What about what WE think?

Here’s the latest from Madison Avenue via Online Media Daily:

Viewers pay more attention to online video ads than to traditional TV commercials and also recall them better, according to new research that utilized Affectiva’s facial tracking algorithms and second-by-second biometric modeling of cognition, excitement and stress levels.

The research, which “measured the reactions of 48 viewers watching one hour of programming in Interpublic Group’s West Coast IPG Media Lab,” found that “online video ads received 18.3% more viewer attention in the study than TV commercials.” It concludes that “Compared to TV, online video is measurably better at delivering ads that are impossible to skip technologically and impractical to skip behaviorally.”

This is in sync with other recent articles about how much more is going to be spent on online video ads in the months ahead, heralding a burgeoning marketplace. I can’t wait.

One problem. The ad industry likes to measure “effectiveness,” when it needs to be measuring tolerance. Why? Because they’re not in charge online; we are! Many years ago, I quoted Microsoft from a MediaPost story that the optimum time for a pre-roll ad was 7–12 seconds. After I published my piece agreeing with that, MediaPost edited the story, because someone from Microsoft didn’t want that published. Why? They were selling a lot of 15–30 second ads.

So I view these kinds of studies as meaningless. Who cares if an irritant is “effective?” It’s still a bloody irritant, and the Web has a funny way of routing around such. If the video is genuinely something I want to see (which is extremely rare — like this), I’ll tolerate the pre-roll. When I do, however, I turn the sound off. You might be surprised at the number of videos I refuse to watch, because of pre-roll ads. It’s just not the right way to enable commerce online. It’s lazy, mass market thinking in a direct marketing universe, and it’s going to require courage for some people to stand up and say no. They are the ones who will be rewarded.


  1. Testing this in lab conditions is nonsense anyway. It assumes a priori that the ads will be watched rather than avoided / skipped / ignored and tests recollection on that basis, telling the industry precisely what it wants to hear — that everything can just “move online” without bothering to rethink the model or approach. In reality if an ad is running in a tab one merely switches tabs until it has finished (just as one changed channel or made a cup of tea during TV ad breaks). If they tested effectiveness in terms of how many people even see the things they’d get a less reassuring result.

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