HBR: ‘The New Science of Viral Ads’ and My Screen

In this month’s (March 2012) Harvard Business Review, Thales Teixeira describes 5 issues that hurt a videos chance of going viral and how one might address them in his artilce “The New Science of Viral Ads”.  I have no issues with his points, however I would like to see some constraints (or transparency) placed around the findings. Throughout the article Thales uses the terms such as: digital marketing, video ads, and online viewers.  My question arises from the “which screen” are we talking about issue? That is, when this research was conducted did it exclusively happen in front of a PC and if so, do these findings also hold for true cell phone or tablet viewers?

I ask, because I know my tolerance and my behavior varies greatly by device. At home, with my very high speed broadband connection, I am significantly more tolerate of ads. As a result I will say that:

  • I am more likely to watch an ad
  • I will watch a longer ad

However this behavior is does not hold for my cell phone. As some of you know, I have the Samsung’s Nexus phone on Verizon’s 4G network – which means I have (usually) fast download times. So why the difference? Simple, the data plan. At home I’m not restricted to a monthly data limit or at least it’s so high I never reach it or worry about it. However, on my cell phone I do have a data limit and as AT&T has reminded us in recent days, this is also true for individuals with “unlimited” plans.
In other words, watching an video costs me much more than my just attention, it costs me kilobytes, which I loath to give up because:

  • overage charges
  • data throttling

Therefore my tolerance is significantly lower on my cell phone. In fact on my cell phone pre-rolls annoy me, which means I don’t care how good the video –  I just want it to end. This brings up the next point Thales cites (in Problems #3 and #4) a “60 second ad”. If I get a 60 second ad on my cell phone,  I’ll back out the screen. Forget it, I’m not watching it, the cost is simply too great when compared to value of the actual content I’m after. The one exception is that if the ad is recommended to my by a friend then I’ll trust that the sender feels it’s worth my time, attention, and bandwidth.

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