It's Time To Kill The Ad Break
Perspectives > Blog Post

It's Time To Kill The Ad Break

March 10, 2016

Greg Rice

The digital revolution has given us more choice and control, and with that less patience for advertising. How can advertisers and content providers work together to create a mutually beneficial solution?

This article was originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse here.

In the last few decades the traditional video ad break has morphed from annoying neighbor to hostile nemesis. When commercials came on TV in the 90’s, we shrugged and got something to eat. In the ‘00s, we made a mad scramble for the DVR remote’s fast forward button. While watching video over the internet today, we click “skip ad” until we have blisters on our fingers.

The digital revolution has given us more choice and control, and with that less patience for advertising. Today we consume media in smaller chunks that flow from YouTube video to blog post to Instagram feed. It’s irritating when ads disrupt that flow.

Since video advertising provides revenue to keep the Internet functioning, we need a strategy to enable content and ads to work together without disrupting the experience. Content providers need more ad revenue, and advertisers need an audience more open to their message.

Roadblocking – or making ads non-skippable – is not the answer. Viewers rarely stop and wait until an ad is finished; they just veer around the roadblock. If they can’t skip the ad, they visit another site or watch a different video – the contemporary equivalent of the 90’s snack run.

The most egregious roadblockers are seen as violators of the unspoken rules of the internet, and ultimately roadblocking does more harm than good. My 10-year-old son can tell me which ads are not-skippable on YouTube from memory. (He speaks about these brands with a venom he usually reserves for the New England Patriots.)

The digital revolution has given us more choice and control, and with that less patience for advertising.

So advertisers and content providers need to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution, such as moving from an Ad Break Model to a Cooperative Sponsorship Model. Not “sponsorships” in a sports event or award show sense, because slapping a corporate logo on a golf tournament is too surface of an engagement to be effective. What’s needed is a deeper level of sponsorship that is based on mutual cooperation between media content and advertiser.

This Cooperative Sponsorship model is a new way to think about how advertisers and content providers work together. It’s defined by five main characteristics:

  • Get rid of traditional ad breaks. They are nothing but cues to your audience to go somewhere else. Both the advertiser and the content provider lose out.
  • Write creative with the content in mind.   Without ad breaks, your message needs to live within content. Write your creative with specific media personalities/channels in mind.
  • Advertisers: give up some creative control to content talent. The audience is not there to see ads, but to see the content talent. Your brand’s creative needs to reflect the voice of the talent, not the advertiser.
  • Content providers: let your audience know that you and your advertisers are in this together. Your audience trusts and values you. Let them know that your content can exist only with advertiser support, and ask for their help and participation in supporting the brands that sponsor you.
  • Trust each other. All the above is hard to do. But it’s easier if both parties treat each other less like necessary evils, and more like partners eager to help grow each other’s business.

Here’s a summary chart that shows how the Cooperative Sponsorship model differs from the antiquated Ad Break model:

  Ad Break Model Cooperate Sponsorship Model
Division between Ad and Content Content and ad time are separated by clear breaks Acknowledged ‘paid time’ is integrated into the natural flow of content
Creative Idea Integration The ads have little to no relationship to the content Ads are designed specifically to work within the content
Creative Idea Authorship Creative is written only by advertiser/agency Creative is co-written with content provider
Creative’s Appeal to the Audience “Put up with this ad to get back to our content.” “This advertiser is a big reason why this content exists. Supporting them is supporting us.”
Relationship between Advertiser and Content Provider Transactional
(“pay me for the time”)
(“we need each other, let’s do this”)


This new model won’t be easy. By definition the approach involves giving up control and everyone stretching beyond their comfort zone. Advertisers will need to think more like content providers and content providers will need to think more like advertisers. Corporate silos and decades of traditional thinking will make that a big challenge. But for those who can figure it out, the Cooperate Sponsorship Model will pay huge dividends for brands by forging a deeper bond with consumers. And they will save viewers those blisters from clicking “Skip Ad.”

Greg Rice

Senior Consultant, Los Angeles

Greg provides senior strategic oversight on quantitative and mixed method engagements with a unique blend of right brain/left brain thinking. He is well-known within the research industry for his...

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