Brands and media companies have an opportunity to “re-architect” the advertising experience on streaming video services with the introduction of new, “user-centric” ad formats.

In a new viewpoint – A roadmap for discovery-driven advertising – Christopher Vollmer, Managing Director of MediaLink (WARC’s sister company), argues that the ad-free video viewing experienced pioneered by Netflix poses a threat to the ad industry.

“As more video consumption shifts to subscription streaming, marketers are slowly losing access to the best entertainment content, as well as large portions of the most valuable audiences – particularly young adults and the affluent,” writes Vollmer, formerly global advisory leader for entertainment and media at PwC.

“Netflix changed the game in video by putting the user, not the programmer, at the centre of the video viewing experience. Now a similar shift needs to occur with advertising.”

He argues that media owners must focus on expanding the supply of ad units that “enhance” the user’s experience, rather than continuing to develop those that “tax it”.

Vollmer cites experiments by Hulu, which has pledged to generate half of all ad revenue from “non-intrusive” formats by 2022. The OTT service has trialled formats including ‘pause’ and ‘binge’ ads, with the latter enabling brand owners like Kellogg’s and Beam to reward users with ad-free viewing.

Considering factors such as user input, observed behaviour, interactivity, and integration between video and advertising content, Vollmer suggests a number of ways to make streaming video advertising more “discoverable and desirable”, including:

User-driven ads: Allowing users to pick which advertisers they wish to hear from, and in which kinds of formats.

Behavioural ads: Creating ads to fit with video streaming behaviours such as ‘re-watching’, ‘skimming’ and ‘saving for later’.

Gamification and rewards-based ads: Connecting content to relevant quizzes, games and interactive videos.

Unlock ads: In which brands sponsor specific shows, enabling a less interruptive viewing experience.

Story ads and contextual ads: Formats with creative assets and insights linked to programming.

The introduction of new formats would require buy- and sell-sides to “align rapidly” on standards and measurement, adds Vollmer, as most are unlikely to conform to current industry norms.

Last week, NBCUniversal announced that the ad-funded tier of its streaming service, Peacock, will include the industry’s “lightest” ad load of up to five minutes per hour. Like Hulu, Peacock’s roster of formats will include ‘pause ads’ and ‘binge ads’, as well as ‘engagement ads’ with interactive elements like quizzes and ‘solo ads’ allowing a brand to exclusively sponsor a show.

Sourced from MediaLink, Adweek; additional content by WARC staff