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As brands are realizing, online video ads currently have a strength that old school television ads lack. They can't be fast forward. But that will soon change. This week at Google's “Real-time Bidding, Banner Ads, Google’s Newest Big Business and Burgers,” YouTube's Baljeet Singh revealed that the company's skippable ads are immenent.

That may be sad news for advertisers hoping for a more captive audience online. But Google is betting that giving users more control over their ad experience will improve the quality of online video advertising. And make users pay more attention to the ads they see.

YouTube announced skippable ads last fall, but on Tuesday, YouTube's senior product manager made some of the details more clear. Singh explained that skippable ads are coming soon, but that doesn't mean that viewers will be able to skip out of ads entirely. Instead, YouTube viewers will be shown video ads for a set period of time (perhaps six seconds). After that, they can skip to the content they were trying to view. Says Singh:

"On the performance side, we want to make sure these video ads work."

But most importantly, YouTube is betting its ad revenue on the change. Advertisers won't be charged unless viewers choose to see their ads. For wary brands, this is a big step. YouTube thinks viewers will choose to see good ads. And it wants to show brands advertising on the site that their ads are working. Says Singh:

"We want to demonstrate to advertisers that users are engaging with their video ads."

That's a luxury that television ads can't boast. And YouTube is hoping that listening to viewers will benefit online ad revenues.

As it stands, online video ads are currently viewed (or at least remembered) more often than TV ads. According to Nielsen, online video ads have a 65% general recall compared to 46% for TV ads. Brand recall online is also higher — 50% compared to TV's 28%. Message online recall is 39% compared to TV's 21%. Likability is at 26% online, compared to TV's 14%.

Some of that is due to the fact that online viewers have to watch ads in videos they want to see. Of course, viewers can always click away and go into another tab or window while video ads play on their computers. But it's right now much easier to skip TV ads. Which is a selling point for convincing big brands to make the shift online. 

But YouTube is taking the stance that presenting ads people want to see is a better idea than creating an ad implementation they can't avoid. Skippable ads are part of that. And Singh thinks that users presented with good creative won't opt to avoid ads altogether. As he put it:

"There is quite a good variation between different skip rates based on creative."

Listening to viewers is a good route toward creating better ads. It will be interesting to see if it will also lead to more revenues.

Meghan Keane

Published 30 June, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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