In-Stream, Non-Skippable Ads: How Effective Are They?

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From early YouTube beginnings to effortless livestreaming via smartphones, digital video has evolved immensely over the past decade. Last year, the average internet user watched 67 minutes of online video every day; a figure that is forecast to increase by 25% in 2019. From an advertiser perspective, video offers unparalleled opportunities to engage audiences with immersive content. New and quickly evolving formats enable brands to maximize impact across devices, connecting with customers in fun and personal ways.

In-stream video ads allow advertisers to place their content directly within live and on-demand videos on online platforms. Critics say that the format could be disruptive and therefore leave viewers with a negative perception of the brand. But because users have actively chosen to watch the primary content, they are generally open to the idea of viewing additional material; especially if it is shown prior to, or during, the main video. Ads act as commercial breaks for the actual content, similar to what we have long been used to on traditional TV. 

Non-Skippable Formats Across Platforms

In 2017, Facebook launched its first in-stream video placement, allowing brands to deliver non-skippable, mid-roll ads to users who watch videos on the platform. The social network has since claimed that 70% of its in-stream video ads are viewed to completion, especially those that are designed to be watched with sound. 

Elsewhere in the digital ecosystem, YouTube expanded their ad offer earlier this year by launching 15-second, non-skippable video ads to all advertisers on the platform. The format has been a key part of Google’s product offering for quite some time but was previously only available to advertisers via YouTube reservation or Google Preferred. The platform used to push hard for its skippable TrueView ads, where advertisers only pay once a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of the video, but shorter, non-skippable formats have quickly gained popularity. According to Google, users who watch YouTube ads to completion are 23x more likely to engage further with a brand. So it comes as no surprise that advertisers are eager to use formats that customers can’t skip. 

Assessing the Value of an In-Stream View

Facebook in-stream video ads don’t appear until at least 60 seconds into the main content, meaning that most users will be actively engaged in a lean-back watching mode. We recently ran a test to determine the ad type’s efficiency compared to other video ad placements and found that in-stream formats drive significantly stronger completed view rates than the platform average (by 74 percentage points, to be exact). 

It’s clear that non-skippable ads are effective in driving views and encourage users to watch ads to completion. However, one could argue that views and completions don’t always paint an accurate picture of an ad’s effectiveness, as the in-stream format is bound to deliver stronger rates relative to skippable placements. 

Brand Studies to Determine the Effectiveness of In-Stream Ads

Brand and conversion lift studies can provide greater insight into the real effectiveness of in-stream ads by looking at things like brand awareness and action intent. Users might have to sit through non-skippable formats, but that doesn’t mean they will pay attention to the content. We recently ran a brand study for an advertiser to assess the effectiveness of an in-stream video campaign on Facebook. The results showed that ads drove a 10 percentage point lift in overall brand awareness, a number 3x higher than the overall industry benchmark. This shows that users not only viewed the non-skippable ad, but they also remembered what it was about.

More and more, brands realize how important it is to understand the why behind customer behavior. In order to argue the true effectiveness of in-stream, non-skippable formats, we have to look at how the campaigns contribute to real, measurable actions like website visits or intent to buy. Non-skippable ads do mean that more customers are likely to see a brand’s message. The onus is on advertisers to create immersive, relevant content that doesn’t disrupt and irritate but rather leave users with a positive perception of the brand.