Have you ever noticed ads that come up while you’re watching a video? Say you’re watching a video about healthy eating and an ad for a fitness app comes up. Or you’re watching a video related to your work, and an ad for productivity software appears half-way through. These are known as mid-roll ads and have been quietly revolutionizing video advertising for the past few years now. They work particularly well across social media platforms with Facebook testing mid-roll ads during live streams, to Snapchat interrupting stories with skippable ads, and Twitter showing football games with sponsored breaks.
Video ad spending in the US alone is expected to reach a whopping $22 billion by 2021. Naturally, marketers are looking at ways to optimize this spending and get the biggest bang for their buck. Over the years, pre-roll advertising, which has been the main focus of social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, has declined significantly in popularity. Users tend to skip these ads a lot more often in their hurry to get to the video. Even worse, users actually tend to stop watching the video altogether if there is a long ad right at the start.
The other popular ad placement, which is post-roll advertising, is even less popular. Expecting the audience to stick around to watch the ad at the end almost seems like begging them for a favor. It’s no wonder that mid-roll advertising is becoming the norm, with Recode reporting that 90-second videos on Facebook with a 20-second mid-roll clip are now the go-to format.
Why mid-roll advertising works so well
Here’s a look at why mid-roll advertising is particularly effective in social video advertising.
Mid-roll ads are perfectly aligned to social media videos
Platforms like Facebook dominate when it comes to video advertising. But most pre-roll advertisements play with the sound turned off even as users are scrolling through their newsfeed. That dynamic changes with mid-roll advertising. When users are already in the middle of watching a video, they are likely to have the sound turned on. So the chances that your users will get the complete experience of your ad go up drastically. In fact, mid-roll advertising is so effective that Facebook has recently introduced it in its Facebook Live as well.
People are used to the mid-roll format thanks to TV advertising
The mid-roll format isn’t alien to audiences. Although online video platforms like YouTube started advertising with pre-roll ads, people are already used to mid-roll ads thanks to television. As a user experience, it isn’t jarring because they have been watching sitcoms and sports in the same way for ages. A study of over 6000 users found that mid-roll advertising is particularly effective on larger screens (similar to that of a TV), and its message recall for desktop viewers is as high as 27%.
If placed and timed correctly, mid-roll ads have the highest completion rates
Mid-roll ads, which initially met with a lot of skepticism, have now shot past both pre-roll and post-roll ads in terms of completion rates. Mid-roll ads on social media now have an unprecedented completion rate of 90%. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. By the time a user reaches the mid-roll ad, they have already invested time in watching the video and are clearly deriving some value from it. Obviously, they are much likelier to watch the ad before returning to the video. All advertisers need to do is get the timing of their ad right (10-15 seconds is ideal) and then find placements in the most relevant videos.
The potential downside of mid-roll advertising
While mid-roll ads seem to have distinct advantages, they are still a comparatively nascent format for social media videos. Here are some of the potential downsides that you should be aware of before making an investment in mid-roll advertising.
Users still prefer pre-roll videos as far as user experience is concerned
Interestingly enough, users prefer to have their ads out of the way before they begin watching a video. In a recent study by IPG Media Lab, only 17% of participants claimed that pre-roll ads disrupt their user experience, while a whopping 72% claimed that mid-roll ads do so. This just goes to show that mid-roll ads might face more backlash from users as they interrupt the user experience at a more critical juncture. That is why even though advertisers have the option of keeping unskippable mid-roll ads (if the length is less than 15 seconds), many choose not to do so.
Best ad placement for mid-roll videos is not certain
This is true for video ads in general but particularly for mid-roll ads which are still relatively nascent. Most marketers say they simply don’t have enough data to know exactly where to place mid-roll ads and it’s mostly a hit-and-miss situation for the first few months. Since most content creators still manually select ad placements, it becomes all the more crucial for advertisers to identify the right channels and content to place their ads.
Platforms like Facebook limit the revenue you can generate from mid-roll ads
Platforms like Facebook create revenue sharing structures that make it difficult for content publishers to generate enough revenue from mid-roll ads in the long run. Facebook’s commission structure and post promotion mean that publishers end up giving a large part of the money they make from mid-roll ads to Facebook itself. This may make it untenable for them to continue using mid-roll ads in their videos over the long-term.
Final take- Are mid-roll ads worth it?
Mid-roll ads are relatively nascent but they have proved their worth over the last few years. Their phenomenal completion rates and unprecedented adoption go to show that mid-roll ads are here to stay. While concerns on placement and revenue maximization are perfectly valid, they are unlikely to deter marketers from taking the plunge when it comes to mid-roll advertising.