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The Last Days of the Interstitial

You’re on your phone. You navigate to an article that interests you, say the history of gazpacho or vintage arcade games — but before you can read a word, a full screen pop-up appears. You tap the tiny X in the upper corner to zap the invasive ad unit. And then a redirect URL winds its way across the top of your browser and you’re on your way to the advertiser’s site. You clicked on the ad, by accident. Maybe you even quit your browser, with the sinking feeling you’ve lost the game.

 

You know this tale of modern heartbreak. Chances are you’ve lived it, in one form or another, no matter what kind of content you consume. According to recent research, 60% of clicks on mobile banner ads are unintentional. A WPP neuroscience study found that full-screen pop-ups frustrated users to the point that they registered negative emotions. Similarly, the IAB revealed that ads that block content are the most annoying to consumers.

 

So it might just be time to ask a few questions. Is this what brand marketers want from their hard-earned marketing budgets? What publishers want to inflict on their readers? Should we continue to disappoint and frustrate consumers? Or do we need a new perspective?

 

Yieldmo believes in a different approach. The digital ad industry still propagates formats consumers hate — not just interstitials but ‘sticky’ banners and video ads that pop-up in the content stream — because they perform “well.” To marketers, “well” typically means high viewability and click-through rate. But just because the ad impression is in view doesn’t mean that impression is positive. The same WPP study concludes that users are spending time viewing interstitial ads primarily in order to figure out how to close them, not digesting their contents. Interstitials and their ilk damage publishers, too. As they turn their mobile platforms into Times Square, disruptive advertising obscures their content and destabilizes long-term revenues by ruining reader experience. Microsoft research has found that annoying display ads _cost_ .153 cents each ($1.53 CPM).

 

Nor does the bad news stop there. We’ve subjected readers to experiences so inspiringly obnoxious that they’ve come up with their own way to escape. Instead of zapping invasive ads one at a time, or sitting through them, or desperately trying to ignore them, they shelter behind ad blockers.

 

And that isn’t good for anybody. With close to 10% of the US expected to use them by 2017 (with wildly higher rates in countries like France and Germany), ad blockers pose an existential threat to publishers, marketers and the very readers who use them, since they threaten the mass distribution of free information on the web. Last year, the IAB released the LEAN Ads program, aimed at bringing user experience back into the conversation; recently this same organization substantiated their claim that this approach would help curb the use of ad blockers. Google just announced they will penalize mobile sites that utilize interstitials and is mulling an acceptable ads policy. This year’s Cannes Lions featured an entire panel calling for the industry to improve mobile creative and formats in order to combat ad blocking. Every stakeholder — publishers, marketers, readers — agrees we need to find a better way.

 

At Yieldmo, that’s precisely what we’re doing.

 

The Yieldmo mission cuts counter to the rest of the industry’s short-termism. While we support transacting on viewable impressions and audience-based buying, these aren’t enough on their own. The ad unit itself needs a total re-set. We use design and data to drive a better, more human mobile ad experience. Qualitative and quantitative research empowers our Ad Format Lab to build products with empathy for the reader. We develop formats and placements that replace moments of user frustration with moments of delight. Nowhere in our portfolio of mobile ad formats will you find pop-ups, adhesion units, pre-roll video, or formats that take over the screen without a voluntary action. Everyone gets to read what they came to read. And each of our formats and placements is A/B tested again and again across our 7.6 billion monthly ad impressions until it out-performs on a range of data, from standard metrics to the unique engagement metrics that only Yieldmo’s proprietary formats elicit (such as horizontal swipes and scrolls). So, we’re not guessing when we say meaningful engagement beats meaningless clicks.

 

We’re happy to say our approach is working. We’ve attracted premium publishers to our marketplace, many of whom now sell our formats directly. We’ve gained traction with sophisticated marketers. Our ads — designed to make readers feel respected, instead of sending them running for ad blockers — reach 82% of US smartphone users. With Yieldmo, readers win. They get free access to the content they want — and ad experiences that can enrich the content experience. Publishers win — their editorial still shines. Marketers win — they connect with their customers and elevate their brands.

 

We’re proud of what we’ve been up to. Now we want to work together to eradicate the interstitial and pop-up once and for all. Let’s stem the tide of users racing toward ad blockers. And let’s keep the conversation moving. Like and share this post. Reach out to us. We’re excited for your comments and to power the future of mobile advertising, publishing, and reading together.

Posted by: Michael Yavonditte, Founder & CEO