Major publishers and online media companies are all vying for a piece of the rapidly expanding online video advertising spend pie.  

In advance of next week's NewFronts, Yahoo has unveiled a new native video ad format.

As detailed by AdAge's Tim Peterson, the new ads, which will appear on the Yahoo Homepage as well as its digital magazines and mobile apps, play automatically on mute and can be viewed full screen if a user chooses.

In an effort to address concerns about viewability, advertisers are charged for an ad view only after three seconds. If a user stops the video before then, the advertiser is not charged. 

Peterson notes that this potentially differentiates Yahoo's new offering from a similar autoplay video ad offering from Facebook, which does not provide for such a delay.

A bad deal for advertisers?

Video ads are the greatest thing since sliced bread for advertisers right now, but offerings like Yahoo's raise some important questions they must address.

In the display market, viewability has been a major topic for years. And for good reason: it estimates that billions of dollars are being wasted every year on display ads that are never seen.

The viewability issue extends to video ads, of course but despite the concerns in this market, they continue to pour money into the channel.

Given that video ads are generally more expensive than their display cousins, this has the potential to be very problematic. 

Autoplay video ad offerings, for obvious reasons, are particularly challenging to advertisers wanting to be sure their money isn't being wasted and while Yahoo's decision to only charge for a view if an ad has played for three seconds might have been made in good faith, it's not clear how meaningful this actually is.

After all, if the ads are muted by default, how many users will be disrupted enough to actually take action to stop them? How many will even notice?

Additionally, advertisers need to take into consideration that video ads are suspected to be driving the growth of ad blockers, so while offerings like Yahoo's, which provide autoplay and prominent placement, might still be appealing regardless of the viewability concerns, ultimately overaggressive use of video ads could prove to be a net loss for publishers and advertisers.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 April, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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