Sunday, November 07, 2010

Note to Online Video Advertisers: Longer is not better

Recently, I've noticed a trend: several online video sites are showing more ads for a longer period of time. I understand the motivation might be to capture lost TV ad revenue online, but I think this is misguided. 

With a quick 30 second ad, I'll probably just sit through it since I don't have enough time to do anything else. But as you increase the length of the ad to 2 minutes or more, I can and will just switch tabs to quickly read the New York Times. 

What works for TV doesn't necessarily work for online. People's attention spans are fundamentally more fragmented online than in front of a TV. On a TV, you can flip to other channels or leave the room, but you're slightly more cautious since you don't want to miss the return of the show. 

Online, you can easily switch to another tab while still hearing the background noise of the ad. Just as you can filter out the background noise in a cocktail party, you can filter out the ad noise while you're away from the video and return when you detect that the show is back. Even if you don't get the timing quite right, it's easy enough to pause and scroll the timeline back a bit.

Shorter ads can be better targeted and more effective in grabbing users' attention. This is a lesson advertisers will have to learn well, especially as the TV and online worlds start to blend together even more in the coming years.


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