Why your mobile video ads stink | M&M Global

Why your mobile video ads stink

Allen Klosowski, vice president of mobile and connected devices at SpotX, has a few words of advice for advertisers using mobile video formats.


Sixty-second video ads alongside 15 seconds of content? Close buttons so small you can’t avoid clicking the ad? Talking heads in a silent autoplay video? Hi-res video ads delivered over low-bandwidth networks?

These are just some of the design flaws plaguing mobile video advertising.

As the online advertising industry undergoes a user experience wake-up call, it’s time for publishers and advertisers to take action. A consumer’s phone, in particular, is a highly personal space, and as more ads go mobile, the backlash against interruption is becoming more extreme. The rise of ad blocking software and move towards faster page load times have quickly become a threat to monetising mobile.

“Publishers and advertisers need to improve ad effectiveness while preserving user experience. It’s the responsibility of both parties”

At the same time, the dissatisfaction with mobile ads is also driving a push towards video. Replacing multiple low yield placements with a single, or fewer, high-yield placements that are less intrusive is the inevitable solution to these pressures.

Advertisers will pay more for premium placements inside content that don’t disrupt the user flow or drive users to install ad blockers. One well-placed video ad can often make more money than five low-value display ads that will clutter the page and increase load time.

However, video advertising on mobile is still establishing a solid foothold, and both publishers and advertisers need to improve ad effectiveness while preserving user experience. It’s the responsibility of both parties.

For publishers, this means a reorganization of priorities. The knee-jerk reaction of loading a page with as many ads as possible to maximise yield has become damaging.

Mapping the ad experience

Publishers need to shift their mindset about ad maps and viewability. In digital display, advertisers were, and in many cases still are, being billed when the ad loads, whether it’s seen or not. In video, the advertiser gets billed when the video starts playing.

For publishers that didn’t hail from a video background, that’s a tough mindset shift. With the additional focus on viewability, it’s clear advertisers are pushing back on paying for unseen impressions. That further undermines the effectiveness of the display “clutter” model that infuriates users.

The good news is there are insights on hand to help map this change. Publishers can evaluate where dwell time is occurring, and build impactful advertising experiences in those pockets. If you hit the sweet spot, you get higher viewability and greater ROI for advertisers.

Length of video is also an important consideration, for both publishers and advertisers. another mentality shift that’s yet to fully take hold.

For pre-roll in front of a long-form video, a 30-second ad makes sense. The user is willing to invest that time ahead of a longer viewing experience. In front of short video clips, or for out-stream ad units, the pay-off for investing viewing time isn’t there. Out-stream units, like SpotX’s In-Content Ad Unit, should be shorter, at around 15 seconds to avoid user experience concerns.

On mobile devices, where consumers expect content immediately, the optimal video ad length is thought to be around five to nine seconds per ad.

For advertisers, it’s not enough just to adapt to shorter video ad lengths; they must also consider how to get their message across effectively in these new environments. Is the brand clearly visible in the first few seconds? Does the point get across even if the user has their phone volume muted? Should you consider adding clear messaging in text on the video ad?

Some big brands, like Heineken and Ben & Jerry’s, have already started to adopt these principles.

More than just creative

Improving experience and effectiveness involves more than just the creative, for both the publisher and advertiser. Are you targeting the right audiences? Are you targeting them at the right time? As a publisher I might consider only displaying video ads when a user is on wifi to preserve their limited mobile data. As an advertiser, I may only target users on faster connections with video.

This year, we expect video ads on mobile to get interactive at scale. As VPAID 2.0 (the IAB’s latest Digital Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) supply becomes available at scale, more advertisers can build interactive video creative that runs across mobile and desktop simultaneously.

However, advertisers must ask themselves about the parity in user interaction across environments. There is no real ‘hover’ action on mobile, and do the buttons get bigger to accommodate imprecise thumbs versus the accurate mouse pointer? Can a user close or skip the ad with without triggering an accidental click? Creative needs to be tested on all devices.

Finally the risk of running budgets on non-VPAID inventory on mobile is leaving advertisers at risk of URL spoofing, bot fraud, mis-declared player sizes, and unviewable inventory.

“The idea of adding another ad unit to a web page to solve a monetisation gap doesn’t make sense anymore”

With confidence in mobile video still building, publishers need to adopt, and push their partners to adopt, these new standards to assure buyers of inventory quality and brand safety. VPAID 2.0, or VPAID JavaScript, gives advertisers the confidence they need to commit to mobile video budgets. Publishers that accommodate these new standards stand to be first in line to capture expanding budgets, even it if means more work on the front end.

In summary, the idea of adding another ad unit to a web page to solve a monetisation gap doesn’t make sense anymore. We will see a consolidation, with distracting banner ads stripped away in favour of more seamless user experiences to build a monetization strategy that works for the long term.

Publishers that go the extra mile to create experiences that are front and center, talk to their agencies, communicate the value, and place ads in the sweet spots, will see their mobile ad revenues increase.

Allen Klosowski

Vice president, mobile and connected television, SpotX

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