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How do viewers feel about impressions as a metric for video ad purchasing?

metrics for video ad atreamingI was streaming one of my favourite shows the other night. It was kind of late, and I just wanted to finish the episode and go to sleep. But it seemed like every five minutes I was interrupted by a video ad. And not just any old ad. It was the same ad, over and over. After a while, I started counting how many times it played just out of morbid curiosity.

During one ad break, I saw the same ad six times in a row. Two of those ads though, were in Spanish. Same ad, different language. At least the graphics and music were the same. I don’t speak or read Spanish so I can’t be certain they were exactly the same. But I would bet money on it.

Video Impressions

Knowing a little about online video ad streaming, I understand why this can happen. Businesses often pay the streaming advertising companies based on the number of views or impressions each ad gets. That is, how many times their ad was seen by viewers. If you know anything about cost per impression advertising (CPM) online, it is something similar. So if a company pays for a lot of views, then the video ad is shown frequently or to a larger audience in order to get those views.

As a business arrangement it makes sense. Google and other companies make a ton of money selling advertising by impression. But unlike text, or even graphical advertising you’ll see surfing the web, you can’t get away from the video ads played on some streaming content. If you click the ad it takes you to the business or product landing page for the ad and away from the show. You can’t skip the ads either. As a viewer, you’re stuck. It’s just like watching live TV.

I hate that. I’m spoiled you see. I adopted DVRs early on. I never watch anything live, except perhaps a sports game of some sort. So I became used to skipping the ads early on. Then when I started watching online streaming, many places didn’t have ads. Then services began adding the commercials, but usually I could skip them. Now though, it’s un-skippable, endlessly repeating ads all the time on some of the services I use to watch TV and movies online (and I think I use most of them).

What about viewers though?

Clearly as a viewer, the situation is annoying. But companies need to advertise and online video is one of the fastest growing channels. In fact, the Guardian reported recently that the UK is the first country to spend more on digital advertising than any other form. Granted the term “digital advertising” encompasses more than just videos, but video is the bulk of it.

And organisations like the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) work to develop standard metrics to use for video ads. They want to make sure the buyer of the advertising spot, and the one selling the advertising spot, are all getting a fair deal. Somewhere in their discussions I’m sure they are taking into consideration what the viewer behaviour will be. Aren’t they?

In truth, I don’t mind the ads so much. I understand the companies need to make money. What I object to is being subjected to the same ad, or sometimes a small grouping of ads, over and over. It happens on traditional TV too, but not to the same extent. It just seems that the people or organisations in charge of ad programming for some of the online streaming services don’t try very hard. Seeing the same ad in every commercial break may become annoying, but when you get six in a row in one break, and in different languages, it goes way beyond annoying. It reaches the “I want to call and complain to someone” level. Video advertisers don’t want that. They want people to see their ads and buy stuff, not create people who hate their ads (well, they might hate them anyway but for other reasons).

So what’s the point?

This has been a bit of a personal rant based on my own experiences with video ads on some streaming services. But there is a point to it all. As video creators, you know you need to keep your audience in mind when it comes to content. If you’ve been doing it awhile, you also know that delivery is key too. So whether you place your video ads on your own site, in your own programming, or you use a third party ad network, try to always keep the viewer in mind. Use a variety of metrics in your analysis of how to measure a video’s success (if you don’t already) even if you do pay by impression.

A great source for information on metrics and standards is iab.net. There you’ll find a great source of guidelines and best practices when it comes to analysing your video ad performance. And whatever you do, try not to over saturate the viewer with the same ad over and over. I will thank you for it.

Oliver Burt

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