Next on Google Chrome’s hit list: Intrusive ads (yes, YouTube included)

Google Chrome is blocking intrusive ad formats within short form videos from 5 August 2020. More specifically, the ad formats affected will be:

  • Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first five seconds;
  • Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience; and
  • Image or text ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20% of the video content.

This comes as the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) announced a new set of standards for ads that show during video content, based on research from 45,000 consumers worldwide in eight countries representing 60% of global online advertising spending. The research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for these environments globally. This standard does not apply to digital environments that CBA has yet to test such as feeds or over-the-top and connected TV experiences.

In a blog post, product manager Jason James said Chrome will expand its user protections and stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show these disruptive ads.

YouTube.com, like other websites with video content, will be reviewed for compliance with the standards.

Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, James said Google will update its product plans across its ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.

Beginning this week, it will update the Ad Experience Report with information to help publishers resolve any issues with these new video standards currently on their site. “If you operate a website that shows ads, you should consider reviewing your site status in the Ad Experience Report, a tool that helps publishers to understand if Chrome has identified any violating ad experiences on your site,” James added. Marketing has reached out to CBA for additional information about the new standard.

With Google phasing out third-party cookies and Chrome now committing to videos with fewer intrusive ads, Amy Ho, product strategy director, APAC at Integral Ad Science (IAS) said contextual targeting on suitable environments will become more important than ever. Advertisers will begin to explore the context of the content and make sure that the ads that run are complementary to what the viewer is engaging with at the right time and the right environment and in the most relevant manner.  According to her, this helps marketers to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes when creating content.

“Annoyed audiences have gotten used to ignoring digital ads altogether. In order to reverse that trend, content, and advertising needs to be relevant,” she said, adding:

There’s no reason why digital advertising cannot be an engaging experience and win-win for both consumers and advertisers. This move is a step closer to that.

Besides YouTube, Facebook is also a platform that popular among advertisers that features pre-roll and mid-roll ads. While usage of social platforms is certainly moving towards mobile, desktop still pushes a small amount of eyeballs to the social platform globally. Of which, Google Chrome still has a market share of about 64%, according to web traffic analysis company Statcounter. But Ho said she does not foresee Facebook getting impacted by the move.

Meanwhile, Stella Berry, regional business director at adtech firm Adludio which works with firms such as Richemont, LVMH, IBM, Standard Chartered, Singapore Airlines, said there will “surely be an immediate impact” on Facebook’s revenue. “Nevertheless, this move, combined with fewer and fewer people spending time on Facebook, now means publishers have more opportunity to explore other avenues for ad spend, to be able to engage with audiences in a way that’s seamless with their online experience,” she explained.

Berry added that the industry is coming to the realisation that consumers are bombarded by messages. While advertisers now have less opportunities to get the messages out to their target audiences, one needs to think about whether a correct approach was taken for such opportunities in the first place. Similarly when it comes to the issue of fewer consumer eyeballs, Berry said the industry needs to consider if the impressions were generating strong ROI for brands, since a consumer is exposed to numerous messages on a daily basis.

Like Ho, Berry said advertisers need to bring creativity back to the heart of their campaign, and it is time the industry starts enforcing it rather than merely talk about it.

It’s not about trying to desperately buy eyeballs anymore with intrusive ads that interrupt the video viewing experience.

Instead, Berry explained that online browsing has to be smooth and seamless for brands to build and maintain their favourability among audiences. Advertisers now have to work on producing creative and interesting ads, with no limit to imagination, that trigger an emotional response, she said.

Also weighing in on the issue is Abhishek Bhattacharjee, chief digital officer, Invictus Blue who said this could work out better for advertising in the grand scheme of things. Reason being, storytelling in smarter and more meaningful forms will prevail, and advertisers and adtech companies alike will now need to collaborate even more strongly to make sure relevance is not lost. While new formats and disruptions are always welcomed, the core of it lies in creating more value. Similar to Berry, Bhattacharjee said the move pushes the industry to take a step back and reengineer its models and reemphasise telling stories of value rather than just chasing eyeballs.

That said, Bhattacharjee predicts that the most affected would be publishers as inventory size reduces from a “completed view” perspective. Publishers need to work harder to deliver results and while in the short run it might affect revenues, in the long run it forces all to create more real business value, which will bring back the revenues eventually, he explained.

Higher involvement levels

Without intrusive ads, Bhattacharjee said involvement levels would now be higher from engaged audiences. This also means that brands and agencies would need to work harder to deliver the metrics of success. “We would not be looking at bloated numbers of engagement with minimal impact on business, but rather, the engagement generated would now probably be more involved and result-driven,” he said.

Brands should also look into putting “real business outcomes and attributions” as a KPI rather than just “media metrics” such as views and engagements which, when attained via intrusive formats could have been achieved at lower costs overall, yet might or might not have contributed to real business outcomes in the end. The measures of success will need to be re-engineered from just CPV/CPCV/CPE to Cost Per Sale, Cost Per Footfalls and other such real business impact parameters instead.

He added that marketers need to be cognizant of that not get caught in the trap of rising CPV/CPCV in the short run. “We need to build eco-systems of data which allow us to measure real business outcomes, rather than just intermediate media deliveries,” Bhattacharjee said.

Sanitising and normalising the digital ad ecosystem

The latest announcement comes weeks after Google said it is removing third-party cookies from Chrome. According to Prerna Mehrotra, MD, media group, Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific, this is likely due to Google’s strategy sanitise and normalise the digital advertising ecosystem, which will give Google an advantage since YouTube already follows the newly announced standard practices.

“This will help throttle audience experience and hence, might help brands build better relations with their consumers as they become more receptive to communication,” she said. Similar to IAS’ Ho and Adludio’s Berry, Mehrotra said the move will push advertisers to put more emphasis on higher quality content that follows best practices, and help them build deeper and more valuable connections with consumers.

As a guide, video content for paid media should be developed under 30 seconds as studies have shown that longer form content tends to get lower engagements.

While major publishers are expected to update their current product offerings in light of the news, in the short term, Mehrotra said the industry should expect to see direct impact to scale and efficiency and start to rethink on investments on other placements or channels.

Recently, Facebook announced that it is shutting the mobile arm of Facebook Audience Network. As such, it will no longer fill any ad requests for web and in-stream placements starting 11 April. Facebook said on its website that the decision was based on where it sees growing demand from its partners, which is in other formats across mobile apps. It also remains committed to moving its mobile app network into bidding.

This latest development in the industry is likely to skew conversations to Google properties, Mehrotra said. “YouTube like any other channels, will also undergo the review for compliance and while impact will be minimal, advertisers should start looking to invest in other placements available the likes of skippable pre-roll, in-app mobile video. This would also see impact on programmatic video whether buying on open exchange or direct partnerships with local premium publishers,” she added.