In a clever move by Google, some YouTube content will present viewers with a choice: Select from two advertisements to watch at the beginning, or intersperse a grab bag of ads throughout the video.
This idea, which is being tested on a small number of premium YouTube videos, is far more preferable to those floating ads that slide into the bottom portion some videos. But that’s not the only reason I like the idea.
Allowing user control over the advertisement engages the viewer in a way that television commercials cannot. If marketing groups create Web ads that are worth watching, and sell the ads themselves with a provocative title and screenshot (okay, the examples seen above aren’t what I had in mind, but give it time), we’re well on the way to seeing more value in online advertising.
That’s important, because Big Content’s reservations over online content are due in large part to how little online ads make compared to their offline counterparts. It’s the whole “analog dollars for digital pennies” argument for which NBC CEO Jeff Zucker was famously quoted. This imbalance explains why NBC’s Olympic coverage will be crippled next year and why Hulu’s content providers bend over backwards to prevent you from watching through the television instead of a PC. If it becomes viable for online video to cannibalize cable, sites such as Hulu and YouTube will evolve much faster.
Granted, there are other roadblocks — the thorny issue of licensing agreements between cable and content providers, for example — but choose-your-own ads are welcome in my queue.