August 21, 2007 6:00 PM PDT

YouTube tests 10-second ad format

Google is finally rolling out an advertising format for YouTube that could succeed where many others have failed: it's not annoying.

Google's YouTube will feature ads that are similar to a model used by TV broadcasters for years, the company said Tuesday. TV viewers have grown accustomed to watching a show and seeing the image of David Letterman or some other star walk across the bottom of the screen as part of a promotion. YouTube's new ads are very similar.

YouTube's mini commercials, which are produced through Flash animation, appear at the bottom of a video, are mostly transparent, and disappear after 10 seconds. Once the ad appears, a user has the option of clicking on it while the video pauses. The viewer is then taken to a "player within the player" where he or she is encouraged to interact with the advertiser's content. When the person clicks out of the ad, the video resumes.

News.com Poll

We now interrupt this broadcast...
What's your take on the short ads now showing on YouTube videos?

I hardly noticed.
10 seconds? I can live with that.
10 seconds? Waaay too long.
Adios, YouTube.



View results

Google announced that it has begun testing the new advertising format for YouTube with a small number of advertisers. Google, a company that made its fortune on Web advertising, is ignoring the long-held belief by marketing gurus that a video-sharing site has only two choices when deciding where to place ads: before or after the video.

The new commercials, which will begin appearing Wednesday, are the fulfillment of a promise, analysts say. Google had long said that no ad format would be launched unless the company was sure it wouldn't spoil the viewing experience, as well as offer marketers a chance to get in front of YouTube's 130 million subscribers.

"This is a relatively unobtrusive way to get an ad in front of viewers," said Joe Laszlo, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "This shows a lot of thoughtfulness. To avoid alienating audiences, we have to create overlays and bugs that don't get in the way of the viewer and then allow them to get rid of it if they want."

To Google, which acquired video-sharing giant YouTube last October for $1.65 billion, the ad format may be the answer to cashing in on its investment. The experiment, if successful, could mean billions of dollars in advertising revenue to other video sites.

Those trading in user-submitted video have long wrestled with how to advertise to viewers who have demonstrated a reluctance to sit through 15-second commercials for a 30-second snippet.

"This is a relatively unobtrusive way to get an ad in front of viewers. This shows a lot of thoughtfulness."
--Joe Laszlo,
JupiterResearch analyst

For more than a year, YouTube teased marketers by saying that an ad format was forthcoming. Critics predicted that Internet viewers had become spoiled, that YouTube fans had grown accustomed to watching ad-free videos at YouTube and would never tolerate them.

But Shashi Seth, YouTube's group product manager, said the company took pains to prevent the ads from annoying the viewer. The ad appears 15 seconds into a video, but vanishes after a 10-second run.

If a person tries to watch a video a second time, the ads won't reappear. Shashi said the company has tested the format and is satisfied that Flash-animation ads--tucked discreetly into videos for a brief period--won't upset the apple cart.

According to Seth, the man Google sent over in January to fix YouTube's advertising problems, the tests have so far revealed the new ads produced click-through rates 5 to 10 times higher than traditional display ads.

He said that 75 percent of users who clicked on to the overlay ad came back and continued watching the video.

Google said the ads will be inserted into a select inventory of video clips that have been screened for copyright and inappropriate material.

To take advantage of YouTube's new format, marketers must come up with entertaining and engaging new content, said Greg Sterling, an independent marketing analyst.

"They are going to have to come up with material that is creative, intriguing and compelling enough to get them to click on those ads," Sterling said. "That's the first step. But once they do click they will then have to engage them with interactive content."

Seth that he was surprised to see how prepared advertisers were to create Flash content. Of the 20 or so companies Google is dealing with during the test, most already have staff who are experienced with Flash.

"We found that the advertisers were in tune with this even though the model doesn't exist," Seth said.

But Laszlo warned that there's no guarantee that YouTube's audience will take to the ads. First, the overlays could obscure some of the picture. Then, there's the problem of guaranteeing advertisers that their brands won't appear alongside copyrighted content, violence, sex or other dodgy material.

"YouTube is still in a situation where they can't run ads against every video," Laszlo said. "Advertisers are very leery of posting even display ads next to iffy material. You can just imagine how much more cautious YouTube would have to be if, say, David Letterman were to be featured inside one of these ads."

See more CNET content tagged:
Joe Laszlo, YouTube, viewer, Google Inc., video

28 comments

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How YouTube will make money with (off?) their publishers
Good format I think.

Youtube splits the ad revenue with the publishers (according to NYT). Seems they will want to use the publishers to select the ads for their content, that will save Google a lot of manual work. This also rewards entertaining ads and reduces irritation among users. Read (a bit) more about this at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.77lab.com/youtube_ad_082207.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.77lab.com/youtube_ad_082207.html</a>
Posted by anthon_pieter (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not annoying?!
I have basically stopped watching traditional TV because of these incredibly annoying, in show promotional components. They started off very small and have now grown much larger and more frequent and equipped with sound.

Maybe paid content is the only answer.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I haven't stopped watching TV, but I would *much* rather watch traditional pre-roll that plays before the video than something that plays *on top* of the video. Sheesh, how much *more* annoying can you get than that?
Posted by badasscat (735 comments )
Link Flag
I agree as well... extremely annoying!
Seems like the ads have become bigger and bigger as time has gone by. Heck, I just saw one where the actor that walks across the screen actually takes a remote control, points it at the show you are trying to watch, and pauses it so he can talk!! (The Bill Engvall show ads did this for a little while on TBS) Now that really peaked my annoyance meter!
Posted by PixelBrat (9 comments )
Link Flag
Paid content is the only answer. Xm Radio
or satellite radio has been the answer in our house and cars. No ads, at least on the music, but that's what we listen to anways. It's night and day.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Link Flag
Incredibly annoying!
I haven't watched free TV in ages because of this. But even on satellite they've been doing this and it's outrageous.

And the content providers wonder why people turn to thepiratebay.org to get the shows they want to watch. No ads of any type, but certainly none of this crap where they block 1/3 of your screen out to sell stuff.
Posted by Dr. Iguanadon (5 comments )
Link Flag
eh....good with the bad
I'm of a mixed mind here. On one hand, yeah, someone's gotta pay the bills, so ok, run your ads. Though on the other hand I agree those things on TV are really really annoying particularly the ones with sound. FX and VH1 are notorious for these.

Glumbert.com recently starting doing ads on the videos too and it is irritating not because of the fact they're using ads, but that the ads sometimes block content and they're distracting overall. I suppose if it's only appearing once and won't be there if I re-watch the video that's good enough.
Posted by menty666 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't like it
When ads appear on cnet or some other thing, and I don't want to watch them, I move the browser around. At home I have an ad blocker.

Instead of trying to find a way to "force" users to watch ads, just accept that there are always going to be people who just don't want to do so.

It's as simple as going to the bathroom when there's a commercial on TV. In addition, I DON'T like it when a program I'm watching allows a sidebar to appear onscreen. The idea that viewers aren't bothered by this is frankly, naive.

I guess Google ran out of smart people to hire so now they're bringing in the dumb ones that ruin everything else they touch. Case-in-point: doubleclick.
Posted by bob donut (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rubbish!!!
Why can't we escape STUPID ads?? Cable TV, and Satellite TV all started out commercial free. Now look. Satellite radio will no doubt add commericials once enough suckers are signed up.

At least with music CD's you can avoid ads.

Also, I make it a point not to buy from companies that take part in interloping on my entertainment.
Posted by marrofkane (21 comments )
Link Flag
* Straight
I don't like it enough that the ^55es that advertize that way don't get my dollars. I can't imagine I'm the only one that puts them on a don't buy list. When will they figure out that pi55ing off the potential customer is not the way to increase revenue?
Posted by zclayton2 (130 comments )
Link Flag
Bad Strategic Error by Google
Of all video sharing sites, YouTube is the one that has the market dominance to set a new industry standard. And that standard was and continues to be post-roll ad's. Others of lesser power than Google couldn't get away with post-roll but Google could pull it off with little way for their advertisers to complain. Let's hope this remains an act in progress, and Google gets the point quickly from complaining users.
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A way Google could make money would be...
If Google now released a standalone utility plugin that removed those very same ads for a monthly fee or one time purchase.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wouldn't (and shouldn't) happen
Google's money-making strategy has always been about simplicity and has always been web-based, not user based. Even without the high potential for people to hack the plugin, I can't see Google doing what you're suggesting.
Posted by Jortibereal (32 comments )
Link Flag
We are NOT use to TV banners!!!!
Banners on television are MORE ANNOYING THAN AD BREAKS!

This is a bad move by Google! Google was known for non-intrusive ads, now they're moving away from that. Bad move. I'm sure it will get worse from here on out.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tee hee hee
All the comments about how well the study went can be explained by it being harder to dismiss animated adds on a moving background. I love the comment that they will only show adds against videos that have been screened to eliminate copyright material. Is this an admission that you can post copyright material on the sight by you just wont gets adds in it? Lawyers must be gathering to feed on that one.
Posted by Kimsh (813 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Valuing Online Video Properties with Web Metrics
There?s been a lot of discussion of how to value hot online video properties, like YouTube. There of course are many factors to this, but I propose a simple valuation model by using common web metrics to gauge user engagement. In other words, a simple way to value an online video property is in terms of not only how big its audience is but also how engaged they are (similar to a TV show). The more attention we have, the higher the prospects are for gaining advertisement revenue, and therefore the more valuable the property is.

Using this model we can also gauge what other online video sites might be worth by comparing user engagement relative to that of YouTube.

To read more, go here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.edwardjthomas.org/?p=10" target="_newWindow">http://www.edwardjthomas.org/?p=10</a>
Posted by headmost101 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Weak
As if ads on the side, tops and everywhere else on the page were not enough now its IN the video? Did anyone ask the users if they actually liked or could deal with the stupid bottom of the screen TV ads? At least you can click it off, but still, if you are watching lots of video that day, that's lots of extra clicks. The one linked to is just a dumb banner for WB anyway, not even advertising anything but their name. No incentive to even click on it. Forget the fact that the ad isn't even tied to the video subject. I know advertising is a necessary evil to get free content, and this is better than making me sit through a garbage ad that I habitually turn the speakers down for and put my hand over to avoid watching, but it was jarring, and annoying to experience my content get interrupted by a random ad for nothing in particular. I'll decide more when I get to spend more time on You Tube and experience it more often. Right now, its tolerable, but its still sucks. The poll bears that out, I think.
Posted by Lemonhed (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All Advertising Is Inherently Annoying
All Advertising Is Inherently Annoying...

Some is just LESS annoying.

Sticking anything in my face is the best way to get me to dislike the product being advertised.

"TV viewers have grown accustomed to watching a show and seeing the image of David Letterman or some other star walk across the bottom of the screen as part of a promotion" Note the use of the phrase "grown accustomed". No one likes it. People just put up with it because they have little choice.

I HATE the useless and irritating junk that constantly swirls around on commercial TV.

Thank goodness for pop-up blockers, ad blockers, and other tools that allow me to control my web surfing experience.

Google is NOT a web search company. They are now an advertising company that just happens to use a search page as one of their ways of getting ads in front of people. Their motto "Don't be evil" is becoming a joke.
Posted by sismoc (119 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't be evil motto now a joke...
this is what happens when you become an Inc. (or a plc)
Posted by GeoNorth (51 comments )
Link Flag
Patent
I described this method of overlaying an ad on CNet last year. I am sure I can find teh reference. I am caliaming a patent on thsi.Google, send me your pennies.
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TV overlay ads are an invasive affront to the viewer
Mr. Sandoval writes:

"TV viewers have grown accustomed to watching a show and
seeing the image of David Letterman or some other star walk
across the bottom of the screen as part of a promotion."

TV viewers may have become "accustomed" to these ads in the
dictionary sense of "accustomed," i.e. that such ads have become
"customary or usual." I find them an invasive affront to the
viewer. The overlays permit a network or channel to advertise
their own content on the viewer's time, freeing more commercial
time for sale. For me, the ads have become such an annoyance
that I find myself rarely watching TV. I'm seriously considering
canceling my satellite television service and using my TV
exclusively for watching DVDs.

YouTube is completely irrelevant to me. When it became a
"phenomenon" I decided to spend an hour surfing its contents to
see what the hubbub was all about. I concluded that (a) 99.999
percent of the videos were rubbish, and (b) both the user ratings
and the number of viewings were worthless as indicators of
quality. I haven't been back since.

I suspect that no one, on their death bed, will wish they had
spent more time watching videos on YouTube.
Posted by Dr. Smoke (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You need to know what you're looking for
Certainly /most/ of the videos are rubbish, typically everything user-created for the most-part. There are loads of people who upload videos of themselves talking (I hear they call this 'vlogging', which is much worse than the term 'blogging' if you ask me, because at least bloggers arn't typically as retarded as the average Youtube vlogger) and then people that upload response vlogs, and... well, yeah.

However, help deep within, somewhere, on Youtube's archives are some really excellent videos. Some are informative, some are old television shows that arn't availible anywhere else (though these are often copyright infringing, but that's Youtube's problem and not mine), and some show some incredible things. Sure, most of them are not these videos, but simply because users upload a ton of crap onto Youtube doesn't mean that the site is pointless.

After attending Anthrocon this summer in Pittsburgh, I was happy to see lots of video uploaded by others onto Youtube of their convention experience. I'm glad that Youtube is around so that I can find such things. Sure, if I was a random Youtube visitor, I wouldn't care about these videos at all, but since I know what I'm looking for, and it's on Youtube, well... what's the problem?

Youtube is also a method for website owners to stream video without running a streaming application on their own server, consuming bandwidth and space.

So no, Youtube is not for everyone, but there are some videos on it that somebody wants to see, somewhere, and I'm sure those people are glad that it's availible.

I dare not ask what type of movies you watch. They're probably all really, really important.
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Link Flag
Cool thing
You tube have this

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.nanananananananananananananananana.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.nanananananananananananananananana.com</a>

Enjoy
Posted by david.lahm (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My time is valuable, exchange me something for it.
It will be interesting to see what the take and overlay close rates are, if they publish them. From my helicopter view, they've essentially moved the banner ad on top of the video, made it smaller, transparent and given it a close button. Once the novelty wears off, it will be increasingly hard to get someone's attention just like with in page units.

A solution we believe worth considering is to watch one opt-in, full-screen ad in exchange for one hour of uninterrupted, ad-free video viewing. When the hour is up? Watch another ad. Ad and content never compete while the ad is the positioned as the "enabler" to pay for content. Give users credit, ads pay for content. Why are we constantly trying to trick the viewer into watching and ruining their experience?

Additionally, a value exchange grants access to the experience so the advertiser is never associated with, next-to or over potentially racy content. Paul Grusche, Ultramercial
Posted by groosh33 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VERY Annoying
Why does the audio have to cut out in the middle of a musical video?? Jesus this is annoying. I thought google programmers were smart?? Have the ad video fade in and fade back out without interupting the audio for cripe sake. Talk about gut-wrenching, anger inspiring ads... Completely and instantly take the audio from something I'm listening to and I hate you and anything you're advertising just as instantly and abruptly. Morons... Do they even try this crap on themselves first??
Posted by woggs123 (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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