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North Thinking


A monthly look at the world of digital from NORTH’s point of view

The Makeover Of Television Advertising

By Caroline Desmond, Director of Media Strategy

Image Source: The Walt Disney Co.

Television networks are coming to grips with the reality that more viewers are turning to alternative sources for their must-see TV for the promise of fewer ads per programming hour or no ads at all. With this in mind, networks are rapidly moving to makeover traditional TV viewing into a trimmer, less cluttered experience featuring fewer ads per hour. With this, networks hope to maintain viewership and keep brands happy.

Mintel’s January 2018 study on U.S. Television Advertising reports: “Some 49% of adults avoid commercials most of the time or almost always.” Mintel’s panel also found that “nearly all participants us[e] either DVRs or streaming services (e.g., Netflix) to avoid seeing ads at least some of the time.”

Nielsen has similarly reported an exodus of TV viewers to streaming formats (where there are fewer ads per programming hour). According to a Feb 2018 report published by Google, traditional TV watching has declined 44% for 18–24 year-old viewers and 32% for 25–34 year-olds over the past 5 years. Furthermore, in 2017, 59% of American households had a streaming video subscription, compared to just 38% in 2014. In fact, Digiday recently reported that “75 percent of NBCUniversal’s digital ad impressions are delivered on connected TVs.”

As more US consumers adopt connected TVs and stream their TV programming, expectations will continue to evolve and viewers will likely expect lower ad loads wherever they view content. Thus, one of the biggest issues facing traditional TV providers is that the length of commercial breaks are still significantly longer on traditional TV than on connected TV platforms. Although platforms like Hulu run the same breaks that traditional TV runs, the average commercial pod on Hulu is only about :90 seconds long. Compare this to the typical 2:30 commercial break for traditional TV advertising. So on average, Hulu’s commercial ad load per hour is around 8–9 minutes, including pre-roll, whereas the average ad load in an hour of traditional broadcast programming is around 15 minutes. Hulu is also proof that viewers are okay with some advertising in exchange for being able to view the shows they love on their terms. In fact, viewers continue to opt into Hulu’s ad supported package despite other ad-free experiences available on services like Amazon and Netflix. Of Hulu’s 47 million monthly unique viewers, 33 million of those viewers consume content using the ad-supported subscription tier.

Traditional TV networks also likely have brands in mind as they announce plans to reduce commercial ad load times per hour. Although this may seem counterintuitive, in fact, brands have an interest in fewer ads per programming hour. This is so, because it has been proven that fewer ads per hour (and less clutter) translates into better brand metrics. A 2017 Nielsen study measuring brand metrics for adults 18–49 reported lifts between 21–60 points for measures like ad recall and likeability viewing when comparing people viewing ads on traditional TV vs. Hulu.

Image Source: Nielsen Brand Effect (IAG) Feb 2016–Jan 2017

Some of the networks that have come forward with announcements to reduce ad loads include: NBC, Fox, and Turner. More are likely forthcoming. NBC will be reducing the number of ads it runs in commercial breaks by 20%. Fox has made an even bolder claim that it will reduce its ad load per hour to 2 minutes by the year 2020. And Turner’s TruTV and TNT networks are also experimenting with reduced ad load times.

All of this seems to be a win-win for brands (less clutter), viewers (better viewing experience), and maybe even the TV networks themselves who stand to command higher premiums for fewer ad spots available.

Google Chrome — The New Ad Police

Devon Brown, Performance Marketing Manager

Image Source:

The wild west days of internet advertising are over. On February 15th Google Chrome rolled out a default ad blocker with one goal in mind: kill ad units that are pervasive, obnoxious, or annoying. As of last month, Google Chrome users accounted for 60% of the market, followed by Internet Explorer with 13% of the market, so this change will affect a substantial amount of internet users.

Their strategy for sniffing out the aggravating and omnipresent is one of scans and warnings. In the first 30 days, they will take a sample size of your website’s pages, about 7%, and scan for what they deem unworthy. Criteria includes:


Pop-up ads

Auto-play video ads with sound

Prestitial ads with countdown (ads that appear before content has loaded)

Large sticky ads


Pop-up ads

Prestitial ads

Auto-play video with sound on

Postitial ads with countdown (ads that appear in the middle of viewing content)

Ads with >30% density

Flashing animated ads

Large sticky ads

Full screen roll over ads

If they find any of the ads listed above, they will send you a notification warning that if the ads in question are not removed within 30 days, Chrome will block ALL ads on your site. Following the removal, they will then run maintenance screenings of your site to ensure you never serve an annoying ad again.

They have also set up a nifty tool to monitor your warnings and ad experience score called the Ad Experience Report. More on how to use it here. Much to my dismay, you can only view sites you own (what can I say, internet stalking is fun.)

So, it’s good news all around really. As an avid internet user, I will be less annoyed and less frustrated throughout my day. As a digital marketer with a social life, less people will glare and point and say, “so you annoy people for a living?!” when I tell them what I do. It’s particularly good news for the entire digital marketing industry because less annoyed people means less overall resistance to all ads, which leads to better response rates and better ROI for everyone.

I guess all I can say on this one is grab the popcorn. Time will tell what the exact impact will be.

Facebook’s New Travel Tool

Izzy Kramer, Media Planner

Image Source: Izzy Kramer

As of this week, Facebook launched a new tool across Facebook and Instagram called Trip Consideration that targets those at the beginning stages of their travel planning. This means brands can get in front of curious, future travelers right as they are planning their trips. For more context, a person is identified by Facebook as in “the initial stages of looking for a travel destination based on behaviors exhibited on Facebook or Instagram.” A great example is one Facebook uses: “let’s say a college student has demonstrated interest in spring break at the beach by browsing travel related pages, but has not yet settled on a specific location. Travel advertisers can now deliver ads promoting flight or hotel deals to inspire the student to book his or her trip.”

Facebook continues to see the trend mentioned above: having the desire to travel but not knowing where to go. So, it is all about putting the right inspiration in front of the right audience. And if you think about it, these two social media sites are already a breeding ground for travel inspiration.

What is Facebook used most for? To post the highlights of one’s life. Travel certainly fits into that category; to a certain extent, a major reason for traveling has always been to earn bragging rights. Furthermore, Instagram’s photo based platform is a prime location for perfectly posed travel pics. We have seen a continued upward trend of Instagram as a major driver of travel. This has even been dubbed “The Instagram Effect”. Scrolling through photo after photo of others’ travel excursions has a direct impact on one’s levels of FOMO. Users are inspired and nearly desperate to travel themselves. In fact, Facebook found “68% of millennials found ideas for their most recent trip on Facebook, and the same is true for 60% of millennials on Instagram.”

In summary, Facebook harbors an audience of inspiration-induced travel seekers that tourism and travel brands should get in front of. But what is important, and the most difficult task for these brands, is how to reach this audience during the elusive booking period. For the most part we see trends relating to consumers researching travel on mobile and then booking on desktop and booking 2–3 months out of the travel date. But with this tool, advertisers are able to determine travel intent based off web behavior, making it less of a guessing game.

But how does it work? Advertisers must have the “Facebook pixel implemented to take advantage of the new targeting feature. Trip Consideration appears as an optimization option with the Conversion campaign type.”

Image Source:

This new form of targeting adds to the Dynamic Travel ads Facebook introduced back in October that gave travel brands a full screen, immersive space on their platform. With Facebook dabbling this much in travel, it is worth wondering about the future of travel in terms of Facebook. Could we see a consumer facing trip planning tool on Facebook someday? Something to rival the TripAdvisors and Kayaks of the world? Facebook has already come so far with Marketplace, rivaling notorious Craigslist, so Facebook’s expansion of their travel-related capabilities may not be too far-fetched. Oh the places they’ll go.

A collection of articles from North.

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North is an independent advertising agency in beautiful Portland, Oregon that creates fans for brands and good companies who give a little more than they take.

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