Stop. Do not read another word before pausing for 15 seconds. Really.
Okay. How’d that feel? Chances are you ignored the advice, and perhaps it compelled you to defiantly plunge ahead with more interest. After all, the headline promised 4 generations, and that usually begs the question “what were the first three?”
But I made you wait. What if I forced you to wait?
Would you click the headline next time? I suppose it depends on how saucy it was. Maybe “New Video Compression Technology” would have instantly given your brain a pro/con dance. But “Fat lady falls down stairs and onto YouTube” might be the “spoon full of sugar” that made the interruption “medicine go down.”
My point is this: the third generation of online-video is preroll ads. Let’s get past this, shall we? They’re usually void of entertainment, unavoidable and will continue to proliferate and erode the medium — if unchecked. And according to my media friends, they’re hot. They’ve made me far more selective about what content I view on YouTube… it better be worth it. And this morning, in a move that might surprise you, I asked YouTube to turn them on my Nalts channel.
Think About.com in the mid-1990s, when it fell from a coveted curator of credible content to a cesspool of ads masquerading as content, and ads masquerading as more obnoxious ads.
But let’s back up and look at the first three generations of online-video advertising in simple terms:
First Generation: Lurker. Nickel CPM ads surrounded videos, and didn’t even subsidize the bandwidth. YouTube was a voluntary non-profit, and companies like Revver and Metacafe compelled creators with ad-sharing. Unfortunately the advertising industry saw online video with the same disdain it viewed the web in 2000. Oh- that’s the Wild, Wild West. We can’t put our brand next to that nonsense. In fact people aren’t even using the medium. You want reach? Look no further than the original tube.
Second Generation: Overlay ads. The healthy compromise of ads like YouTube’s “InVideo” model was what saved the medium. The ads had critics, but as an advertiser I felt like my brand got enough attention. As a viewer I felt like I could tolerate it. Ad a creator I felt like I enjoyed the higher revenue. But then the illness started with our children. They began reflexively closing the boxes, almost like you hit “skip” on the flash/splash screen on the publisher’s website. So click-through and presumably all the other polite terms for “no immediate action” (awareness, recall, attitude, purchase intent, favorability) dropped too.
Third Generation: Pre-Roll Bouncers. You won’t have to look hard to know my POV on these little bastards we call pre-roll ads.They’re annoying, intrusive and deceptive (you often mistake them for the video you thought you’d be watching). And I just asked YouTube to turn them on my content. Why? They’re profitable. Why? They work… for now.
Fourth Generation: In the Show. Before I explain what I hope will be the fourth generation, let me guess what you’re thinking… that these surround, overlay and pre-roll ads are here to stay. You’re right. The lurker, flasher and bouncer will be around as long as media buyers are held accountable to buying space like purchasing agents buying #2 pencils and copier paper. As long as reach, “frequency and single-minded impression” is chanted like monks by students of advertising 101.
Now think like a receiver of advertisements. The Coke room on American Idol. The weather brought to you by Smuckers. They’re gentler on the stomach and more effective than the leading medication. Advertisers need to get within the show. It’s not easy to scale, it’s hard to do an “insertion order,” and it may not be the “path of least resistance” to getting your brand’s aided recall up by 50%. But it’s polite, there’s an implied endorsement, and it’s impossible to ignore. The brand is hero not the Soup Nazi. Most of Beyond Viral addresses this model of advertising, however my “lurker, flasher, bouncer” model is conspicuously absent in the book. It came to me in a dream last night. Shut up. Most of my dreams are better than your acid trips. This one just happened to be about advertising.
The burden of proof, I’d contend, is not on “in the show” to prove it’s scalable and drives purchase intent (although it certainly can’t be without accountability). Rather the burden of proof is on the less Darwinian evolved models to prove they’re a better bang for the buck.