YouTube: Making Ads More Tolerable For Users

One way to monetize video content is to show an ad at the beginning of the video. When this was first done years ago on the internet, users would simply fast forward the video to skip over the ad and to wind up at the start of the content. Eventually videos were made in such a way where viewers could not skip over the ad and were required to watch the ad before the actual content could begin.

For many users, this became annoying. Users developed different ways to cope with these ads, i.e. sometimes the user would just close the ad and declare it wasn’t worth the price to pay to watch the video, or mute the volume and browse the internet on another page and come back when the ad is over (you had to have had good timing with this one or else the content may have started without you), or the user would just tough it out, get through the ad and then see the video.

No doubt the companies who placed these ads knew that they were annoying and not desired by many users. As a way to deal with this issue, YouTube has designed their ad interaction with some of their videos in a very clever way.

Here’s the beginning of a video on YouTube. At the outset, the user has an option to select one ad from three choices or watch the full video with one commercial break. This is amazing. Giving the user a real-time input into what ad they would have to watch in addition to getting to decide when to watch it makes the experience completely different.


Here’s another approach. An ad starts of playing right away, and in the bottom right corner the user sees real-time messaging informing the user that they can skip the ad in a certain number of seconds. This is great for two reasons. One, it gives the user incentive to stick around knowing they don’t have to watch the full ad. Two, during the first five seconds, the ad may hook the user and the user may just stick around for the entire ad after all. In this case, YouTube can pick up extra revenue from the ad owner.

One final note: the video shows the amount of time left for the ad to conclude in the bottom left corner. This is another piece of information that is very useful to the user and sets expectations properly.