THE BLOG

Do Online Video Ads Need to Be a Necessary Evil?

06/14/2012 04:11 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT

As we all continue to spend more time online, across multiple devices and screens, watching online video has become a mainstay for most of us. Whether enjoying one of our favourite TV shows, catching up on the latest sports highlights, or viewing a "how to" piece, online video has become a big part of our lives. In fact, total online video viewership is up 58 per cent in the Canadian market year-over-year, according to comScore.

Yet the content we love to watch is often accompanied by time-consuming video ads, which are often impersonal and lack the creativity necessary to capture our attention online. It stands to reason that as more online video content becomes available, we'll be subject to more video ads -- a frustrating trend considering our time has never been more valuable. Add to that the fact that most people have an aversion to being forced to do anything, let alone having to watch ads, and it becomes increasingly difficult to justify online video ads.

But not much in life is free, right? What some consumers might not understand is that video ads are often what make it possible for us to view our favourite content online. Most of us watch online video on publisher websites such as Fox News, or even gaming websites like Tetris Friends. We're able to watch a lot of that content for free because publishers sell the content spots to advertisers who then create the 15 and 30 second pre-roll ads that come on before our content.

So what if there was a way for us to choose whether we wanted to view these ads that still allowed advertisers and publishers to get paid? Imagine a paid or earned skip model for consumers where we could skip the online video ads of our choice for a small, pay-as-you-go fee. Would you pay? What if you could earn skips by simply engaging with a brand online by liking a company on Facebook, tweeting about them, or downloading a coupon -- would you be tempted then?

Publishers would still get the same high returns for each skip, and would ultimately be able to give their users a less cluttered online experience, since they aren't being forced to watch video ads. Advertisers could still receive credits for the ads that are skipped, which eliminates waste, and gives them insight into new forms of data (who's skipping their ads, during what time of day and on which publisher sites). This ultimately can lead to better, more relevant advertising.

So will consumers pay to skip, or take time to interact with a brand to skip video ads for free? Only time will tell, but if publishers can earn as much, if not more, from consumer skips than they do from playing the ad, all while making advertisers and consumers happy, then everyone benefits. And imagine the implications further down the line: If advertisers know which ads we're skipping, they're bound to become more informed about what we find entertaining or interesting.

Which might lead to ads we actually want to watch, wouldn't that be crazy?