It’s all in the headline (or not)

In a headline that needs to be seen to be believed, Online Media Daily says “Consumers like 30-second Pre-Rolls, OPA Study Finds.” OMG, where to begin?

Upon reading the story — and one with a better headline at PaidContent.org — the truth is revealed. 30-second pre-rolls are “more effective” than shorter ads, more effective for the advertiser. This is a sophisticated study that the Online Publishers Association did with the Online Testing exchange and the findings are well worth noting.

However — and this is a big “however” — following its conclusions will certainly conflict with user preferences, and that’s a huge mistake in the online world. Why did a Microsoft study a few years ago conclude that 7–12 seconds was optimum for pre-rolls? Why is Google about to give us 3‑second pre-rolls via YouTube? Why are they experimenting with variations of pre and post-rolls?

Because the user is in charge online, not the publisher.

And here’s the deal, folks. If you think your content is so hot that people will sit through a steady diet of 30-second pre-rolls, you are absolutely deluded. They have no choice in a broadcast paradigm (oops, there’s TiVo), but where they have a choice, they’ll flee from it.

Let me repeat an old theme here: mass marketing is about manipulation — doing anything in the name of getting heads in a crowd to turn. It’s an art, and it is a science. And people are sick to death of being chased by master manipulators. Hence, the world wide web and the personal media revolution.

Online video is the growth engine of advertising revenue, and marketers everywhere are trying to find static formulas that will assure their future employment. It won’t work on the internet, because micro marketing is the game here. It’s just not a mass marketing environment, and rather than trying to drag it back into the MM world, we’d all be better off developing new models that begin with the end user’s perspective.

This study offers valuable insight, but my recommendation is to proceed with extreme caution. As Starcom’s Rishad Tobbaccowala said, people are “god-like” in the age of participation, and we would be smart to remember that.

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