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Tearing down the blockades

The growing use of ad blocking technology by today’s consumers continues to be a thorn in the side of publishers around the world. Indeed, the latest PageFair report revealed that over 400 million people are blocking ads on the mobile web alone. But what is behind the technology’s continued surge in popularity, and how can publishers stop the current cat and mouse game they are playing to stage a long-term fight back?

At its core, ad blocking is a response to negative advertising experiences. With this in mind, and to get to the bottom of the ad blocking problem, Brightcove conducted its own research to examine consumers’ evolving relationship with online video advertising, asking 4,000 viewers across the UK, France and Germany about their experiences, feelings and preferences.

Exploring current opinions of the online video advertising experience, questioning the viability of alternative revenue models and trying to solve the riddle of ‘the perfect video ad’, the findings gave some interesting insights into the steps publishers could be taking to adapt their approach and better balance their right to monetise content with consumers’ right to a positive ad experience.

The full research report can be found on our website. It is essential reading for any business that uses, serves or hosts online video advertising.

Negative viewing experiences
The overall picture painted by the research was far from positive, with a huge 92 per cent calling for at least one improvement to be made to the current online video advertising experience.

When it came to specific complaints, irrelevancy, volume, and poor delivery of ads emerged as the key culprits behind the substandard experiences. Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of respondents had experienced poor video ad delivery such as repeated buffering, while a similar number (74 per cent) had a negative experience with the content they had been served, whether that was because it was inappropriate or simply not relevant.

The reasons behind ad blocking
Today’s technology-savvy consumers are only too aware of ad blocking – our results found that over eight in ten (82 per cent) respondents claimed to know what an ad-blocker is.

Armed with this knowledge, one in two (51 per cent) consumers said they have downloaded, used or are currently using an ad-blocker, with a further 23 per cent reporting that they are contemplating using one. The top reasons given by those who had downloaded an ad-blocker were that ads are too long (56 per cent), not targeted and irrelevant (45 per cent), and not interactive (20 per cent).

A failure to keep pace
While around half of our respondents agreed that the range (54 per cent) and quality (47 per cent) of online video content has improved in the last year, the same could not be said about video advertising.

Seventy-three per cent of our respondents said the quality of video ad content had remained unchanged or deteriorated, and a similar 72 per cent felt that there had been no improvement in the range of video ad content either. Meanwhile, publishers continue to serve more ads – around a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents said that the volume of video ad content had worsened.

To pay or not to pay
With a number of publishers already exploring different ways to solve their monetisation problems, our results potentially discounted a paid-for model such as a subscription service as a viable alternative – 50 per cent of consumers told us that they were not willing to pay for any form of online video content. Encouragingly, however, two-thirds (66 per cent) said they understand and agree that it is fair for publishers to use online ads to fund free content.

Though the underlying message running through our results is that the present online ad user experience is not satisfying consumers, the silver lining for publishers has to be that the majority of consumers understand the ad-supported content model and just want improvements made to the experience.

There are always going to be lousy ads out there – but while ad-blockers offer a short-term filter for irritating content, they do not offer a long-term solution to the underlying issues of poor ad experiences. What they present instead, however, is a clear call to action for publishers, marketers, and advertisers to improve video experiences across mobile, desktop and TV in order to engage audiences. With 58 per cent of our respondents saying that the amount of online video content they watch across their devices has increased in the last twelve months, the rewards for those who get it right could be huge.

By Mark Blair, vice president, EMEA, Brightcove