Research

How the popularity of on-demand viewing is radically altering ad placement dynamic

Media industry research shows that record numbers of TV programmes are being watched outside their scheduled broadcast time, thanks to the popularity of on-demand services.

On-demand viewing is on the increase partly because of its convenience. Consumers can decide when to watch something, and can also choose from a large range of devices to view content on. In the context of the Gulf region, Google's 2012 Mobile Planet research found that of UAE consumers, 73 per cent have Internet-enabled smartphones, and 30 per cent of them say they would rather give up their TV than their smartphone.

Traditionally producers and media channel executives have dictated what the consumers sees and when they see it. They have also ensured that consumers were exposed to all-important, money-making ad breaks.

This interruption model of advertising i.e., marketers interrupting viewing to promote things a consumer may or may not want, has worked for decades as viewers have had less choice and little control.

On-demand viewing however is a more 'consumer-orientated' approach. It not only allows consumers choice of what they watch, but also when and where they watch it. With on-demand viewing platforms such as Youtube, the advertising is not seen to be as disruptive. It can be targeted to reflect the content of the video and also the type of viewer, based on search history and information from cookies.

Moreover, consumers have more control over the advertisements and can skip an ad after a couple of seconds if they don't want to watch it in full. This degree of control means that consumers become more active and responsible for their own ad watching, and if they are in control of the ad, they are more likely to engage with it.

Another big advantage of sites like Youtube is interactivity. People have always talked about television, sometimes even shouting about it or at it. Now, they can share their views with millions of others by adding their comments in writing while watching on-line. This not only increases consumer involvement, but provides great feedback to TV content producers.

As a result, the migration towards online advertising has been dramatic. Viewers often think they see fewer advertisements online, yet for every hour watching Youtube they are typically exposed to 7.5 minutes of advertising. This is similar to the figures for television, but because the average Youtube video length is approximately four minutes, the on-line ads are much more spread out. They are also possible to control. As a result, the perception is there are less of them.

So is this transfer of control from producer to consumer as a result of media fragmentation and increased online viewing a good or a bad thing for the marketing industry? It certainly poses more challenges and adds more complication to the communication process. Marketers and companies will need to develop better understanding of their customers' preferences and media habits. On that basis it can be seen as a good thing.

Tracking and measurement of consumers' on-line activities will enable marketers to better answer the questions of:

  • where they consume their media;
  • on what device;
  • at what time of day;
  • and which sites they visited beforehand.

Consequently, marketers will be more adept at mapping out their customers' behaviour, leading to more targeted and suitable advertising for consumers, and greater efficiency for advertisers.

A version of this article recently appeared on www.gulfnews.com.

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