How embedded ads blend user experience and brand awareness for positive sentiment
“Skip this ad in 5, 4…” We’ve all been there — counting down the seconds until we can press the button and return to our regular viewing session. Most of the time, we’re not interested in the ad content shown to us, only frustrated that it came up during the best part of the video. As more things move onto a digital format and TV becomes less preferred, the ways that advertisements reach consumers have also dramatically changed.
From billboards to print to sign spinners to inflatable tube men, companies have always found ways to capture our attention and push toward their product or service. Only now, with mobile devices and streaming services aplenty, we don’t have as much of an option to look away — especially when we’re already in the zone to watch, listen, and absorb content. But because we are more aware, ads feel more invasive, sometimes doing more harm than good for a brand.
So, how do brands create ads that turn interest into purchase without hurting the experiences of the viewer? And how would consumer preferences shape the effectiveness of advertising?
In the following, we explore and review the effectiveness of digital advertising formats.
- Digital advertising has become more creative with the increases in immersive product experiences, adding in interactive features
- Most current ad formats are moderately or highly disruptive to consumers, possibly gaining negative attention to the overall brand and misplacing efforts
- Embedded ads utilize streaming culture and esports popularity as new platforms for advertising and product placement while maintaining the viewing environment and remaining non-intrusive
Types of Ad Integration
In-stream, In-banner, embedded, other
I. In-stream: Ads that are inserted into the flow of the main content
These are the advertisements we’re probably the most familiar with. They include any external content shown before, during, or after our regular viewing content, anywhere from a couple of seconds to a minute or more in length. It’s clear where our content stops and the ad content begins. These types of advertisements are grouped into the following:
- Pre-roll: shown before the content arrives, third-most disliked ad format (57%) according to HubSpot Adblock Plus Research study Q2 2016
- Mid-roll: most similar to a commercial break, interrupts the main content, but highest penetration out of the three
- Post-roll: shown after content, usually the least disruptive, but large losses in viewership because of optional nature
II. In-banner: Ads that are added on top of main content, in its designated space
Popular on Youtube, these ads usually take up a set rectangular space and give users the options to delete or to expand them, without interrupting the current content. Some may have embedded video pop-ups and autoplay features. From the same Hubspot study, banner ads are the fourth most disliked at 43%.
III. Embedded: Ads that are incorporated onto main content, blending into the same environment
For the first two categories of in-stream and in-banner ads, there is a clear distinction between wanted content and ad content. Embedded advertisements, created by 4D Sight, seek to lessen this gap for a more natural viewing experience.
Similar to product placement, where brands are added into a script or given portions of screen time, embedded ads become a part of the wanted content. However, they are generated and placed at the same time as the content is being distributed to the live-stream audience. For instance, different from an in-game ad, where the ad is created as a part of a game, embedded advertisements are added on top of live-streams of the game. Because embedded ads are independent of the original content’s production process, more flexibility is given toward the brands to choose their audience and learn from their feedback.
Here, brand logos and products are blended into the content, such as the above Geico ad placement in NASCAR created by 4D Sight. Overlaid on top of the regular viewing experience, embedded ads allow viewers to continue the flow of watching while maintaining the style of the content that viewers are engaging with for a much less intrusive experience.
IV. Other/new creative
Many other types of advertisements have been tried and tested. These newer methods often capture the audience’s imaginations, making a lasting impression. Some more interesting ones include AR/VR ads (i.e. Oreo’s 360 VR video, creating a world based on milk and chocolate) or interactive Instagram story ads, where polls are made and users are encouraged to vote. Descriptions of new ad formats and standard guidelines can be found in the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)’s New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio.
Issues with in-stream/in-banner ads
What happens when advertisements are not created with the user in mind?
According to Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends survey, advertising is moderately or highly disruptive to 92% of consumers
I. Click to skip has low viewer retention and awareness
Whenever viewers are given the option to skip ad content, unsurprisingly, most of the time they do. In fact, from Facebook’s analysis, this type of advertisement reaches 10% or less of viewers, and for Gen Z (16–19-year-olds) users, 82% elect to skip ads. After the ‘mandatory’ couple of seconds, the skip button pops up and the viewers go back to what they were watching. Though some messages can be communicated in the 5–10s span before the skip, viewers are usually not invested in what the ad has to say.
II. Non-skippable ads, though high viewership, increases frustration
Since click-to-skip ads have a low reach, wouldn’t non-skippable ads solve the problem? Though over 70% complete watching these non-skippable ads on Facebook, the likelihood of the viewer actually taking interest and purchasing is far less promising than the viewership. 69% of Gen Z viewers will do other tasks to distract themselves as the ad plays, while longer ads spark frustration against the brand.
An example of consumer response against non-skippable ads can be seen when the paid console game NBA 2k19 employed non-skippable ads in their loading screen. The ad was for the “Snowfall” TV series, which apparently paused loading at 99% until the ad was completed. The Reddit backlash involved many users expressing frustration at the game, some attacking the game’s new selling strategy, and questioning the motives behind the company. Even almost a year after, this post with 15.1K upvotes, still holds the all-time top post position on the NBA 2K Reddit group, with the next top post at 7K upvotes.
Though ads in non-paid services are not likely to spark the same amount of anger, NBA 2k19 is a reminder of how poorly executed ads can not only decrease the quality of user experience but also the viewers’ opinion of a brand.
III. Content-blocking and pop-up ads are highly disliked
Instead of taking time out of a given service for an advertisement, ads overlaid on video content is a possible alternative. However, ads that block content and/or pop-up are highly disliked, with content-blocking ads annoying users the most according to an IAB study and pop-ups having a 73% dislike rate. And for minimally intrusive banner ads, 34% of clicks are done on accident, compared to the 40% completed with interest, according to HubSpot’s research survey. These are strong signs that advertising methods need to be re-evaluated.
IV. Ad-block usage and other barriers to ad penetration is high
Even when ads are well-executed and truly have the potential to gain interest, the consumers may not even see the ad. The use of ad blockers is growing, with 46% of respondents aged 15–25 using ad blockers in Q2 2018.
As the advertising space becomes more versatile and also more susceptible to consumer annoyance and barriers, what are some methods to address these concerns? Effectively, how do we consolidate the interests of both the consumer and the brand?
Embedded advertising, the next big avenue
How seamless ad integration allows space for both brands and users
I. Addressing consumer preferences with relevant, organic, and non-invasive experiences
Keeping ads relevant to the context of service is essential to both the interest of the consumer and how invasive an ad feels. Embedded advertising interacts with the environment that the viewer is already invested in, creating awareness without being invasive. When the ad becomes a part of the footage, there is less overhead in loading sites, and it appears more trustworthy as it doesn’t lead to other websites that may have viruses.
II. Esports, gaming, and broadcasting as new opportunities
According to Deloitte’s gaming and Esports consumption trends, penetration through gaming is higher than pay-TV among young adults; as 40% of Gen X gamers and 30% of female gamers watch esports weekly. With matches that can last a couple of hours, gaming and esports platforms provide extended screen time with many viewers.
It’s common to find sport sponsorship logos sprawled on courts, hockey rinks, or tennis fences, amounting to many minutes of brand exposure. Since many sports watchers are already familiar with the presence of advertising, finding modular ad-spaces in esports will preserve the look and feel of an esports experience without noticeable changes in content interaction. Embedded live-stream advertising brings brand exposure into a virtual context, and generalizes the typical sports set-up to large game franchises such as Fortnite and League of Legends.
III. Expanding Direct-to-Consumer reach through audiences
Inserting brands into live streams to reach the audiences of these major game/esports streaming events is also effective. Many in-game advertisements reach players, but for the larger number of people watching on streaming sites like Twitch, the opportunity is forgone. Bringing ads directly to the viewers presents a greater spread when viewers share and discuss game events.
Though we’ve been talking extensively about the issues with ads, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t need to be this way. Good advertising is more about understanding what it’s like to be the people being advertised than it is about viewership or the number of clicks. Adding products where products fit naturally can bring more genuine attention and less frustration.