The Future of Digital Advertising: A Cautionary Tale

Filed Under: Advertising Testing, Communicating Effectively, Quantitative Research


Elena Lyrintzis

The other day I was browsing my friends’ Snapchat stories and saw a marriage proposal video. “They look so happy,” I thought. “Wow, I can’t believe they caught it on Snapchat…they look like…wait, do I know these people? No, I do not know these people.” Here I was, innocently viewing stories posted by my friends, and right in the middle I ended up watching a cleverly disguised advertisement. I was duped by social media!

Video content has rapidly increased over the past few years and is projected to continue increasing. Many social media channels are now integrating video that broadcasts personal stories. Facebook Live allows users to directly stream content, Snapchat allows users to upload stories that disappear after 24 hours, and Instagram has both features.

Advertising has adjusted to this new digital media platform and recently started leveraging the mid-roll video ad.

The mid-roll ad refers to an advertisement placed in the middle of online video content, which can be either user-generated or produced. This concept, of course, is not new: we expect commercial breaks in television and radio all the time. So what makes mid-roll ads on social media different?

For the first time, ads are placed in the middle of unscripted, unpredictable, and unknown content.

The introduction of the mid-roll ad has the potential to disrupt the online advertising space. We offer three considerations that should be explored before adopting the mid-roll ad.

  1. Unlike advertisers in traditional media, social media advertisers will have less control over the content into which their ads are placed.
  2. It is not yet clear how different types of consumers will react to mid-roll ads and more research is needed to gauge the reactions of likely viewers.
  3. There may be positives to this format if the effectiveness of mid-roll ads in online television is a precursor to similar success in social media

Where would you rather see an ad on a social media video? Find out if your preference matches others.


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