Auto-Play Video Provides Quick Engagement — But at What Cost?

Continued saturation could damage all ad efforts, all in the name of some cheap, annoying engagement.

Native video is on the rise across social networks. What’s more, big networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all adopted autoplay video, and while some might complain, autoplay video has been largely successful. Indeed, autoplay could come to dominate the ad market as it provides high levels of engagement, but should it to take center stage?

Jeroen Wijering, founder of JW Player, wrote on VentureBeat:

Flawed implementations of autoplay have the potential to permanently damage the online video industry. We’re already seeing the consumer backlash […] And, as anyone who has encountered the hundredth video of Kate Upton advertising a mobile game can attest, an explosion of video advertising is creating consumer fatigue with video ads in general.

Wijering continues that autoplay could be less useful for advertisers than it appears:

How valuable is an impression from an angry, likely irrelevant consumer?  […] can an impression in a medium specifically designed to get consumers from one piece of content to the next with maximum efficiency truly be considered valuable?

Autoplay advertising isn’t especially new. YouTube has been hosting pre-roll ads since at least 2009, but over the years the company has made changes to boost engagement, to make ads skippable, and to make their ads more interactive. Autoplay ads are perhaps the least interactive, most intrusive form of advertising currently in our social feeds, even if they do foster high engagement.

The intrusive nature of the ads is precisely what could cause ad fatigue among users. Users are used to YouTube pre-roll ads, and likely they will become used to autoplay ads on other services. However, Wijering notes that by the time that comes, it may already be too late for video advertising.

[A]utoplay is shortsighted; the publishers and social networks embracing the technology are gaining more impressions in the short-term without thinking about long-term backlash. The online video industry needs to take a step back and acknowledge that the race to run as many pre-rolls as possible isn’t the right strategy […] publishers and social networks need to stop looking for a Band-Aid for their advertising woes and find creative ways to drive real engagement.

If advertisers decide to use autoplay video ads as part of a strategy, instead of their whole strategy, they could diversify their marketing efforts and avoid market saturation. Adblockers are already at work across the internet, blocking video ads across multiple networks. Continued saturation could damage all ad efforts, all in the name of some quick, annoying, engagement.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.