Would you wait 30 seconds to read this post?

By Julia Casale-Amorim

Online media is about user-controlled experiences, but now you’ll need to wait to read that news article or get your local forecast, at least according to David Payne of ShortTail Media.

As published today in MediaWeek, ShortTail will initiate a beta test of the “Digital 30”, a full-screen, deliberately intrusive placement built to showcase traditional 15- and 30-second TV spots. Like an interstitial, this video ad will load between web pages.

Now the article didn’t indicate whether the ads could be skipped over like an interstitial, but it hinted that viewers will be tested for their tolerance to view full length spots.

Does this intrusive ad unit have a future online? Last time I checked the interstitial was a dying breed.

Far from new, the interstitial was first adopted towards the end of the last decade and has been used on and off by various publications ever since. It never actually died, but it’s never seen much consistent adoption either, most notably because it can have a negative effect on the user experience offered by publishers that support it.

While I agree completely with Payne that that we need to embrace bigger, bolder creative online, I don’t agree that in doing so, we should become less sensitive to the user-experience. A positive user experience is paramount to successful advertising in the social media era.

Online media is about engagement and interactivity. Not about disruption and spoon fed advertising content.

Just as easily as someone can point their browser to your site, they can point it elsewhere. And with the blogosphere as active as it is today, there’s a good chance that your article is available elsewhere, perhaps in a summarized version with commentary.

As soon as you disrupt your relationship with users and send them elsewhere to find their content, you risk losing them; they may learn that they like that new source better and keep going back. So, even if you pull that damaging ad unit off your site, you might be hard pressed to fully recover your audience. Don’t give users any more excuses to leave your site than they already have!

Large video-capable units that run alongside content don’t disrupt users or make them wait for content, but instead create an opportunity to engage with them on their own terms.

Television has always been a passive medium and the disruptive 30-second spot works well in that model. Online media is dynamic and user controlled; traditional tactics applied “as-is” just don’t fit the bill.

Does the 30-second spot make sense for online? Sure it does! But not in the form of an intrusive interstitial. To be successful it needs to be reinterpreted and applied within a socially-minded, user-focused context.

If we’re going to start thinking up new ad units, let’s think up ones that take advantage of today’s richer, more dynamic Web, and the ways in which consumers interact with it.

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