Hello and welcome to Enough Already, where I discuss trends, tropes, and behavior that we really need a break from.

This time, I’d like to discuss surprise midroll advertisements. Especially the sort you find on YouTube in just about any video lasting ten minutes or longer.

You see this happen when you’re watching a Stephen Colbert monologue, or maybe a news/opinion commentary on recent news events. You’re paying close attention, and then suddenly the video is interrupted by an ad selling you insurance, or cars, or some diet milkshake. You do not have ANY control over where the interruption happens or when. It just happens — often at times when you’re least expecting it.

With regular television, we’re prepared for commercials. In scripted dramas, there’s an ‘act break’, possibly with some sort of plot twist or revelation that the audience can dwell on while they’re getting snacks from the refrigerator or seeing the commercials and local news promos. Late night talk shows have the host announce when they’re taking a break, and tell the audience what to look forward to when the show returns. News programs (be they local news programs or cable news programs) have similar natural break points.

But with YouTube, there’s no such thing. A serious discussion on climate change, gun violence, wars or terrorist actions, or a public health crisis could be suddenly interrupted by a lighthearted Geico advertisement with a silly pop culture reference joke. Similarly, a lighthearted video making fun of pop culture trends, celebrities, politicians, or incompetent lawyers could be interrupted by a deadly serious ad for a petition to address climate change, gun violence, economic inequity, or some serious debilitating, life-threatening disease. It results in the worst kind of Mood Whiplash – the sort that tosses you from one mood straight to a complete different mood without any warning whatsoever.

I’m not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or any sort of professional therapist, but I know that can’t be good for people’s mental health. The human mind is just not designed to go that quickly from one extreme to another.

Another trick YouTube does with its midroll ads that is especially jarring is when a news/commentary show like The Young Turks states they’re about to roll a clip of whatever controversial political figure or evangelist said and then, where the clip should play, we get an advertisement before we actually get to the clip.

The hosts did NOT say ‘We’ll play this clip after these messages’ or anything like that. They said they were going to play the clip NOW. But YouTube’s ad interruptions turn the clip announcements into a sort of bait-and-switch.

And as I say this, I know that this decision by YouTube to just place ads wherever it wants is not designed to please me. It’s clearly designed to please the very few people on this planet who see the natural commercial breaks on television and scream in rage. It’s designed to please those who believe commercials should actually interrupt programs as God clearly intended, and that all those scripted ad breaks in dramas or the ‘When we return, our guests will be (insert celebrity name here)’ speeches are painfully forced.

I’m sure there must be some people out there like that who prefer YouTube’s “sudden interruption at inappropriate moments” approach to ads to regular TV’s “ease viewers into the break” approach to commercial breaks. But I can’t imagine that these people are the majority.

I’m sure most people, like me, would prefer the “ease viewers into the break” approach. I honestly don’t think I’ll be changing many peoples’ minds with this rant. I doubt those who handle the advertisements on YouTube will read this, or even care what I have to say if they did read this. I just had to vent about something that’s been bothering me greatly the past few years.

In any case, my guideline for advertisements in videos is like this: If the ad isn’t where a commercial break would logically go in a regular television show, don’t place it there.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “Enough Already: Surprise midroll ads in Youtube videos

  1. For me Youtube adds are in “annoying enough that I take notice but not annoying enough that I’d bother to do anything about it” category. I understand their place as extra revenue for content producers and I’m able to skip them or they leave relatively quickly, once in a blue moon they even show products I might be interested to purchase if I had cash. Usually they have fitted for the tone of the content I watch and even when they haven’t I forget them quickly so I’m skeptical towards psychological effects of a mood whiplash. Though to be fair I never use Youtube for serious topics, only for light entertainment and review shows, I read news from a national news station’s website.

  2. This really is annoying. And I understand the need to place extra ads in long videos to help bring in more revenue for the producers (though I wouldn’t be surprised if YouTube takes most of it). But there should be a warning that it’s coming up. Hell, sometimes producers will put in a bit about an ad break coming up, but the ad plays before then and the announcement just comes off as an awkward non-sequitur. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that needs fixing.

    Side-note: a ten minute video does not need SIX ad breaks. That’s just obnoxious.

    1. When watching Youtube videos on my computer, there is a brief warning. A popup saying ‘Ad in 5 seconds’. It’ll still likely interrupt mid-sentence or at some other really abrupt point, or when the host is cueing a clip. Which is still really obnoxious and annoying.

      On my tablet, however, there is no such thing. Not even the slightest warning. Just a sudden cut to an ad out of nowhere. Which only increases the obnoxiousness, annoyance factor, and possible psychological damage.

      And I get the impression video producers have NO control over where the ads are placed. If they did, they’d be able to make their videos more like regular TV shows, and they’d go to breaks like talk show hosts or TV news/opinion show hosts do on network or cable TV. They’d say things like “I’ll talk more about that after the break”, so that the audience will know to wait for it and the ad wouldn’t come right out of nowhere (with or without the ‘Ad in 5 seconds’ warning).

      Unfortunately, I’m afraid this problem isn’t going away any time soon, despite people like me saying “Enough already!”

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