Ominous developments for advertisers this week with the news that both YouTube and SeeSaw, the UK video-on-demand service, are launching services that allow viewers to switch off advertising during programmes or to choose which commercials they wish to watch.
YouTube is releasing a new ad unit called TrueView, which will provide viewers with a choice of three different ads to watch on the site, along with an option to avoid the ads altogether.
Viewers watching short-form content will get a TrueView streamed ad which they can skip. With longer videos they will be able to miss ad breaks provided they watch one of three video ads first. Sounds bad but at least advertisers won’t be charged for the ads that aren’t watched.
Meanwhile SeeSaw, whose major partners are the BBC, Channel 4 and Five, will give viewers the choice of watching ads during the programmes or paying £2.99 to avoid them altogether.
At present this feature applies only to programming from BBC Worldwide and independent producers but it will be rolled out to cover content from the other SeeSaw suppliers, including Channel 4, Five, Disney, MTV and NBC Universal.
This is just the start of a growing trend. It’s all part of the transfer of control to consumers of what and when they watch and listen to on whatever electronic device they choose. “Broadcasting” is still a strong medium (witness the X Factor and Downton Abbey) but it’s going to be increasingly difficult for brands to get through to their audiences.
As always the premium will be on creativity, which suggests that advertisers obsessed with cost control should be prepared to pay handsomely for the ideas that work on many media channels and gain the right sort of impact with their audiences.