TV and streaming ads don’t impact viewer enjoyment but ad experiences do

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According to a new study from FreeWheel there is no change in how much viewers enjoy a programme when there were ads versus when there are no ads present.

The claim came today as FreeWheel, a global technology platform for the television advertising industry, and MediaScience, released new findings from their Viewer Experience Lab initiative.

The report, Improving the Quality of Ad Experiences, explores what factors contribute to a low-quality ad experience and how content owners can improve ad experiences for viewers in order to provide brands with the best results.

“The good news for advertisers is that contrary to what some may think, the research found that ads themselves don’t actually impact programme enjoyment for consumers”, said Mark McKee, GM, FreeWheel.

“However, what does bother them is bad ad experiences such as ad latency, unnatural ad breaks, and slate, negatively impacting brand perception and recall”.

“It is our responsibility as an industry to work towards building better viewer experiences, which in turn will help brands connect with audiences in  premium environments. We need to get this right not just for the advertisers, but for all of us as viewers.”

Key findings of what contributes to low-quality ad experiences include:

  • Latency: Latency bothers nearly 80% of viewers and negatively impacts the perceived quality of the programme, ads, and brands.
  • Unnatural Ad Breaks (or when an ad appears at a time in the content that feels disruptive): 71% of viewers are bothered by unnatural ad breaks leading to higher ad intrusiveness (+16%) and  decreased brand recall (-14%).
  • Slate: While viewers are less bothered by slates (33%), their physiological response to the content indicates they experience less joy compared to a programme with no slates. In addition, slates negatively impact perceived quality of surrounding ads (-3%).

In this study, viewers participated in an in-lab viewing session where they were shown 30-minute programming on a blinded streaming service with varied ad experiences including: no ads, latency, slate, and disruptive ad breaks compared to a control cell with limited ad breaks in a seamless viewing experience.

To uncover the impact of low-quality ad experiences, the findings in the report are based on the viewers’ responses regarding their experiences, as well as their physiological responses to the ads and content.

“With the premium video content and advertising ecosystem rapidly evolving, brands are struggling to  break through the clutter and get their message in front of audiences in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Duane Varan, CEO, MediaScience.

“On top of that, ads are showing up across multiple apps and  platforms without any adjustments, resulting in less-than-optimal execution.

“This is another bespoke, industry-first research study we’ve built with the FreeWheel Viewer Experience Lab to understand the  real impact that bad ad experiences have on viewers and how that ultimately impacts brands.

“Using the findings from this report as well as the previous two can help the industry create better ad experiences  and environments for consumers.”

To address some of these industry issues, and with FreeWheel’s continued focus on the viewer experience, FreeWheel has developed tools to enhance the creative approval process, better manage ad  frequency, and reduce the appearance of blank ads, or “slate”.

The company plans to announce the  details of this innovation in the very near future.

This is the third report from the FreeWheel Viewer Experience Lab, an initiative committed to helping  media companies improve the viewer experience through quantifiable research, solutions, and technology focused on the quality, quantity, and relevance of TV advertising.

This latest research was fuelled by findings from a previous study from the Viewer Experience Lab that found that, based on some estimates, ad avails not filled on FAST channels can be up to 25%, creating frustrating downtime for viewers and underutilised inventory for FAST programmers.

The next study, launching later in 2024, will analyse how ad relevance impacts viewer experience.