Advertising has become too linear. That’s not a general assertion, it’s plain to see. Take TV advertising for example. Ever since the birth of the ‘live pause’ function with the launch of Sky+ in 2002, UK viewers have been systematically cutting TV adverts out of their lives. Lots of TV services now offer the ability to pause live TV as standard, including the main competitors to Sky+, Freeview+ Virgin’s V+. Even Alan Sugar’s troubled YouView project has recognised that without the ability to pause live TV their offering simply won’t cut the mustard.
Alongside digital video recorders, on-demand and catch up services and a range of subscription and streaming services, TV viewers now have the option to never watch another ad in full again and on the internet ad skipping is rife with almost 60 per cent of pre roll ads skipped altogether. Ad skipping in video cost the ad industry £44bn this year alone and it’s getting worse.
Clearly, this generation’s evolving viewing habits present a very real problem for advertisers, as TV viewers are now keenly aware that they don’t have to sit through the ad breaks anymore. The ‘skip generation’ of viewers are inadvertently fighting back against traditional advertising through the use of technology and the skip generation is all of us. Advertising funds the vast majority of TV content, and if that source of revenue is lost in unwatched ad breaks it could significantly impact the quality of the programming we all watch.
There’s been a seismic shift in viewing habits, and it’s crucial that advertisers ‘catch up’ with their audience. On demand, streaming, live pausing and other methods of ad-skipping aren’t going away and it can also be as simple as tuning out and doing something else. Research released earlier this year by the BBC revealed that a quarter of its viewers are now watching programmes using catch-up services rather than when programmes originally air. Indeed, the internationally popular Sherlock saw a staggering 3.5 million additional viewers watch the show via the iPlayer or through a recording.
In addition to the changes to the way in which we watch traditional TV programming, advertisers have also had to contend with the massive growth in popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant.
Netflix has achieved significant critical and commercial success with its original programming, as shown by the triumphant return of flagship series House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey (left). The roaring success of House of Cards, along with other Netflix original series such as Orange is the New Black, Hemlock Grove and Lilyhammer, shows that now that we have the option, we’re increasingly opting to watch TV on our own terms – whenever and wherever we want to. Amazon Prime Instant is now tempting new audiences with Steven Spielberg’s Extant, another multi-million dollar original to have bypassed the TV circuit.
Advertising has historically been quick to adapt to the ever-changing technological landscape, as shown by the rapidly rising revenues that are being poured into digital advertising, and in particular mobile advertising. Unfortunately, TV advertisers just haven’t kept up with the changing viewing habits of the audience. It’s absolutely crucial that advertisers listen to what the audience is increasingly making abundantly clear and find a way to reach their target audience on their own terms. Rather than regarding the growth of new technology and the change in the audiences’ viewing habits as the barrier, advertisers need to embrace the opportunity that new technology provides.
Advertising doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, intrusive. Brands need to be able to reach their target audience in a contextually relevant, native way that doesn’t break the deal with the audience by intruding upon their viewing experience (as in this Mitsubishi example in Hannibal, broadcast in Brazil, below).
While technology enabled viewers to skip ads in the first place, it can now also put brands back in the one place where people are still engaged – in the spotlight of content. Not around the content; in it, right there with the laughter and tears, the one place brands can’t be ignored and where they are at home.
Using native in-video techniques, brands can target specific audiences with contextually, geographically and emotionally relevant products and services by digitally integrating them into appropriate content. However, ensuring that each integration meets all three of these criteria requires a balance of technology scale and human contextualisation – a balance that is now establishing a new cutting edge of native, in-video advertising. Instead of brands searching for their own relevance by creating their own narratives in short-form 30-second spots and long-form branded content, native advertising enables brands to participate in ready-made stories with ready-made audiences – a drama, game show or music video that already has a loyal audience.
As consumers, we know that we must be advertised to, but it’s important that advertisers work with the available technology to give us a seamless viewing experience whilst promoting the interests of the brands they represent. Boosting advertising revenue can and should work hand-in-hand with an enhanced and uninterrupted viewing experience and technology now affords the ability to do both.
The current culture, with its abundance of time-saving technology, promotes a more efficient, faster consumption of content, which has given birth to a generation of consumers that are, for want of a better word, impatient. The MTV generation had vast attention spans compared to today’s connected audiences – people now go out of their way to consume things as quickly as they possibly can. It’s important that ads add value to the content, rather than just get in the way.