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Nonlinear Video Ads

What are nonlinear video ads?

Nonlinear ads appear alongside video content, running concurrently without disrupting content playback. While we focus here on video ads, these can also take the form of text or overlays deployed directly over the main content stream, product placements within the content video itself, and so on. The “nonlinear ad” label can apply to a broad range of products, but the key characteristic that binds them all together is their ability to run in tandem with the main video content without interrupting the audience’s viewing experience.

With users voicing aversion to online advertisements and the rapid adoption of ad blocking technology, the online advertising has recently started emphasizing unobtrusiveness in its deployment methods. This is perhaps best encapsulated by the IAB’s stressing of what it calls “LEAN Principles” (lightweight, encrypted, AdChoice-supported, and non-invasive) for advertising products.

Nonlinear ads can be seen as one such response to the shifting advertising landscape. These types of ads operate primarily by shifting choice to audiences: viewers can choose whether or not to engage with the nonlinear ad, and their content consumption isn’t disrupted in the meantime.

How do nonlinear ads work?

Most nonlinear ads take the form of text, graphics, or rich media overlaid on video content. The ad product may occupy the bottom of the video or a similarly small and unobtrusive portion. Nonlinear ads play at the same time as the content video itself.

Should a viewer choose to engage the ad, this will typically put the content video on hold and trigger the playback of an extended version of the nonlinear ad. These extended versions may present additional engagement opportunities (e.g., social sharing prompts, interactive games, etc.) or offer viewers a longer, linear video ad.

In keeping with nonlinear ads’ implicit shifting of control to their audiences, viewers can engage with these expanded ad versions for as long as they like. Controls for closing or collapsing the expanded ad place the onus of ending the engagement upon the viewer.

What are the pros and cons of nonlinear video ads?

Nonlinear video ads present a number of advantages that are worth considering, especially if you’re looking for a format that reduces frictions that could hobble viewer engagement with your ads.

From the beginning, viewers are more likely to receive nonlinear video ads well, since these don’t add waiting times or buffering panes to video content. While nonlinear ads don’t cover as much screen area or make as significant an initial impression as linear ads, their emphasis on viewer choice and control nudge audiences towards more active interaction with your ad products.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that nonlinear video ads can compensate for their reduced screen real estate with their persistent onscreen presence. Where linear ads appear only for a brief period before, after, or in the midst of the content video, nonlinear video ads can be programmed to persist all the way through the main content stream. Though small and relatively unobtrusive, nonlinear video ads can still serve as an effective reminder of your product or brand over the course of the content video’s runtime.

Finally, in tracking impressions and impact for your ad products, nonlinear ad reports can signal more meaningful engagement from your target audiences. Since nonlinear ads need not be interacted with for viewers to watch the content video, you can be sure that whatever interactions your ad products report were user-initiated.

However, maximizing the effectiveness of nonlinear video ads still requires strategic deployment and a certain amount of care when it comes to ad design and placement. While the typical overlay style and the general unobtrusiveness of nonlinear ads allow for easier integration with content videos, this does not guarantee a seamless fit. Depending on the content video and the specifications of your ad products, your nonlinear ad could still end up obscuring important elements of the content video (e.g., subtitles), inconveniencing your target audience.

Similarly, a nonlinear deployment method does little to blunt the negative effects of an ad that’s designed to be inherently eye-catching or ostentatious. Even nonlinear ads, if too distracting, can provoke negative reactions from viewers. Suffice it to say that such outcomes will not bode well for your ad products’ effectiveness or your business’ overall estimation in the eyes of your target audience.