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Finally! Online Ads You Can Skip

Online advertising is taking a leap forward, so to speak, with ads that can be skipped or fast-forwarded. Skippable ads officially go live on YouTube today, and the digital ad company Panache has recently run ads that viewers can fast-forward through.

YouTube had been experimenting with its new ad format, which it calls TrueView, since June. Like Hulu, TrueView will sometimes allow viewers to select which ad they would prefer to watch. They get much wider deployment today.

The Panache ads work differently. Panache developed the fast-forward feature, which made its first appearance in an MTV Networks ad for Samsung that ran on ComedyCentral.com in September and October. Viewers were presented with a pop-up video featuring a large "fast-forward" button. Click it once, and the ad accelerates rapidly, while a hurried voice gives an elevator-pitch version of the message the ad intends to communicate. (Try it out here.)

Why are advertisers yielding more control to the viewer? Because it's a win-win situation. The MTV Networks Samsung ad, for instance, has gotten a click-through rate higher than the industry average by two percent, according to press release from Panache. The campaign was such a success that it's moving to the iPad.

There's another reason for the new viewer empowerment. There's a push among advertisers to increase the load of ads in online TV. Currently, if you stream an hour-long drama online, you're served on average four minutes of ads. Advertisers would prefer to make that six or seven minutes, which a ComScore study identified as a "sweet spot"—just the right amount to not irritate viewers (it's still half of what is served up on traditional TV), while enough to substantially increase ad dollars.

So while advertisers are allowing users more control, they're also looking to increase their frequency. The future of online video advertising, then, may look something like the the typical Tivo experience: more minutes of ads, all seen in a rushed blur—though this time around, with branded audio to make sure the viewers catch at least some of the content they're trying to skip.

"What users are saying is, 'you know what, we don't like receiving eight minutes of advertising for a 30-minute episode,'" Panache CEO Steve Robinson tells Fast Company. "What we'd rather have is advertising that works."

[Image: Flickr user steakpinball]

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