Why Streaming and Binge-Watching with Existing Ad Loads Suck

September 4, 2019

By David Rudnick

Visual Generation/Shutterstock.com

It's no secret that TV consumption patterns are changing radically in the current environment of on-demand availability. One of the most notable developments is the skyrocketing popularity of binge-watching, a trend that's rapidly spreading across all demographics. According to a Morning Consult/Hollywood Reporter poll, 60 percent of all adults who watch shows on-demand binge-watch episodes at least once a week. The numbers are even higher in the 18–29 and 30–44 demos: 73 percent and 69 percent, respectively. That's a trend that should be setting off alarm bells to both brand marketers and ad-supported streaming services because, frankly, binge-watching sucks with traditional ad loads.

The reason it sucks is that decisioning models for ad serving have failed to evolve in response to changing content consumption patterns. As a result, brand marketers are vulnerable to negative sentiment from increasingly irritated consumers, and ad-supported streaming services are in danger of losing subscribers to competitors.

Way back when, ad serving was a fairly simple proposition — always rate-driven and generally designed to avoid having the same ad repeat itself. With the arrival of ad-supported streaming, a big problem quickly surfaced. There was, and still is, a lack of inventory for the commercial ad loads going into streaming content, so viewers were seeing the same ads over and over again. Or, advertisers insisted on frequency to drive the impressions. Many found that so frustrating that they simply abandoned the ad-supported streaming service for another provider.

 

Frequency Capping to the Rescue? Nope

In response, some streaming services initiated frequency capping, which limited the number of times an ad could be served during a single episode. Problem solved, they figured; but, boy, were they wrong. Oh so wrong. What frequency capping failed to take into account were the radical ways in which viewing habits were changing. Rather than watching a single episode of a series — as had always been the norm on network TV — viewers began watching two, four, six or even more (sometimes many more) episodes in a single binge-watching session. As a result, they were repeatedly bombarded with the same ads.

In addition to frequency, it's now important to contemplate creative and sentiment effects as a result of that creative on saturation and compounding. How many views of what starts out as a whimsical, cheeky commercial does it take to turn it into a mind-numbing, exasperating irritant that makes a viewer so irritated that they physically leave the room instead of tolerating a commercial? Six? Ten? The number is not important, but there's no denying that any commercial, no matter how creative or entertaining it might initially be, has a tipping point where it becomes unbearable, further amplified by how whimsical or edgy a spot may be. It triggers negative sentiment in viewers, and that negative sentiment eventually is directed toward the brand behind the spot as well as the streaming provider that's serving it. It doesn't have to be this way.

Breaking this down, we have three groups to focus on:

  1. The buyers. Balancing how a media schedule is run and its frequency
  2. The creative. Understanding saturation and compounding
  3. The distribution platform. How it contemplates frequency, saturation and compounding

The solution lies in ad-serving decisioning models that factor in not just frequency, but also saturation and sentiment to create an advertising ecosystem that is accommodating rather than alienating toward viewers. Virtually all the technology to support such a model already exists. What's lacking to date is a willingness on the part of streaming providers, brand marketers and their agencies to adopt the changes necessary to make this a reality.

 

Fixing this Will Take a Team Effort

For all the talk of synergy and integration in the marketing world, silos are still the norm for critical parts of the advertising ecosystem — specifically, creative, planning and media buying. Creative teams must begin to factor the impact of binge-watching's saturated, high-frequency environment into their ad-creation processes, and they must begin to measure sentiment. Buying teams, which historically have focused mainly on clearing their inventory and hitting the right demo, must similarly broaden their horizons. It falls to planning to get both creative and buying on the same page and attuned to the new realities of viewership.

Streaming services bear the primary responsibility to create an ad-serving ecosystem that maximizes the utility and relevance of advertising to subscribers while eliminating the kind of alienation that results from repeated exposure to the same ads.

Transactional, moment-based advertising that is consumer-friendly is one way to make this happen. For example, a streaming provider could serve an ad with an offer for a deal on fast-food delivery to a viewer who is watching multiple episodes leading up to dinnertime. Decisioning will have to understand the location, time of day, and how many episodes a viewer is binge-watching to make that possible.

New forms of advertising will emerge, including an opt-in, ad-serving model for binge-watchers. If the decisioning model determines that a viewer is watching four or five episodes at a time, it could offer him or her the option of an ad-free viewing experience over a set number of episodes in exchange for watching two minutes of commercials now.

These are just a couple of suggestions for how the current streaming environment could be made more relevant and less irritating to viewers, in addition to increasing sentiment from a consumer perspective. Surely, others will come up with different ideas, but one thing remains certain: the streaming environment as it now exists absolutely has to change — because, you know, it sucks.

 

David Rudnick is the co-founder of and chief technology officer at Connekt.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


You must be logged in to submit a comment.