What does YouTube’s scrapping of 30-second unskippable ads mean for marketers?
Youtube have recently announced that from 2018, consumers will no longer be forced to sit through 30-second unskippable adverts before watching video content, a move which is being celebrated by channel subscribers, creators and, perhaps surprisingly, marketers alike. Online video strategy has crept up the list of marketer’s priorities in recent years, and YouTube offers a unique opportunity for brands to portray themselves in a more structured, strategic, and ultimately human way. So what do marketers make of this upcoming change?
Want It Or Not
For a long time, marketers advertising on YouTube have had their customers over a barrel. But now that they can no longer take advantage of “captive audiences”, what does this mean for UX? Well, as Mark Blair, VP EMEA, Brightcove points out, it is likely to do wonders for actual brand engagement. The modern consumer has become so conditioned to block out intrusive adverts that they might as well not be there. “If I get an annoying ad that’s not engaging me, I’ll mute it or turn away and wait for the content that I actually want to start […] It’s not just about whether the ad’s skippable or not […] making sure that the content is engaging and the video is good quality is really important. I think it will push people to develop better ads.” Dan Hagen, chief strategy officer, Carat UK, points out that “As people are able to make simple and easy choices between what they like and what they don’t like, advertising will increasingly need to move from disrupting an experience to adding to an experience – otherwise it will be skipped, blocked or ignored.” As consumers gain more control over the types of content they are exposed to, brands are likely to find better, more organic engagement taking place, and leading to a far greater uplift in conversions. Allowing the consumer to choose the kinds of adverts they want to engage with reduces wasted spend in wide canvasses of video content which do not get the interaction they’re after.
Picking The Battleground
Rather than being received as a setback for video strategy, the change in YouTube’s policy is being hailed as a decisive step forward for the industry, giving marketers the incentive needed to develop their video offering into other areas. “What this demonstrates is the importance of having a multichannel strategy.” Says Blair. “You have to consider how to use the strength of each channel to your advantage. The platform that you’re playing on can change the rules at in any point in time, and those rules can impact you whether you’re a brand or an agency marketer.” He is also quick to remind marketers that there are more options out there for hosting a great video strategy than social media. “Owning your own properties and driving the audience to those properties is important. Don’t just engage your audience on social media sites… Yes, you have to invest in social platforms and nurture your audience, but the goal is to get them on your own turf, where you can control the monetisation experience.” It’s important to remember though, that video needs to remain relevant to the whole of a brand’s consumer demographic, not just the narrow window that may connect on social media. “Just because you have the option to advertise on social media or maintain a channel doesn’t mean that you should.” Says Gary Andrews, social media editor, Direct Line. “It’s really about knowing the most effective channels to reach your audience and get the results you need, whether that’s TV, YouTube or Instagram.”
Worth A Second Glance?
Anyone who has spent any amount of time on social media, read the news or attended a marketing strategy event has asked or been asked the question: “but what about the millennials?” We’ve heard a lot about the “shortening” of the millennial attention span, to which YouTube’s move appears to be a logical reaction. But what opportunities does this present to marketers? “The millennial thing is kind of funny.” Says Blair. “I would actually argue that the attention span dilemma is broader than just millennials- I suffer from it too! And I think it’s more about the devices and networks that have allowed people’s behaviours to change.” It’s true, of course, that mobile has played a huge part in the evolution of video consumption. With consumers checking their phones hundreds of times a day, the smartphone has turned into one long continuous advertising window with new reach potential being explored every day. “To maximise effectiveness, we should stop thinking of the formats handed down from TV and cinema. Vertical and square aspect ratios are here to stay.” States Chris Constantine, head of UX, Syzygy. “Social platforms such as Snapchat are feeding off this very issue of short attention span. However, they also recognise the importance of the users’ ego and are providing formats that allow brands to empower the user […] This means marketers have to think more about the creative element of the media, instead of the delivery- which so very often is the cause of a poor performing display campaign.”
What Does The Future Hold?
So what trends are on the horizon for video content? “Increased personalisation will be a key trend going forward, especially with richer targeting options around interests.” Says Andrews. “The rise of AI, chatbots, and messenger apps also make it easier than ever to stitch together an incredibly bespoke piece of creative. However, there’s a danger of coming across as slightly intrusive to your audience and video marketers need to get the user experience balance right.” User experience, it’s clear, must be the overarching consideration defining video strategy. The death of 30-second adverts is a no-nonsense sign that the consumer’s attention span is simply not to be wasted any longer. “Quality is a key area that needs to be worked on going forward.” Concludes Blair. “The expectations keep on increasing. More and more we’re going to be looking at content on devices –but consumer frustration at poor experience is increasing.” YouTube’s attitude to user feedback has been swift and uncompromising, and makes clear its stance towards consumer feedback and experience. Brands will have to pull out all their creative stops as the industry moves into the next stage of its evolution.