Weighing the Pros and Cons: Opt-In v. In-Stream Video Ads

There is an ever-present war that rages on in the video advertising world between opt-in and in-stream video ads—but marketers are having a hard time choosing sides. Both formats have their pros and cons, which we’ll discuss in this article, but when it comes down to it, targeting and the content itself will determine ad effectiveness.

So let’s break it down. In-stream ads include pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll video ads that are placed online in streaming video content. Many times, these ads are skippable after 5-15 seconds. Opt-in video ads are pretty self-explanatory: users have to opt-in, or initiate a video play.

Though opt-in videos are often characterized as native and in-stream videos as intrusive, the connotations of these descriptions lend little insight into their effectiveness. Below, we’ll take a closer look at both in-stream and opt-in ads, giving you the information you need to determine which format will drive the best results for your video marketing campaigns.

In-Stream Video Ads

A new survey from Adroit Digital, “Online Video: Look Who’s Watching Now,” found that 56% of video viewers skip ads most of the time. Shocker. However, 20% of respondents confirmed that they are prepared to sit through video ads, and 24% noted that they would be more willing to complete a view if presented with great video ad content.

Unfortunately for marketers trying to reach younger audiences with in-stream ads, 64% of 18 to 24-year-olds skip video ads most of the time. The 35 to 44-year-old demographic, on the other hand, is the least likely to skip a video ad. As I mentioned above, targeting and content are extremely important when it comes to maximizing ad effectiveness. In the same survey, 24% stated that the actual content of the video was a huge factor in deciding whether they would skip or not.

Typically when people think of in-stream video ads, pre-rolls come to mind. However, in many cases, mid-rolls perform better. An April 2013 report from Akamai in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts found that respondents were more likely to sit through an entire mid-roll video ad (18.1%) than the same ad as a pre-roll. Additionally, pre-roll abandonment was 5X higher than mid-roll abandonment.

It’s no wonder that mid-rolls are more tolerable than pre-rolls. Viewers are already engaged with the content they’re watching, and they’re more likely to watch an ad if it means getting to see the rest of their chosen content.

Ultimately, in-stream video ads are intrusive, but if you deliver the right content to the right viewer at the right time, you could see increased engagement and better completion rates.

Opt-In Video Ads

Oftentimes, opt-in video advertisements are native, meaning they seamlessly integrate into publisher sites. These kinds of video ads are non-intrusive and only play if a user clicks on them. Opt-in video ads can also appear as pop-ups. These are more intrusive than native placements, but a user will never be forced to watch the video—they have to initiate the play.

Video ad platform Jun Group has seen great success with its opt-in, incentivized branded video ads. In a panel discussion, CEO Mitchell Reichgut said that because of the company’s opt-in approach, viewers watch the two- to three-minute ads to completion 90% of the time.

If users choose to watch a video, they’re more likely to be invested in the content (a huge benefit of opt-in ads). This ad format also eliminates waste. Though many in-stream ads are skippable, some are not—and forcing users to sit through your 30-second ad (especially if the ad is irrelevant to the user) is a waste of their time and your money.

Remember, targeting and the video content itself will contribute heavily to the effectiveness of your ads, whether in-stream or opt-in. In both cases, relevant content paired with proper targeting—delivering the right ad, to the right user, at the right time—will drive engagement with your branded content.

You should also be aware of the risks involved with using these formats. You could alienate users with in-stream videos ads if people find them intrusive and irrelevant. If you utilize opt-in ads, there’s a possibility that users may not even see them (depending on the ad placement within a page).

As with any ad format, there are risks and rewards involved. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your video marketing campaigns, consider both the pros and cons of each format before allocating your budget.

Enjoy what you’ve read? Check out our other versus articles, “Comparative v. Collaborative Advertising,” and “Amazon v. Netflix – Attack of the Drones.” 

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