By: Lynnsey Rijos

In advertising, the priority is to reach a desired audience at the right time and in the right space. When online advertising was introduced, it started with banner ads and eventually evolved into video. Videos, offering brands more space to communicate their message and have a dynamic presence, became a popular go-to tactic. Digital publishers, in response, ensured they had the proper environments and inventory to house the growing number of video ads. Ultimately, running ads just before the start of video content, better known as pre-roll advertising, became prime real estate. But it was the exploration of running ads in the middle of video content (i.e. mid-roll ads) that raised some eyebrows.

Why would mid-roll ads not be as well received as pre-roll? For starters, mid-roll ads are seen as a nuisance for some. The user’s video consumption is interrupted with an ad mid-way through the content they’re intending to watch. Additionally, mid-roll ads present some interesting challenges. Not only does a brand’s message need to make an impact in a 5-15 second window, the creative needs to be impactful and relevant enough to warrant a viewer to watch through completion. Mid-roll ads, however, do not differ much from TV. They are basically “digital commercials”.

Considering we’re in a day and age where people become cord-cutters in order to avoid commercials, mid-roll ads offer the TV equivalent for advertisers with the added bonus of real-time measurement. It’s evident that clicks should not be a primary KPI with mid-roll ads, as it’s unlikely a viewer would want to abandon their intended video content to visit a brand’s site at that precise moment. Viewability, on the other hand, has a greater value of success. While some users will jump ship at the sight of an ad, mid-roll ad placements have high video completion rates. Which is likely attributed to viewers having watched enough of the organic video to accept a 15 second ad break to continue watching the rest of the video.

In comparison to pre-roll ads, mid-roll ads are restricted to shorter lengths that the option to skip the ad is not available, as it is with pre-roll ads. If a viewer is truly turned off by an ad appearing midway through the video content they can either stick through it and watch, or they can jump ship and miss out of viewing the rest of the video content. In that instance the publisher of the video content is also at a disadvantage because the drop-off would result in a low video completion rate.

Ads, no matter what medium, will continue to be seen as disruptive. Mid-roll ads are the ultimate disruption from the perspective of viewers. That shouldn’t, however, deter advertisers from at least exploring the tactic. Knowing there is an already engaged audience, advertisers will need to apply strategy and visually compelling creative messaging to maintain the user experience.