5th Acceptable Ads Committee Meeting — A Deep Dive on Video Ads

Finding an Acceptable Ads standard for video ads.

Over the last year, we’ve been seeing tremendous growth in the Acceptable Ads ecosystem. It has morphed into something more significant than just a set of criteria; it’s fast becoming a self-sustaining, growing ecosystem of companies pioneering a sustainable ad experience for a user base approaching 200 million users.

Via the Acceptable Ads Committee, publishers, digital rights organizations, and ad-block users all have a seat at the table when defining what ad formats are acceptable on the web. The Acceptable Ads Committee (AAC) met for the 5th time in New York on September 27th, focusing on video content and the ad formats that support it.

As we’ve previously discussed on this blog, video ad formats have never been accepted for ad-block users; however, they’ve never been studied in depth.

In the previous AAC meeting, the AAC agreed to commission a study on the disruptiveness of various in-stream video ad formats. The 5th AAC meeting was primarily focused on the results of the study and on next steps; in this blog post, we’ll cover the data from the study and discuss what comes next.

Video Ads Study

In the video ads study, we were exclusively focused on measuring the disruptiveness of pre-roll ads present before video content, where video is the primary content of the page. These are formats commonly found on sites like YouTube, news distributors, and many other video-focused publishers.

The study was performed by Qualtrics and surveyed over 3,042 existing ad-block users across the US, France, and Germany.

We measured 6 ad types, with two versions of each creative featuring fictional companies as the ad content. We compared different ad lengths: 6, 15, and 30 seconds — and measured each ad type with or without skip buttons.

On the surface, the results were not exactly surprising: of all tested formats, shorter ads with skip buttons are the least disruptive. Longer ads, especially ones without skip buttons, are highly disruptive. Video ads in general are rated as very disruptive by almost 50% of participants.

While this is clearly an intuitive result, there is a lot of depth to the data — particularly, which factors most strongly influence just how disruptive users find a given ad format.

The presence of the skip button is the top predictor of an ad’s disruptiveness rating. 39% of users said that the skip button (or lack thereof) had the greatest influence on their ratings of different ad formats. Ad length came in a strong second, at 33%. Less impactful on ratings were factors like ad music, content, or size.

Looking at the same idea, but through a different lens: 49% of users stated that the skip button most significantly impacted their satisfaction of a video ad. In other words, there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with the ability to skip an ad. This is consistent with the fundamental idea that presides over the AAC — that users must have a say in their experience of browsing the web.

Studying video ads is not particularly easy; there are numerous formats and many factors that are difficult to control — the content of the video ad (a more entertaining ad is less disruptive than something mundane), the content of the video itself, whether the video is the primary content on a page, and so on.

What’s Next

The AAC Representatives believe that the data is not yet decisive enough to conclude that there is a such thing as an “acceptable” pre-roll ad, so we’ve commissioned a follow-up study, with the objective of placing the least “annoying” pre-roll video ad formats into the context of the entire browsing experience, as well as doing a side-by-side comparison with other formats that are already compliant with Acceptable Ads.

We’ll be following up with more data from these studies, which will guide any future decisions with regard to video ads.