Digital Marketer • Ecommerce Leader • VR / AR / MR Evangelist

The only thing worse than auto-play video Ads are…

There is nothing more intrusive and annoying than sites that have all their videos auto-play with the audio on while wallpapering their site with obnoxious Ads that make it very difficult to engage with the site content. Having spent the last few years working at a digital media company I get it - it's about maximizing yield at all costs.

The digital Media business model still rewards companies for maximizing yield on every user interaction vs. focusing on the user and building an experience that will lead to loyalty and lifetime value.  Most media companies don't understand what lifetime value is, how to measure it and why it can build more long term equity and value in a company than revenue you get from short term Ad sales.

With that said, there is actually something far worse in my view - audio and video digital platforms that serve up the identical Ad and play it over and over and over again - often back to back.  From a business perspective I get it - there is more inventory than there are advertisers looking for your inventory -  so to satisfy delivery needs platforms just keep serving the Ad until their obligations are met.

In the old days of media buying you would never do this as things like frequency caps were important components to campaigns that actually worked. In today's programmatic world, the user loses as we are subjected to a brutal experience that is completely automated to maximize revenue for the publisher with no consideration to the actual experience.


Back to my rant - even worse than platforms that play the same Ad continuously at every commercial break (I'm looking at you, are the platforms that make you pay for the privilege of having an experience inferior to what you would get on cable TV.  Last night I watched the new Star Trek series on the new CBS streaming platform and after paying for the right to access the App and content with "minimal" commercials, what I found was that there were just as many commercials as you would expect on TV, if not more.  If felt like half the content were Ads. So now I'm paying for the right to see Ads?

Even worse than the CBS experience is the MLB App experience.  Being a Blue Jays fan living in Utah means the App is the only way to get every game live.  They reward my loyalty (after I pay for the App) with a bombardment of the same commercials every half inning - and often they will play the same one back to back.  Worst yet, they don't even try to sync the game feed with the commercial feed - so there is no smooth transition to or from the game. I can't believe I have to pay for this.

So what's my point? The digital media experience today sucks and users who are fed up with the experience will start looking for alternatives just as users found their way to Ad Blockers on publishing sites last year.

For me, a terrible experience drove me to finally give Spotify a try and now I'm hooked on Spotify and don't even have the App installed on my new Android phone.

A terrible streaming experience on platforms like the CBS App means people will look for alternative / boot-legged sources instead.  Unfortunately I'm stuck with my MLB App for now - but I've learned to quickly turn down the audio at each break or sometimes I just switch Apps in frustration and listen to music instead.  This is not a great fan experience for long time fans and it certainly won't generate any new fans.

I'm convinced that media platforms that put the user ahead of yield will win in the long term. It just takes commitment and a longer view than most are willing to take - especially in the current environment where Google and Facebook are eating their lunch for advertising dollars.  It's hard to think long term when you're too busy trying to stop the bleeding in the short term.

As an old colleague once told me, it's like trying to build a better horse-drawn carriage to compete with the automobile. The Media industry needs to stop trying to build a better horse-drawn carriage and start focusing on delivering an experience people expect to have today.


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