Samsung’s ‘Smart Pause’ Feature Could Better Mobile Video Advertising

Futuristic quirk has marketing ramifications, per industry players

Perhaps the most interesting item to come out of Samsung's Galaxy S4 announcement last night—from an advertising perspective, that is—was the so-called smart pause feature for video. Utilizing the phone's facial-recognition software, videos will pause whenever an S4 user looks away from the screen.

Whether it's pre-roll or branded content, the development raises questions of how this will affect digital video ads. For instance, will the feature annoy consumers and create negative brand engagement?

That's a distinct possiblity, said Crid Yu, InMobi's VP and managing director, North America. "It might over time incentivize brands to create more relevant ads and more valuable video content," he said.

Mike Ricci, a marketing vp at 20-year-old digital agency Webtrends, concurred. "This will drive increased amounts of mobile video consumption and create momentum for marketers to be more relevant with their mobile video strategies from a content and advertising perspective," he said. "It will likely also trigger Apple to innovate more aggressively in this medium, and that too will produce a whiplash-type effect that spurs even more mobile video consumption."

Another question: For a digital industry that has long struggled to nail down the extent to which videos are viewed, is the smart pause feature a godsend? "Anything that increases efficacy is good for the industry," Yu from InMobi said. "It gives brands more comfort that their ads are delivered and consumed."

One thing it won't do, Ricci From Webtrends contended, is "force marketers to reinvent what they are doing with digital marketing because Galaxy S4 users will be a pretty narrowly defined universe and not something that allows for true reach and scale, channel-wise.”

Rebecca Greenfield, a staff writer with The Atlantic Wire, has tested the S4 and confirmed with Adweek that the facial-recognition system does indeed pause videos. Generally speaking, she had a mixed reaction to the new phone, jibing with various tech bloggers who are somewhat disappointed with its bells and whistles.

"It tries to have a lot of wow factors," Greenfield said. "It would have been cooler if they just focused their energy on making one thing super awesome instead of creating 30 pretty cool things. But you could still see how some of the technology will be useful."