We Interrupt This Pause to Share a Few Things About Pause-Vertising
Will it be the pause that refreshes a streaming video industry beset by new challenges wrought by its success and rapid growth? Or will what’s been dubbed pause-vertising—ads that play only when the viewer hits the stop button on the streaming content—be the pause that repels consumers and puts them off some of the very reasons they turned to streaming in the first place? These are the questions that have risen in the wake of Variety’s report earlier this month that AT&T and Hulu are planning these new ad formats for 2019. The industry’s reaction has been mixed so let’s take a look at what’s behind the decision and what advertisers should know going forward.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
U.S. over-the-top streaming video services are booming, generating an estimated $20.1 billion in revenue last year on 15.2% growth according to PwC. But the success is breeding more competition and the need for more investment to feed customers’ growing desire for original quality content on demand. TDG, a virtual think tank that focuses on technology and marketing, noted in a report on the future of TV that in the current environment, the investment in original programming is so steep that even the industry leaders will have to find additional revenue to maintain their success. Subscription fatigue is growing so that’s not going to help and it’s happening just as binge-watching is spiking (it’s so popular these days that Merriam-Webster just added the term to its dictionary, a sure sign of hitting the mainstream.) So streaming platforms and advertisers are working to come up with creative, less intrusive advertising and betting that consumer control over when they play might be a good tactic.

Control Is Convenient but Creative Is Critical
Representatives from both AT&T and Hulu told Variety that they are sensitive to the unique requirements pause-vertisements will have to meet to be effective. These companies are stepping carefully, working to develop ads that play off the moment being watched or are tailored to particular consumer occasions. “If it’s simply inserting, let’s say a reverse-mortgage ad with a direct response phone number, that doesn’t aid the experience,” Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group, a media and advertising consultancy, told Variety. TDG advises advertisers to be guided by relevance, context and authenticity and to consider the reasons why viewers hit pause in the first place. Common reasons for hitting pause during a binge session include answering the doorbell or a call or running to the kitchen or bathroom. Ads that promoted cell phones or home security or snacks would resonate in ways that reverse-mortgages would not. And then there’s the artistry of the ad. People don’t hate ads. They hate bad ads. Just stand around a water cooler the day after the Super Bowl and you’ll hear as much talk of the ads as of the game. But that’s because creative agencies put everything they have to make those ads engaging and authentic. Pause-vertisers will need to follow the same rules to keep eyes on the screens during the pauses.

Patience Is a Virtue and Honesty Is Always the Best Policy
TDG also advises advertisers to keep their expectations measured at first, noting that it took linear TV years to train consumers to expect and be open to traditional advertising. To help today’s viewers get to that point, having honest dialogues with consumers about the changes being implemented—and why they’re necessary—can be an important component of building trust and an open mind toward new advertising models. Advertisers can’t control how the streaming companies communicate with their customers, but they can certainly encourage the tactics that will help investments get the best returns.

In the long run, pause-vertisements will likely be a small part of the changes to come. But being in a position to manage market changes large and small, strategically and from a well-informed position, will help us all. So for now, keep an eye on pause-vertisements—2019 is here!

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