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Insights on Video-Ad Trends and Positioning Public Radio Underwriting

Corporate Support, video ads

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A recent article in Real Life magazine analyzes and challenges media companies' shift towards video advertising. The author, Adam Clair, puts this shift into the context of the evolution of digital advertising:

“Contrary to the bromides from executives about what audiences really want, this 'pivot to video' is more about advertisers’ ongoing search for a sustainable ad format, one that doesn’t end up proving its own ineffectiveness or exhausting its novelty.”

That quote was what really got my attention. Perhaps this new shiny object is destined to become obsolete as quickly as it appeared.

According to web developer Maciej Cegłowski, “Advertising is like a disease: It takes people time to develop immunity and resistance.” Pop-up ads, dancing bears extolling lower mortgage rates, cookies that follow one’s every online move; the more we see them, the more we learn to ignore them.  

Research shows that consumers do tolerate - and in some cases even enjoy - television ads. Think of the Super Bowl, which many watch just for the ads. Netflix has discovered that their users often prefer the interruption of ads. They are part of the content, in large part because they are the same medium as the program they are watching.  

Online it’s a totally different story. Video ads are an interruption, an annoyance. They don’t fit in with the content on the page. Clair likens them to sidewalk canvassers or telemarketers. As our resistance has grown, tactics have changed. When banner ads were first introduced they got an amazing click through rate of 44%! Today a good result is .05%. Then they added the dancing bears, the ads that move on the page, the audience extensions; each change represents the waning of the previous approach.

He talks about native advertising in terms of merely taking mental energy by the reader to determine if this is real or advertising. He mentions news sites that disguise ads as articles. A study done last year by “” found that over 80 percent of the top news sites included some sort of “content ads.” They also found that less than half of ads they hosted went to “legitimate” advertisers; over 25% percent went to “clickbait” which are ads that just show you to more ads.

“This takes advertising logic to its absurd conclusion, in which ads serve to persuade audiences only to consume more ads, as if the only possible product were advertising itself.”

There is plenty to read about fraud in clicks, bots, and the Google/Facebook online empires (they account for two thirds of the online industry’s revenue). More and more data is gathered in order to create metrics that make the advertising seem effective. But is it? 

It's important to remember that the public radio audience is our most valuable offering, and they engage with us across platforms. Our underwriters should be everywhere our listeners are in order to achieve maximum impact for their marketing goals. That means broadcast + digital, because we know that broadcast placements drive digital goals, and in some cases (think podcasting!) vice versa. Public radio is unique in delivering a loyal audience predisposed to support our sponsors, an audience proven to take action —online and otherwise— after hearing sponsor messages on our air. 

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