Video Advertisement: The Armpit of the Internet

The other day I was engaging in one of my favorite mid-afternoon weekday rituals: putting off work in favor of mindless YouTube surfing. These sessions typically last anywhere from 10 minutes to 14 hours – so it’s important that I start out with a quick trip to the bathroom.

And stretches. Definitely make sure to do your stretches…

Now I work from home mind you, and it’s already hard enough for me to stay focused when necessary, but it’s my understanding that sometimes you just have to give into temptation. So there I was, comfortably reclined in my palatial desk chair – Diet Coke in one hand, my computer mouse in the other. The YouTube home screen is displayed proudly on my desktop monitor, iTunes was promptly put on pause, and my phone was immediately turned OFF – because NOTHING is getting in the way of my YouTube-ing!

What do I want to check out first? What search terms do I enter? Where do I want this journey to begin – and how far down the rabbit hole am I willing to go? Decisions, decisions….ok, lets do this!

I decide to start simple. I click on the search bar and I enter one word: “Cats” – because OF COURSE that’s what I’m going to do!

Lets see what we have here:

“Funny Cats” – Way too generic of a title. I don’t trust this one. What are these cats DOING that’s so funny??

“Probably The Funniest Cat Video You Will Ever See” – PROBABLY? I don’t feel like taking chances with my cat videos thank you very much! Save me your modesty, please…

“cats” – Are you kidding me? As if “Funny cats” wasn’t generic enough…*sigh* I am starting to lose hope with this whole cat decision…

Suddenly, like Goldilocks going through a porridge taste test, I find the video that looks just right:

“Funny cats in water, EPIC” – It’s just specific enough, while still retaining some mystery. AND it shows confidence! This video is EPIC! Not probably epic. Not perhaps slightly epic. THESE CATS ARE EPIC DAMMIT!!!

I take a quick sip of Diet Coke in preparation. I click the video title, sit back, and mentally prepare myself for the upcoming hilarity.

And then, it happens…


I HAVE TO WATCH A PRE-ROLL VIDEO ADVERTISEMENT?!? WHAT THE SH*T?!? For a three minute CAT video?!? These cats were probably shot on some 15-year-olds cell phone!

Yes, my worst nightmare has come to life. I have to now sit through 17 seconds of pre-roll advert for T-Mobile. This is the longest 17 seconds ever. Seriously. Time. Has. Stopped.

I hate you so much right now, T-Mobile.

Right away I begin to frantically click the video player with my mouse, I swat the computer screen with my palm, I pray to every deity I know that this will leave. Nothing works.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the advertisement ends, and “Funny cats in water, EPIC” begins. I’m sorry, I just can’t enjoy this anymore. I can’t get the wretched taste of T-Mobile out of my mouth. I try to cover it up with more Diet Coke. Bleck…

I know I am not alone in this frustration – everyone who frequently YouTubes has had to deal with this scenario at least twenty to thirty-THOUSAND times.

But I am not naive, and I get why pre-roll adverts are shown. If a video goes viral, or if a video collects a large number of views, of course YouTube would be more than happy to slap a pre-roll ad to that piece of content.

I probably should have mentioned that “Funny cats in water, EPIC” has over 15,800,000 views. Naturally.

Pre-roll opportunities give the advertiser (T-Mobile) a lot of eyeballs, AND it can put some change in the pocket of the content creator. It’s a win-win scenario.

Well except for us, the audience, we definitely lose on this one.

I know what some of you are probably thinking. “But Graham, when we watch TV programs, we have to sit through several MINUTES of advertisement. 17 seconds is nothing compared to that! Stop being so damn impatient you jerk!”

I might have agreed with you if this was 2005. But times have seriously changed – and advertisers need to realize this. Less and less consumers are watching content on television sets in favor of online video services (YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo), and already studies show that consumers want online video ads to be no longer than 15 seconds long. This is a drastic shift when you think about it. As media becomes more readily available, and as new technology has allowed for astoundingly easy content creation and distribution services – so go our attention spans. How long will it take before we just can’t stand ANY video advertisement? It certainly looks like we are heading in that direction – especially when you consider the drastic rise in video viewing on mobile devices. We have gone from 4 minutes of advertisement on television, to 15 seconds on a desktop/laptop – will cell phones be the medium that ends all pre-roll video ads?

I certainly hope so.

So what must advertisers do to succeed? Certainly they need to promote themselves in some fashion as accelerated priority is placed on online video?

What I always tell my clients is this: You must start by creating content, not commercials.

Did you know that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine on the Internet? Consumers turn to YouTube more and more for “visual information” on products, services, businesses, testimonials, etc. They search for how-to videos, product comparisons, personal advice. Or maybe they just search for something that will provide a quick laugh to get them through the monotony of their work day.

What they don’t search for are sales pitches. And they DEFINITELY don’t want to be forced to view a sales pitch before their damn 3-minute cat video!!

If an advertiser wants to truly succeed in the realm of online video, they must first accept that the entire advertising paradigm has undergone a massive shift. They can no longer get by with latching onto others entertainment – they have to BECOME the entertainment!

Rest assured I will be covering this concept in extended detail for upcoming blog posts – it is undeniably essential.

But for now, ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy “Funny cats in water, EPIC” (Complete with advertisement!)


3 thoughts on “Video Advertisement: The Armpit of the Internet

  1. What erks me is when I YouTube a funny commercial to watch and I have to sit through another commercial! Why don’t companies just put up their own commercials?

    • haha! wow, yeah that’s pretty stupid…but yes, I agree, if a company wants to engage in video promotion – create something you actually want consumers to go out and search for (not become subjected to against your will)

  2. Pingback: And Now For Something Completely Different… « Hype Creations

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