September 15, 2017
Why the Industry Says Nay to Autoplay
By Patrick Kirby

Autoplay videos are so reviled that they can bring enemies together, as Apple and Google’s recent actions show. 

Starting soon, new versions of Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers will block autoplay ads with sound. Consumers will likely welcome the development but many ad tech firms won’t, since autoplay ads of this type boost their metrics.

But the truth is that consumers despise these type of ads to the point that autoplay ads can be counterproductive because consumers transfer that hate onto the advertised brand. With some exceptions, brands should abandon autoplay ads and run click-to-play ads instead. Here’s why:

1. They’re interruptive. 

If you’re like me, a good portion of your day includes researching things on the web. As you may have noticed, this process has become more tedious of late because publishers’ mass adoption of header bidding has greatly increased latency. That means you’re waiting longer for pages to load. 

When the page finally does load, you are likely to be subject to a loud video ad. Recently, as I was trying to read a story about the Taylor Swift trial on one of the top news sites, it subjected me to an ad for a local furniture dealer while simultaneously blocking the article with a page takeover that asked if I wanted to subscribe.  That’s frustrating!

2. They are counterproductive. 

This, to put it mildly, isn’t a great user experience. In a recent survey, some 92.3% of consumers said they found autoplay ads annoying. Some 19.9% also said those ads are “embarrassing at work,” because who hasn’t been ratted out by a loud autoplay ad during a meeting when they were supposed to be paying attention?

Speaking of work, such ads also hijack your thought process — the very definition of an interruptive experience. That’s the old model for advertising. To succeed in the current era, ads need to be helpful rather than frustrate consumers. 

3. They prompt ad blockers. 

Faced with intrusive ads, consumers gravitate to ad blockers and various plug-ins to salvage their browsing experience. As Daring Fireball wrote recently, “Autoplay videos are so user-hostile that there ought to be a way to turn them off without needing an extension or hidden developer preference.” 

Since there isn’t, Google and Apple are blocking the ads wholesale.

Are there times when autoplay ads are ok?

I wouldn’t shed a tear if autoplay ads went away for good. But there are some cases in which such ads can be used sparingly. One is if the ads are very well-targeted, in which case even though they are interruptive, they are at least advertising something of interest to consumers. If you’re in the process of buying a car and have your heart set on one car, then you might not be quite so annoyed to see an ad for a cheaper and comparable alternative. 

I also might recommend autoplay if you’re a new brand and there’s no other way to get your name out there. Finally, very short ads, like the emerging six-second standard, are acceptable in autoplay. After all, six seconds goes quickly. 

But the most ideal form of advertising is based on a “pull” model in which consumers take action to see what you’re selling. Granular targeting, great creative and strong word of mouth can help you get there. Autoplay, which seems like a shortcut to achieve the same thing, will get you further away. 

Patrick Kirby is a Digital Operations Coordinator at GlassView Media. Having recently completed an MSc in Marketing at the National University of Ireland, Galway; he has a proven track record in helping brands take control of their presence and present themselves in a way that inspires, impresses, and builds confidence in their abilities, products and services.

A pioneer for emerging technologies, a unique ability to innovate and an eclectic skill base, position Patrick as a young leader in the digital advertising topography. Prior to joining Glassview, he was a leading light in the electric vehicle sector, showcasing an acute ability to embrace, promote and optimize disruptive technologies.

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