The Digital Trend Making Everyone Angry. Wait For It …

January 13, 2018 | blog | By

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Your screaming toddler wakes you up out of a dead sleep with what appears to be a raging ear infection. As a new parent, you’re not entirely sure how to treat it so you grab your iPad and punch up a YouTube video that promises “a quick and easy earache cure” because right now, quick and easy is exactly what you need. A young mom who seems very caring comes on screen and says she’ll walk you through exactly what to do. Then she adds, “But there is one critical thing to look for and if you see this in your baby, take them to the Emergency Room immediately! That one thing is …”

Suddenly the video fades to black and a super comes up on the screen.


Fist? Meet keyboard. Keyboard? Meet fist.

If you’ve watched a video on Facebook, or YouTube in the past year, you’ve no doubt had these mid-roll ads interrupt the content you were trying to watch. If you’re on Facebook, one of these ads could pop up in just about any short video. If you’re watching something longer on YouTube, you might get two or three of these break-ins served up in the span of 20 minutes.

It’s infuriating and there’s not a consumer who likes them. So why in the world are Facebook and YouTube subjecting us to these unwanted interruptions?

Because they can.


It’s not like the interruptive model of advertising is new. Television and radio spots have been interrupting us for years. The difference is, broadcast commercials don’t interrupt us at abrupt, random points in the content. Mid-roll ads always do. And when that happens, the unexpected interruption exacerbates our level of frustration causing the clear majority of viewers to immediately click out of the content. When that switch gets flipped, two potentially damaging things happen to the brand “causing” the interruption.

First, it lowers the percentage of consumers who might have been willing to hang through the entire ad. Once interrupted, at best, those viewers are annoyed they had to wait to get to the rest of their content and most are pulling the ripcord the second they see, “The Rest of Your Video Will Continue …” What’s worse is the real potential for the consumer to not only dislike the message, but resent the brand for the interruption whether they watched the whole ad, or not.

In one of our recent blogs, we looked at a concept from social psychologist Robert Cialdini and his new book “PRE-Suasion” that applies here, too. According to Cialdini, we naturally assume that whatever draws our attention is especially important. What’s more, when we give something our focused attention, we assign that thing a heightened sense of importance and causality.

When a viewer clicks on a video they want to watch, and at a random moment in the action that pleasurable experience is halted by the intrusion of an ad, they are likely to elevate their focus on the disruption and their frustration at being interrupted. At that moment, the person’s brain consciously, or subconsciously, connects the two and starts to assign a causal connection between that negative emotion and whatever brand seemingly caused it. Once the interruption happens half a dozen times, clicking out of the moment just becomes instinctual. Where once they might have watched half way, or even all the way through the ad to get to the second half of the video, now, the second the screen jumps to black, they’re out.

What’s frustrating for brands and media planners alike is there’s no way around these mid-roll interruptions without paying a premium. Short of paying an extra toll, digital planners buying video inserts on YouTube may get pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll placement. Only by paying a premium rate can they be assured their ad will run before the video the person wants to see and not in the middle of it or, worse, after.

Until something more efficient and enticing comes along, mid-roll ads will continue to present a balancing act between frustration and effectiveness for advertising agencies, marketing companies, digital firms, and media companies.

That goes double for viewers.

JOSH WHITAKER is director of digital at ILUMINERE, the country’s leading challenger brand agency for digital, social, mobile, and user experience. For more about challenger branding, subscribe to our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog



angerchallenger brand marketingdigitalfrustrationJosh WhitakerLOOMIS Ilumineremid-roll adsThe Loomis Agencyvoice of the underdog

at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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