Keep the User Experience at the Centre of the Monetization Strategy
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James Grant
By James Grant,
Director, Partner Management & Four Fronts, Europe,
FreeWheel

There is a clear emerging trend in the advertising industry that’s causing problems for everyone concerned – ad blocking. Regardless of whether it’s the advertiser, publisher or even the brand itself, consumers are making themselves heard by rejecting advertising. According to a recent eMarketer survey, one in five UK consumers now use ad blockers and that’s expected to rise to over one in four – 27% – in 2017. I recently attended VOD Professional’s VUIX Conference in London and discussed this topic of conversation as it affects all within premium video publishing, regardless of whether content is delivered via streaming, OTT or VOD.

A key reason why we’re seeing this rise in the industry is the user experience, or rather the user’s perceived lack of experience. Such interruptions can arise from too many ads, poor quality videos, latency and irrelevant advertising. To tackle these issues, improve the user experience and ultimately grow revenue, isn’t just the sole responsibility of the publisher, it requires the whole industry to understand and address the issue.

The publisher’s balancing act

Publishers have lots of stakeholders ally vying for different objectives, with the most prominent being to publish compelling content to a wide audience and to grow revenue for the organisation through commercial enterprise:

  • The commercial entity is doing everything it can to hit revenue targets that are regularly raised by the finance teams, and of course shareholders or business leaders
  • Distribution and marketing teams who focus on building out user engagement strategies and viewership
  • Product teams who try to acquire and keep viewers based on the content and their enjoyment

With so much pressure on the user just from the publisher perspective, it’s not surprising consumers are reaching saturation!

The buyer’s needs

The metrics that buyers live by will often conflict with those of the publisher, the frequency of ads is just one example. A toiletry brand for example needs to be seen a lot more by users to drive engagement and sales. However, if a brand or its agency takes the view that a user needs to see an ad repeatedly it can contradict the views of publishers who’ll opt for variety over repetition. It could be that the publisher’s most loyal audience is also the buyer’s prime targets. While the buyer will, understandably, want a higher ad load to drive sales it puts the publisher in a quandary. Should it accept the higher ad-load and the accompanying revenue, or push back in an attempt to maintain the user relationship?

Keep the user front and centre

In the complex world of advertising, it’s always important to remember the user, not just as a data point, but as a person looking for an experience. While some will always want and be willing to pay not to receive ads there will be many more who will accept ad-funded content. Free to air content at point of consumption is here to stay.

While it has been historically reasonable to stop the user consuming content when they have an ad blocker in place and reminding them of the value exchange, the current message from users comes through loud and clear, they’ve had enough and want the system to change.

The user complaints

It’s becoming general industry knowledge that users are voicing a number of complaints:

  • Too many ads in a break
  • Seeing the same ad too many times
  • Latency and load times
  • Poor quality creative
  • Inconsistent experiences

These are understandable grievances – moving from an HD programme to a pixelated ad with slate in-between can be an infuriating experience.

The solution

We’ve reached an inflection point as an industry and need to think both short term and long term about options to address the user sentiment towards advertising.

In the short term, there are technological solutions that are available today and can be used to deliver smart, but still engaging experiences to users. Ad loads on different platforms can be adjusted in real time, and can also utilise audience data if it exists on that platform. If you are a new user to that show/channel then perhaps you have a lower pre-roll ad load – equally if you are a loyal channel user then you might get a lower ad load as you consume more episodes within a set show.

Behaviour and engagement patterns can be aligned with targeting – FreeWheel’s Q2 2016 Video Monetization Report offers more information about specific groups of consumers (Samplers, Catch-Up Viewers and Digital Enthusiasts) and how to drive engagement.

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In the long term, the key to improving the ad experience and hinder ad blockers is to consider all the stakeholders. Users have historically understood the value of ad-funded content. However, it’s important that the industry recognises that it has, to an extent, taken this for granted and now needs to readjust its planning and execution tactics in order to re-engage the user and drive revenue growth for both the buyer and publisher.

Stay in touch with the latest trends in premium video monetization and consumption by reserving your digital copy of the FreeWheel Video Monetization Report: Q3 2016, launching December 14, 2016. 

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