The problem with video advertising

Including myself here as I tell you that according to the latest stats from comScore, 197.5 million people watched an online video in the US in November 2015 via desktop alone. But you don’t need me to tell you that… you’ve probably got one open in another browser window right now, plus another one on your mobile too.

The problem comes not with video content but with video advertising. And to understand that we need to get a little more qualitative in our analysis:

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Billions of years ago, Earth was formed…

And sometime after that in the 1890’s moving pictures were invented. This phenomenon quickly led to people gathering in movie theatres or ‘cinemas’ to view these films on mass. Such was the popularity of these pictures that by 1910 a silent video 17mins in length entitled In Old California, was released and the Hollywood film scene was born. 

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Madmen (now known as LAD men)

By 1941 commercial television had transported film into the home and the first TV advert had been run – Bulova Watches: Bulova Watch Time.

The second big bang

Then sometime towards the end of the last century a funny thing started happening: people started going on the internet and watching moving pictures online. The advent of social began to disintegrate our predisposed perceptions that videos should have the Hollywood production values that had grown up in cinemas a century before. Subsequently, the development of mobile exploded the notion of watching videos ‘anywhere, anytime’ and watching moving pictures exclusively about big dreams on big screens with Hollywood scenes and aspirational themes began to become obsolete. Video content became social, mobile, shareable, small screen. 


But video advertising didn’t. Think about the last piece of video content you watched. Mine was a 15 second clip showing cats taking out small children and it was lols lols lols. Conversely, think about the last piece of video advertising you watched. Was it the first 5 seconds of a shiny 30 second aspirational John Lewis ad before you hit the mute and took a 25 second vacation in another browser window? 

Our moving pictures and the way that we use them to tell stories has changed dramatically over time. Sadly advertisers and their agencies have not. They are still trying to create Citizen Kane to sell shampoo in an age when people are uploading images of themselves singing Xanadu into a shampoo bottle.   

But there is hope for love denied when brands can leave their greed aside. There’s so much great content out there. Particularly in premium publishing environments and particularly on video. The key for video advertisers is to create shorter, more impactful, less intrusive ads that are more indicative of the content they accompany and the people that it serves. The place of moving pictures has shifted dramatically in our society over the last century, and until online video advertising catches up with that shift in consciousness, it’s going to continue to have a problem. 

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