the viewer while still maintaining a good user experience. Its latest efforts are mid roll ads and autoplay audio.

The social media site isn’t alone in deciding that autoplay is the way forward. Google has also started testing autoplay video in search results on desktop, as well as tap and play for mobile.The reasoning seems to be that just playing the ads anyway will somehow batter the viewer into submission. Eventually, just like terrestrial TV, they’ll come to expect the ‘ad break’ as a fact of life.

When browsing on mobile, the experience for consumers is completely different. Watching TV, viewers get up and grab a snack, browse their phones, chat to their kids. On mobile, the user experience, relevance and intrusiveness plays a bigger part than on other channels, including both TV and desktop.

Our data has shown that a peak time for video consumption is between 7pm and 10pm. We would speculate that this is because people are less likely to complete videos while at work or commuting. Therefore, to make video consumable at all times of the day, videos have to be non-intrusive and relevant. Autoplay video in a public environment is likely to further deter people from watching a video.

On the bus, in the sitting room, in class, an ad for washing powder – or worse – bursts unwelcome into life. And then we wonder why viewers flock to ad blockers – up 41% in the last 12 months and showing little sign of slowing down.

When what we actually need is great ads delivered in a great way. It sounds simple and it really is. We’ve just got ourselves into this spiral of ‘put more out, further, faster’ to chase these elusive clicks. Instead, we need to drill back down to quality. Quality of creative, quality of message, quality of inventory and quality of targeting.

If we build quality into our thinking, we build a good user experience instead of a negative one. When great UX is at the center, people sit up and notice rather than heading straight for the ad blocker. Better user experience equals better video engagement.

At Widespace, we believe in a seamless video experience. By inserting videos into content in a way that doesn’t interfere with, but instead enhances the viewing experience, users are far more likely to engage with the brand. The best way to do this is by using an outstream solution.

Simply, it allows viewers to decide if they want to view the ad. Even a negative decision is in itself a positive response. If they don’t choose to view, as advertisers we know that ‘now is not the time’. If it happens repeatedly, it’s about more than just the time. It could mean you have reached the wrong audience, which is valuable information for an advertiser.

Advertisers need to exercise their creativity in that single ad frame to encourage the customer to dwell longer, interact and to get even deeper engagement. In a way, a gentle interruption to entice the viewer to a bigger one is perhaps the key to building better brand relationships.

Understanding the user, not just in how they might interact with your brand or brands like you, is vital. How they consume media, where their attention span is stretched, what catches their eye about the world around them.

But above all, if advertisers are going to make engaging video ads that work they have to understand one simple point: video is not TV and the UX rules have completely changed. Six seconds is a long time on mobile. Make them count.