will.i.am says you do.

The ad industry says you don’t.

Skip YouTube ads, that is, when you’re prompted to do so after seeing the first five seconds of a YouTube ad (Google’s TrueView in-stream ad product).

Well do you?

At the wrap up this year’s annual fashion show for advertising in Cannes, Martin Sorrell, CEO of ad group WPP and Lorraine Twohill, head of marketing at Google have crossed swords with will.i.am.

The roundtable clash went like this (see video below)

will.i.amYou know people don’t like it on YouTube. They skip it.

Martin Sorrell (WPP): No, not true.

Lorraine Twohill (Google): Not true. They don’t skip it.

will.i.am: No, no young people skip it.

Lorraine Twohill (Google): They don’t. Actually they don’t skip it. 87% do not skip

will.i.amWell they’re not paying attention to it, and they’re skipping in their head

Lorraine Twohill (Google): Laughs

will.i.amRegardless of what your metric says, we’re not paying attention to it. If you don’t add value to people’s lives, I don’t really give two s**ts about your advertising.

If anyone can find the evidence that shows 87% do not skip YouTube ads when prompted to do so, please forward it.  Stats circulating on the web side with will.i.am, with the most frequently cited stat being a skip rate of these ‘pre-roll’ ads of 94% (another being 85%).

Whilst will.i.am’s point that we need to reinvent advertising to add value may be true and laudable, the debate over whether we skip YouTubes ads is fairly sterile from a psychological perspective.  Everybody gets exposed to the first 5 seconds of the ad, and this is where the ad may have the most psychological impact.  Regardless of whether you are paying attention to it. From a dual processing perspective (Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow) our ‘System 1’ fast automatic mind is influenced by mere exposure to ads, and does not require the deliberate attention of our ‘System 2’ conscious mind. Mere exposure is enough to raise salience of the brand in our minds and build mental associations automatically. And that can happen fast. Combine this enhanced mental availability with product availability and you have Byron Sharp’s influential recipe for driving growth.  From a  ‘How Brands Grow’ perspective, it’s reach-optimised exposure to ads that counts, not the amount of deliberate attention and conscious thought we accord ads.

The future of advertising is not about attention – it’s about influence without attention.

The practical upshot for advertisers is that the ‘skip vs. don’t skip’ debate is something of a red herring. As is trying to hook the viewer to not click ‘skip’. Instead, advertisers should focus on optimising the impact of universal exposure to the first 5 seconds of a YouTube ad (for which ironically they don’t pay – advertisers only pay if the viewer sits through the whole ad/more than 30 seconds) using Sharp’s the ‘Golden Rules’ of advertising

  1. Continuously reach all buyers of the category (communication and distribution) – avoid being silent
  2. Ensure the brand is easy to buy (create universal appeal, not targeted for ‘type’ of person)
  3. Get noticed (grab attention and focus on brand salience to prime the mind)
  4. Refresh and build memory structures (respect existing associations that make the brand easy to notice and easy to buy)
  5. Create and use distinctive brand assets (use sensory cues to get noticed and stay top of mind)
  6. Be consistent (avoid unnecessary changes, whilst keeping the brands fresh and interesting)
  7. Stay competitive (keep the brand easy to buy and avoid giving excuses not to buy (i.e. by targeting a particular group)