My, what a friendly ad

Is Larry Page now writing headlines for CNET?

Google’s YouTube, copying the “ticker ad” concept that VideoEgg introduced nearly a year ago, yesterday announced that it is slapping advertisements across the bottom of some of its videos. In a blog post titled “You Drive the YouTube Experience” (yeah, I’ve been dying to have ads injected into the videos I watch), the company says that the ads are “animated overlays that appear on the bottom 20 percent of a video. If you’re interested by what you see there, clicking on the overlay launches a deeper interactive video ad that we think is relevant and entertaining.” Sweet!

Now, obviously, it’s always been inevitable that YouTube would incorporate advertising into the videos it plays – whether or not Google acquired it. YouTube is not a public service; it’s a business. What gets me, though, is not just the patronizing spin that Google is putting on the news – “as always,” its announcement concludes, “we’re looking to improve the experience with you in mind” – but the way some respectable news organizations are echoing the company’s nonsense. Here, for instance, is the headline CNET is running on its story:

YouTube tests viewer-friendly ad format

What? Viewer-friendly? Is it viewer-friendly because it’s arguably less annoying than having an ad run in advance of a video? That’s like saying that being hit on the head once with a hammer is a pleasant experience because it’s not as bad as being hit on the head twice with a hammer.

I liked the reaction of the first viewer to leave a comment on the YouTube blog: “yuck.” If you’re going to stick ads on the videos, go ahead and stick ads on the videos. But, please, don’t tell us you’re doing it on our behalf. We’re not idiots.

UPDATE: CNET has changed the headline on its story to:

YouTube tests 10-second ad format

6 thoughts on “My, what a friendly ad

  1. Kendall Brookfeld

    These superimposed ads are in some ways more annoying than an ad that runs before the video, since they obscure parts of the frame (and content creators don’t compose stuff with this in mind).

    It’s just amazing that the video sites haven’t figured out the proper way to run ads: run very short ads — maybe five seconds or less — before the video, and then a longer ad at the end, where you can skip it. The number of ads a user sees should also be limited across multiple page views, since many videos are short.

    If they ever figure out how to do this right, they could make boatloads of money without annoying people — but unfortunately the ad/biz guys who decide these things are congenitally tasteless.

  2. Mario Ruiz

    Hi Nick.

    This of course is the result of a long research to please the announcers as well as the viewers. I understand this is a very thin line, because the companies pay to make their point listened and the viewers now we have the option to change the channel. In this case to go to

    Also,if the add will still be shown when we used in a blog or presentation, people are going to shy away from this service. The business need is killing the sex appeal.

    Further, we could have a new flow of legal suit for making money on videos that are not theirs. I do not know if the censorship of youtube has reached the point to erase to the speed they will need.

    Mario Ruiz


  3. Nick Carr


    I’m pretty much in your camp. Think about going to see a movie, or even watching one on DVD. Which would you rather have, ads that run before the film (which you can at least try to ignore) or ads superimposed somewhere on the film (distracting you from the work itself)? I’ll take the ads before. Similarly, there’s nothing as annoying, in watching a TV show, as suddenly having superimposed animations running along the bottom. Whatever they are, they’re hardly “viewer-friendly” (unless you have the intellect of a toddler). What a broadcaster is saying when it superimposes ads over its programming is: What we’re showing you is basically crap, so it doesn’t matter if we deface it.

  4. Robert Gorell

    I wish all of these ads were either nonexistent or postroll and pause-able. Talk about a lesser-of-evils crutch for old media tactics to be applied to new channels.

    Do we really need more push marketing in supposedly interactive environments? If I have to click a button for your ad to annoy me, does that equal “engagement”? It’s too bad; we were just having fun watching advertisers struggle to come up with genuinely creative “viral” (hate that word) videos.

    Guess everyone can take a deep breath and get back to the being mediocre… at best.

  5. Tony Healy

    I’m also long sick of Google’s cloying patronising. I fully support companies profiting from their content, but I also expect them to be honest about what they’re doing.

    I think it’s highly significant that Google is now the preferred destination for MBA graduates, just as Enron used to be.

  6. Bertil

    Eagerly waiting for AdBuster to filter it out in 5, 4, …

    The “yuck” was apparently removed: I’m surprised it was because it was actually a short, clear summary of the following comments.

    More then the obvious: “Ads killed TV: why are you commiting suicide?” I do have legal concerns: if someone claims a work of art was meant to be available undefaced on the Internet, and argues YouTube has such a share in on-line video that it holds a part of that image, I’m not sure this could got without the uploader being aloud to chose the ad (or not ad)–and for that sake I wonder: can the uploader decide not to be part of the program (and then earn no ad-money)? Nothing on the patronizing blog post, nothing in the comments. . .

    If anything, Google comments used to adress the issues at stake more boldly then that. More generally, I don’t understand why they don’t offer all the existing solutions (and warn the uploaders about the hate mail they’ll get); maybe they are looking for the magical Google-y trick, like for text-links. I can’t think of anything else then a short clip in the margin, far enough from the viewing screen.

    What CNet seems to focus on is precisely that users will hate the intrusion–so I’ll wait for the next steps before hurling: didn’t they recently went back and corrected their mistakes on that Google Video closing? However, I have concerns about the usability: I doubt I will ever click on an ad, but if I do when viewing a video, I don’t want to go anywhere: I want it to open in the back, to look at it afterwards. That could be only me, though.

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