In the context of monetization of video ads, how are US publishers tackling the browser changes to disable auto-play? (What can we do to minimize this impact?)
Publishers have been under pressure to find innovative ways to counter the negative monetary impact that disabling auto-play has resulted in. But brands are now paying a lot more per click as they realize the value of intent shown by a consumer as against forcing consumers to view their ads. As a result, publishers are finding innovative ways to entice users into interacting with their video ads. For example, Washington Post has used captioning in their audio-off video content with success. Developing new content products in collaboration with brands has been the key to engaging users. Also, an increase in context-driven ad placement and more mid-roll ads are seen.
Many publishers have switched from Adobe's Flash technology to HTML5 technology for their websites as users disable the Flash player to avoid annoying ads. However, HTML5 auto-play blockers have been developed, which render this strategy useless.
Ad blockers like Adblock Plus, and browsers with embedded video ad blocking features like Google Chrome, are trying to find a middle ground between users and publishers. They are looking ensure that users do not have to suffer annoying ads, and at the same time the revenue support from advertising for free content published on websites is not diminished.
Google, which dominates the browser market with a 54% share, is a member of Coalition for Better Ads. As per the guidelines laid by Coalition for Better Ads, video ads with sound are unacceptable as they are troubling for the user and generally catch the user unaware. This very often causes the user to close the browser to stop the sound; resulting in the user associating the poor experience with the publisher and the advertised product or service.
"Now you’re seeing auto-play conversations where the assumption is that auto-play is a bad user experience," says Jarrod Dicker, VP of Commercial Product and Innovation at the Washington Post. He goes on to say that forcing auto-play experiences doesn't benefit the user in any way. The Washington Post has had a lot of success with auto-play, volume-off using closed captioning. Dicker attributes the success of closed captioning to the fact that it a great experience with readers and is also non-invasive.
Alex Stone, VP of Digital investment at Horizon Media, says that advertisers are in fact happy about Google's move against sound-on video auto-play, as it suggests an intent on the part of the user if the user chooses to play the video. Mirroring the same thought, "Intent to watch is the buzzword of 2018," says Brian Rifkin, co-founder JW Player. Advertisers are paying two to three times the ad rates for user-initiated video than they were paying for auto-play.
"It’s all about the context that video is in", says Mike Haberman, VP and Group Director of Media at DigitasLBi. Publishers are under more pressure now to pair high-quality videos with more relevant stories. They are changing their video formats from auto-play to play on interaction and using enticing images to draw the user into playing the video ad. Also, mid-roll ads in the publisher's content have increased.
Publishers will need to work closely with brands and develop new content products for higher quality experiences. Some publishers are repackaging and reposting ad videos on their own social media accounts and websites. For example, Cheddar, the financial news company posted a video featuring the "Sock Slider"—a device used to help people put their socks on without stretching—to its Facebook and Twitter accounts. The video had the Cheddar's own logo, music and slogans.
With browsers like Google and popular ad blockers like Adblock Plus, blocking all sound-on video auto-play, the bar for the quality of ad content on publisher websites has been raised. Advertisers are paying per click, which has resulted in publisher's adapting ad content on their websites in a way that compels users to interact with the content. Washington Post has used captioning successfully to do the same. Video ads are placed in a more relevant context to increase the probability of a customer interacting with the ad. Publishers are working with brands to develop new content formats. Blocking of audio-on auto-play videos is also being seen as a positive development, as it improves the user's experience with the publisher.