It takes a village to fight ad fatigue

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Your ad isn't worth much if potential customers are tuning it out.

Ad blocking and ad fraud get all the headlines, but advertisers’ biggest fear is ad fatigue.

Rightfully so. Fatigue is mounting just as viewers are watching more content, across more platforms, than ever before. A lack of creative diversity in digital video campaigns has led to people seeing the same ads over and over. Solving the collective tune-out will take a new level of systemic collaboration from advertisers, agencies and media throughout the campaign cycle.

At the end of last year, we asked 242 digital video advertisers (45% marketer, 55% agency, from media planners to CMOs) about the state of video advertising. Most told us their biggest challenge is improving the viewer experience and getting precise cross-screen measurement to improve their returns. Fully 83% said the viewer experience significantly affects ad results, while 78% say they are prioritizing the improvement of the ad experience. By experience, they mean that people can see high-fidelity ads often enough in relevant environments.

Importantly, they put this well ahead of ad fraud on their list of concerns. It makes sense: An ad’s not worth much if people are tuning it out. Where things get tricky is there isn’t one unilateral solution. Several things need to happen in concert.

First, advertisers need to invest in creating more ad executions specifically for digital video. According to our latest research, on average, campaigns now produce 3.3 ads per screen, whereas our respondents put the ideal average at 4.7 ads. Most advertisers put the onus on agency creative departments to create more ad executions, while agencies counter that they’re not getting the resources to do it. Indeed, we found almost three in four advertisers agree that additional resources to help repurpose TV commercials would significantly improve the ad experience.

They have a long way to go. We found more than 60% of advertisers still repurpose TV ads for online video. And of those, one in four simply use the TV spot without editing it for online viewing. That’s a prescription for people looking the other way, while resenting the interrupting brand.

Second, publishers need to create a more inviting advertising environment. That starts with decluttering sites and supporting a wider range of creative formats. It’s no use making more and different advertising if you can’t run it in all the right places. In addition, publishers need to serve ads that fit the content in topic and length – which they can do by rotating ads to match content and screen.

Third, agencies can make ad experience a first thought, not an afterthought, in the strategic and creative process. As viewers use more screens, each with different dimensions and dynamics, tailoring the ad experience means rethinking creative. In our study, 23% said the beginning (ideation/strategy) is the most important, while 45% called creative development/execution the most critical juncture. 

That’s more than two-thirds before the media plan is written. When it is, agencies can prioritize premium video environments ­– where viewers commit to long form content on demand and accept advertising as the tradeoff – and downplay drive-by sites that roll video ads in news feeds and banners.

Ad fatigue is a real threat to advertising. In the words of James Rothwell, who leads the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video, "The more audience fragments across screens, the more critical it is to deliver an optimal ad experience. The value exchange between content provider and viewer is shifting, and we need to adapt as an industry. When we do, we’ll all see higher returns because people will engage more with ads."

Between that statement and our survey responses, it’s clear advertisers and media know what to do. Now’s the time. 

Frank Papsadore is svp, marketing at Advertiser Perceptions, which provides data-driven business intelligence to the advertising industry.