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article imageYouTube's unskippable 30-second ads are finally going away

By James Walker     Feb 20, 2017 in Technology
Google has announced it is ending support for the 30-second "unskippable" adverts that currently play before many YouTube videos. The unpopular pre-roll advertisements have long been criticised by users. Google acknowledged the format isn't ideal.
Most YouTube videos start with an advert of varying length which can be skipped after five seconds. However, some content is accompanied by a 30-second ad which must be watched in its entirety before the main video starts playing. Users are left waiting to watch the content and are more likely to switch away and view something else.
Soon, the annoyance of 30-second ads will be no more. Google has confirmed it is dropping support for the format so advertisers won't be able to display these adverts at the start of videos. The company will balance the change by increasing the distribution of its new 6-, 15- and 20-second formats. These will now play more often, including as unskippable clips.
Unfortunately, the changes are still several months away. Google said 30-second ads will disappear "as of 2018," giving them almost an entire year's more life. The company can't suddenly discontinue a format because advertisers plan their campaigns months in advance. Therefore, Google has to maintain support to ensure its ad platform keeps running smoothly.
The company said it's making the change as part of its ongoing effort to provide a "better ads experience." It recognised that it needs to find a balance between prioritising the needs of users and advertisers that benefits both parties, as well as YouTube as a whole.
"We're committed to providing a better ads experience for users online," Google said to advertising news site Campaign. "As part of that, we've decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers."
Unskippable ads will remain on YouTube after the change but one of their most common forms will no longer be available. This will directly benefit users in a hurry and especially those browsing on mobile devices. Having to watch a 30-second video before the main content can considerably increase data consumption, without providing any value to the user.
Industry experts have welcomed the decision, noting that it represents YouTube pivoting to better understand the needs of its users. The company has signalled it's willing to potentially lose some ad revenue if it can keep people watching its content.
It would be more damaging if users started browsing other platforms, such as upcoming video rival Facebook, due to fears of having to use up mobile data on YouTube adverts. The change will also prompt marketing agencies to consider new styles of video, potentially making the remaining ads more successful.
"The 30-second ad is a legacy from TV times," Will Smyth, head of media at media agency Agenda21 commented to BBC News. "This will encourage advertisers to be more creative about the way they use the platform."
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