The Viewers’ Dirty Little Secret: They Love Ads

March 2, 2020

Not everyone hates ads. In fact, as much as people complain about them, at the end of the day there are people who truly love them. What’s not to love? Good ads inspire imagination, encourage laughter, and tug at your heartstrings. People just don’t want to be bombarded with bad ads.

A good commercial moves the viewer in 30 seconds or less. Take the 2010 Old Spice Smell Like a Man, Man campaign – the first in a new era of absolutely bizarre, yet lovable, Old Spice commercials. The commercial, starring former wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa as the Old Spice Man, premiered almost a week prior to Super Bowl XLIV and became a part of popular culture overnight, accruing 5.9M views on YouTube during its first day on the platform. According to parent company Procter & Gamble, the campaign got nearly 105M YouTube views, 1.2B earned media impressions (including features on national broadcast networks and international media outlets), and drove a 2700% increase in twitter followers, 800% increase in Facebook fan interaction, and 300% increase in traffic to the Old Spice website. From a single ad, Old Spice became the #1 most viewed sponsored YouTube channel.

Old Spice isn’t the only brand to have capitalized on good advertising. In 2012, Red Bull aired one of the first “commercials” that didn’t just interrupt an event, it was the event. 8M people watched live as Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier without a vehicle by jumping out of the Red Bull Stratos, returning back to Earth from 24 miles in outer space. More recently, Hulu seems to have cracked the code with their Hulu Sellouts commercial series. Each spot features an athlete who has “sold out” in one ridiculous way or another to promote the streaming service, receiving ridiculous amounts of money every time they say “Hulu has live sports.”

Ads that hit home become a part of our lexicon, but in this new era, streaming ads have a challenge that linear television ads never did. Sometimes, they just don’t play properly. Conviva data found that on average 36.5% of ads failed to play as intended in Q4 2019, and on the single worst day this spiked to more than half of streaming ads failing. Even when ads do play, there can be issues with delays or poor quality. In a single quarter, from Q3 to Q4 2019, ad start times nearly doubled from 1.14 seconds to 2.27 seconds. Every second matters when a 5 second delay in pre-roll ads causes 13.6% of an audience to stop watching. In Q4, delays in ad start times led to a nearly 50% increase in exits before ad starts as viewers grew more impatient when faced with delays, with these exits contributing significantly to lost monetization for advertisers.

The onus is on the whole streaming ad ecosystem to optimize viewers’ ad experiences and engagement so that they don’t lose ad impressions. The industry wants to focus on beautifully made, perfectly targeted ads that are so good consumers are even willing to seek them out. Before streaming advertising can reach the holy grail, viewers need to be able to watch an ad that plays properly. Not an ad that leaves them wondering how that 30-second story played out, or worse, doesn’t play at all.