Fight the Adblockalypse

7 steps to move people using video ads

December 29, 2016

By Devra Prywes

Partner Content

Unruly is an ANA Thought Leader



Did you know that 71 percent of people want control over their video ad-viewing experience — to be able to choose whether to watch, skip, stop, minimize, or pause a video ad? That people hate ads that auto launch with sound even more than they hate forced views? And that annoyance with ads that don't mesh with the consumer's personal preferences is even greater when encountered on mobile devices? That's all according to the recent Unruly Future of Video Advertising Study, which makes one thing very clear: We're in a new era of advertising.

The age of interruption is over, and the power is in the hands of the people. Fed up with the flood of ads getting between them and the content they seek, consumers have turned to ad blocking to clean up their online experience. Not only are they banishing the ads that annoy them, thanks to ad blockers, they're hardly seeing any ads at all — it's the adblockalypse.

But it's possible to fight back. If marketers, publishers, and social networks can collaborate and use ad tech in responsible, non-intrusive ways to deliver ads people want, brands can reconnect with their consumers and stave off the adblockalypse. Here are seven pillars based on Unruly's Future Video Manifesto for creating ads that people will want to watch — not skip.


1. Consistency in Purpose Is Key

People love a product with a mission, especially if there is a social-good component. Unruly's Pyramid of Purpose (see below) can serve as a guide for making sure all the stages of a campaign are aligned — not only with one another but with the corporate mission too. For example, Unilever's campaigns for its Dove beauty products have a clear purpose to make women feel beautiful in their own skin. "Real Beauty Sketches" was in the Guinness World Records 2015 Edition as the most-viewed video of the year. Dove had specific awareness goals for that campaign, and it promoted its message of helping women develop a positive relationship with the way they look. Fast-forward to this past summer and that video is still in sync with Unilever's #unstereotype movement, unveiled at Cannes.





2. Be Authentic

Seventy-six percent of consumers lose trust in brands that aren't authentic, according to the Unruly Future of Video Advertising Study. Marketers need to be incredibly self-aware and understand how consumers see their brands. This doesn't mean it's impossible to change consumer perception, but marketers need to know where they stand with consumers before trying to do so. How consumers perceive brands isn't based only on the ads that promote them and the press releases an advertiser issues, but also on the experience at the point of purchase, how the product performs after purchase, and even what company executives are tweeting out. As emotional testing options evolve, it will be easier than ever to confirm how authentic and credible viewers find an ad.


3. Make an Emotional Connection

Data from a Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience studyshows that ads with above-average electroencephalogram scores (i.e., emotionally impactful ads) deliver a 23 percent uplift in sales volume. Les Binet and Peter Field, marketing experts and authors of IPA's 2013 "The Long and Short of It," have shown that an emotional ad strategy that lasts more than three years delivers 43 percent gain in profit. And, the stronger the emotional connection an ad makes, the more likely it is to drive memorability, engagement, attention, sharing, loyalty, purchase intent, and many other important brand and social metrics. Marketers should decide which emotions they want associated with their brands and then hit them with intensity in their video ads to drive viewer action.


4. Make Videos Personal and Relatable

Eighty-one percent of Millennials and Gen Zers don't mind and in fact like ads that are for products and services that interest them,according to the Unruly Future of Video Advertising Study. People aren't turning to ad blockers because they hate ads — they just hate bad ads, and irrelevant ads. One million online videos launched in 2015, and to avoid spamming audiences, the need for marketers to test and target has become more important than ever before.

Marketers must test content to make sure it resonates with the target audience, and then use the variety of targeting options at their disposal to cut through the clutter. Brands can up the ante by using emotional distribution to deliver ads to a specific group of people within the target demographic who are the most likely to buy, be more favorable to the brand, and remember it at the point of purchase. Other personal targeting, like moment marketing, lets brands launch the most appropriate creative based on various real-world events (like weather changes, sporting wins, and what's airing on TV) that affect purchase decision making.


5. Make Video Shareable

A brand can beat the ad blockers altogether when people share its video. And people will, if it's good. That is, if the video triggers a strong emotional response and many social motivations (which are key engagement metrics). Ads with the strongest social engagement can be shared millions of times, according to data from Unruly Analytics, with the most shared ad of all time, Android's "Friends Furever," achieving well over 7 million shares.

Making video shares a KPI is a good failsafe to ensure an ad is resonating with viewers. According to data from Unruly Analytics, shared video is a "high-impact recommendation" and is up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase, according to the McKinsey Quarterly. Word of mouth is still the most trusted form of advertising, according to the 2013 Nielsen Trust In Advertising report, and online word of mouth is just as powerful.


6. Use Polite, Non-interruptive Ad Formats

Brands need to be social and engage consumers without interrupting their online experience. With the array of billing options available, there's no reason to ever force the ad view. In fact, according to the Unruly Future of Video Advertising Study, 61 percent of people are so angered by forced pre-roll that they are put off by the advertiser. Marketers should let people skip, and allow them to watch the ad on a day they're ready to engage. Polite placements are also good for the industry as a whole; they allow publisher content to load before the ad and provide a better experience for both viewers and media owners.


7. Test and Learn, and Stay Agile Even While Scaling

The principles of marketing haven't changed for many millennia, but the tools have certainly evolved. Smart marketers try new things; test to identify the most interested audiences; develop a robust content stack to launch different ads to different people at different times; try making next-day content as part of a zeitgeist event; experiment with sound-off ads; and see how captions perform for their brands. These last two are important to try, since, according to the Unruly Future of Video Advertising Study, 81 percent of U.S. viewers sometimes, often, or always mute ads.

Marketers should allocate budget to stay ahead of the curve and maintain their agility. Test, learn, and iterate should be a constant refrain for marketers. Brands that successfully use the available data and testing results to minimize their risk and maximize the social, brand, and business impact of videos as they experiment have a good chance at fending off the adblockalypse.


Devra Prywes (@devrap) is the SVP of insights and marketing at Unruly. You can email her at



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