What Ad Skippers Teach Marketers About Consumers

By Greg Sobiech, CEO of DELVE

For most digital marketers there’s nothing worse than finding out that a consumer skipped your ad. The copy you painstakingly crafted, the creative you lovingly built, all ignored in less time than it takes to read this sentence and a potential customer lost to the fast-changing winds of streaming content. But as a growing number of major platforms, including Spotify and YouTube, begin to offer skippable advertising to improve user experience on their ad-supported services, marketers need to rethink the skip. Rejection hurts, but like most thing in life, there are lessons in the pain. 

A skip is a signal

Like anything else that happens in the digital ecosystem, a consumer choosing to skip an ad is a signal. It tells us that there was something about the experience, whether it’s the creative, the environment, or the brand story we’re trying to tell, isn’t connecting with the consumer. Digital offers a plethora of signals to tell us what’s working, but all too often digital marketers revert to the same key metrics that traditional advertisers have used. For most, that means focusing on the eyeballs–view or impressions if you prefer–that touch an ad. Of course, in a locked in platform, where consumers have no choice but to see and hear interruptive ads on their way to the content they want, exposure is the only metric we have to go on. 

Consumers have been “skipping” ads for as long as ads have existed. Whether it’s by turning down the radio, changing the channel, or leaving the room during a television ad break analog consumers have always opted out of consuming ads. In digital, consumers still open a new window to wait out a YouTube ad or pull out their headphones to give their ears a rest while the Spotify ad break rolls. The only difference is, in a world without skippable ads marketer have no way to observe and measure those decisions. Skippable ad environments let us measure who skips ads, which ads they skip, and exactly when they tune out. A savvy marketer can use those signals to improve creative, build more accurate consumer segments, and build a campaign with a cohesive narrative that will improve our target consumers experience rather than interrupt it. 

Giving the consumer the power to skip will definitely put a dent in total ad exposure numbers for some campaigns. But think about what we’re really losing. People who would have chosen to ignore your message if they had the chance aren’t exactly ideal customers. This is a case where the old adage to value quality over quantity is definitely in full effect. The consumers who are left are far more likely to engage, to absorb your message, and to buy. Focusing on these people, consumers who have opted into your message is bound to yield better results. Instead of force-feeding messages to the masses, we have an opportunity to focus on people who want to hear more and to build a campaign that serves an audience rather than bombards them. 

It’s on us

As digital marketers, it’s easy for us to lean on the platforms. They have the audiences we need to reach and for many, it’s become common practice to expect them to make sure those audiences are forced to receive our messages. But advertising doesn’t work if no one is paying attention and with ad skippability becoming ever more common on major platforms, the script has been flipped. 

The bad news is that we can’t sit on our hands and expect the platforms to do our work for us. We need to create ads that consumers want to see because if we don’t then they’ll simply choose not to. The good news is that in turning the tables the platforms are finally giving marketers the data they need to build those ads. Knowing what our target consumers don’t want to see is the only way we’ll ever zero in on what they do want. For consumers that means a personalized advertising experience that doesn’t leave them dying to change the channel, close the window, or mute their playlist. For marketers, it means knowing more about our audience and how to reach them. In the end, that’s what we’re all here to do. 

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at Lynn@Cynopsis.com.

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