Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Problem with Online Advertising

I started writing something up to post on Google+, but it ended up getting a little long winded.  I hadn't closed down this account yet, so I figured I'd post here.  As a result, I may just leave it up for a while longer, though I do not anticipate a regular delivery of content any more -- just random postings, in cases like this, where it would be too long to read in a social media post, but I still felt like sharing something.

Alright, so I began to get rather annoyed with a "First World Problem" last night that I think is going to need to be addressed in the near future:  web videos supported by video ads.

The problem is three-fold:

1.  There is not enough variety in the ads
I recently found a web series that I enjoyed, which had already produced 4 seasons.  I started to go back through the older shows in the series to catch up -- but there was an un-skippable ad for each of the 90+ episodes -- AND IT WAS THE SAME AD IN EACH EPISODE!  After watching about 10 of the shows, I decided it wasn't worth it.  I even started to resent the advertisement, which gave a bad impression of the advertiser, even though I realize without their support the show wouldn't be made.

2.  The video ads are too long
In that same web series, I might have kept going if the ad in question was only 15 seconds.  But it was 30 seconds, and most of the shows in the web series were between one and two minutes.  That's too much investment in watching the same ad over and over compared to the content I was trying to consume.  In Internet time, if I'm bored before I consume the data, I'm much more likely to move on, missing the content I was looking and skipping the commercial.

3.  Bandwidth restrictions are coming
I believe we're close to paying for the amount of data we consume instead of having it bundled (or at least buying it in batches).  At that point, people will be even less inclined to sit through video content that will eat through their limits more quickly.  Perhaps the same will even happen with images, and more people loading ad blocking software to keep that content from being downloaded, as well.

So what can be done so that content creators can still get support from a sponsor to create, and the sponsors can still receive a benefit from their sponsorship?  I've got a couple ideas...

People like episodic content, so break the commercials up into episodes.  Serve up the episodes in order, based on your session (so start over if a new session is created).  I'm much more inclined to sit through a 10 second ad than a 30 second ad, and I'm more inclined to stay on that tab and actually pay attention to it if it's new and builds off the previous commercial.  This is especially important if you're the only advertiser.  This addresses the first two issues, though the third may still be a concern moving forward.

Perhaps instead, the creators and sponsors need to look at Internet marketing more like celebrity marketing.  Instead of paying to put an ad on top of the content they've created, the sponsors should be paying the creators to be a spokesperson for their company.  They could put a commercial on the page, but limit it to once a session, and maybe not even on the first view.  Or it could be clickable.  Apart from that, the content creators could be called on to do commericals or appearances for the sponsor, or wear their clothes or logos, etc, much like a sports figure or entertainer.  Of course, these ads would need a place to be broadcast, so it couldn't be a universal solution (as Internet fame doesn't always translate into media recognition, so the Internet would be a more powerful place for those commercials to be broadcast).  In this case, the sponsor may be feeling like they aren't getting their value, or wouldn't be able to pay as much, but at least the ads would be less intrusive.

I don't just feels like there should be a better way to keep the sponsors, creators, and consumers all happy.