Intrusive social ads should be avoided, experts say

Brands should move away from intrusive ad formats regardless of the options offered by social media platforms, industry experts have said.

YouTube: axing the 30-second unskippable ad format next year
YouTube: axing the 30-second unskippable ad format next year

It follows YouTube and Facebook’s adoption of opposing video strategies. 

Campaign revealed last week that YouTube will discontinue its 30-second unskippable ads next year in an attempt to improve user experience. Meanwhile, Facebook has announced that in-feed videos will automatically play with sound on. 

While supportive of YouTube’s step to improve user experience, Dan Rosen, global advertising director at Telefónica, praised Facebook’s move, which he called a "brave decision".

"Facebook were proven to make a brave and successful decision when they first launched auto-play video," Rosen said. "Making sound default on for auto-play sounds like another brave decision, and since it looks like Facebook have been respectful of anyone who has de-activated sound on their phone, set to vibrate, then this ties in nicely with acceptable mobile behaviour." 

Meanwhile, Callum McCahon, strategy director at Born Social, said that if brands want to attract users to their films, they need to "create video content that people enjoy watching". 

He added: "Social video needs to be watchable and shareable rather than annoying and intrusive." 

YouTube's move is in recognition that Facebook is increasingly a danger in its shift to video-first," said Darren Khan, UK and European managing director at Genero. "A shorter advertising slot at the beginning of its videos will ensure that viewers don’t get turned off and agitated when faced with a 30-second advert."

McCahon agreed that YouTube may be concerned about losing viewers, while Facebook is more focused on pleasing advertisers. 

"Facebook has made a calculated bet that users won’t mind [sound]," he said. "Reading between the lines, YouTube is worried about the progress Facebook is making in this space."

However, just because Facebook has aborted its silent-video default does not mean brands should rush to
embrace it, Sam Fenton-Elstone, chief digital officer at VCCP Media, said. 

"This is a short-term gain for long-term pain," he said. "All advertising needs to move from disruption to
complementary forms and narratives. Ad-blockers are a symptom of a relationship that is sick. The more we move into an ecosystem which facilitates a less disruptive approach to delivering brand messages, the better."

Facebook’s move away from silent video is surprising in the wake of recent Twitter research that found silent, in-feed videos perform well in terms of viewer recollection and relevance. Joel Roberts, performance director at Mediabrands Society, said muted videos were effective: "When the creative was properly optimised for Facebook, it was a nice user experience." 

Roberts believed Facebook wants to make it easier for advertisers to properly compare videos with YouTube: "The Facebook ad platform provides like-for-like video metrics for cross-channel reporting but the elephant in the room has always been the fact Facebook’s ads don’t play with sound."

Facebook’s TV app launch last week may also be behind the decision, he added. "It’s cheaper and easier for brands to have assets that work on multiple channels, and that’s going to help sell impressions." 

Social video tips

  • Brevity matters
  • Learn to grab attention in a short time. 
  • Try sequential advertising
  • This format can tell stories within the constraints of the six-second ad. 
  • Context is everything
  • Advertising content needs to be natural to its environment. 
  • Optimise for silence
  • Users are likely to disable sound if they are annoyed by ads.  
  • Test and learn
  • Use data to understand what works.

Source: Callum McCahon and Sam Fenton-Elstone

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