I regularly rant about the amount of advertising we're subjected to. Based on my own pattern of behaviour, I struggle to see how it works for advertisers. I have ad blockers and an in-built brain filter for adverts that get through the blockers. I invariably haven't seen adverts I'm ever surveyed about. The surveys become ever more incredulous and keep throwing other adverts at me on the basis that I must have seen one of them, but usually it's a no.
Intrusive adverts are obviously the most annoying. If a web page just has them adorning various headers, footers and side panels they're quite easy to ignore, although the slower page loads are annoying. The ones that stop you seeing the content you're after are the most irritating. These could be pop-ups, auto-playing video that gets in the way and — the subject I'm going to address in this article — the adverts on YouTube you have to sit through for a few seconds before you can skip them.
My blocker can cut out that sort of nonsense from YouTube, but YouTube won't load the video if I do that. I then have to ask myself how much I want to see the video in question. I estimate I really want to see about a third of them, which means I unblock YouTube, watch the video and then block YouTube again. For about two-thirds of them I simply don't bother — I didn't want to see them that much.
You may wonder why I don't just unblock YouTube permanently. At least half the reason is sheer bloody-mindedness, but it's also instructive. At the start of this year I wondered how much I really wanted to see a lot of the stuff I was looking at online, so I gave up social media, installed loads of blockers, started exiting sites with too much advertising and generally got a lot more picky about what sites I visit. I can honestly say I don't feel as if I missed out. Sometimes we think we'd miss things, but when they're removed we find we don't after all.
I read a lot of blogs and websites, but I get them delivered via RSS and read them in NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire gives me a one-stop place to read most of the things I'm interested in. There are still sites I visit in a browser of course; the BBC and Wikipedia are the main ones, but there are others.
When I go to YouTube it's usually for music, although I sometimes look at movie clips and instructional videos too. An advert often precedes the video I'm after and I have to wait five or seven seconds to see my content. This is annoying because it wastes both my time and the advertiser's time. Unless I've got headphones on my computer is muted for sound, so I won't hear anything, and the only bit of the advert I'm looking at is the countdown timer as I wait for it to hit zero. That's if I'm looking at the screen at all; often I look away at something else and estimate the countdown time in my head.
I cannot remember a single YouTube advert. I have a vague impression some are marketing adverts, by which I mean they're advertising a service to help you market things. I think others might be telling me I can become richer than Jezz Bezos by putting all my money in some cryptocurrency. But I can't say for certain. If any of that is correct it's because my subconscious is noticing things I'm wilfully trying not to notice at a conscious level.
I appreciate I may be an extreme example with my rampant avoidance of adverts, but I struggle to believe anyone actually wants to see the advert. It isn't what they went to YouTube for. I'm sure it's at the very least irritating, and I cannot imagine engagement is high. Yet Google keeps on providing the platform and there seems to be no shortage of advertisers willing to pay to use it.
I wondered what percentage of people skipped YouTube adverts, so I did some searching.
MagnaGlobal performed a study with over 11,000 participants and found that 65% of people skip YouTube adverts, and that increases to 84% on smartphones. The higher skip rate on smartphones makes sense because people are concerned about their cellular data allowance, but I expected it to be higher across all platforms. I was thinking it would be 90%+.
On average people watch 5.5 seconds of a 15 second advert and 7.4 seconds of 30 second advert before skipping.
The researchers at MagnaGlobal go on to argue that skipped adverts are still beneficial because 10% of people who skipped adverts could still recall the brand unaided. That jumps to 22% if those people are prompted (aided recall).
The purpose of the majority of marketing is to make a sale somewhere down the line. If 65-84% of people are skipping adverts it means the remaining 16-35% have to watch them, be impressed enough to properly engage with the advert and then make a purchase.
According to the BigCommerce site, the typical view rate for YouTube adverts is 31.9%, which is broadly in line with percentages of skippers mentioned above. The average CTR is 0.514%, so around half a percent of the 30% of people who don't skip the advert will click on it. Then only a small percentage of those who click through will make a purchase.
If, as BigCommerce suggests, it costs on average $0.026 per view, that's roughly $20 for 1000 views, and for that thousand views you'll get 1.5 people clicking through, of which only a small percentage will purchase. This looks like an unappealing mode of advertising for low ticket products (certain anything below $20), but it might work for higher ticket items.
All this is very interesting, but marketing is not my area of expertise or concern. I'm just a dumb user and I'll skip adverts as soon as possible.
You might think my stance on this is so manic that there's no chance of advertising to me, but that's not correct. If I respect a site or blog and have come to trust it over time, and said site or blog advertises judiciously, I sometimes click on adverts. If somebody reviews a genre of product I'm interested in, I'll often click through from there to the manufacturer's site to find out more. There's a sound basis to why I do that. I'm reading that site because I'm interested in the content, and have come to like or trust the site, the article's author or both. I'm continuing to read that site because it has very few adverts on it (preferably no more than one or two) and none of them are intrusive; none of them get in my face or stop me seeing the content I'm after; the site doesn't throw pop-ups at me, it doesn't auto-play videos, it doesn't have immovable footers full of adverts, and the majority of the page is taken up with content rather than adverts.
The thing is, you can't simply demand my attention. You have to earn it.
I have absolutely no objection to sites funding themselves through advertising, and I have no objection to people trying to sell me a product. But if you try to flood me with adverts or hold the content I'm after to ransom until I watch some advertising, I'll either block it via software or just not visit the site again.
This is particularly pertinent for a smartphone running on cellular. It's costing you money to see an advert you didn't ask for and are not interested in, but are forced to watch if you want the content behind it.
If you think about it, the only reason we have ad-blocking software is because adverts became too intrusive. That alone should be a sign to marketers and advertisers that they're going about things the wrong way. We seem to be getting more adverts as time goes on, but, I believe, there's also less engagement with those adverts as people become overrun with them and look for more ways to avoid them. At some point the marketing model of increasing the number of adverts and increasing the ways they're forced on people will implode.
Then again, what do I know?