Video ads are skyrocketing – on mobile too

Éva Szántai

Director, Product & Technology

If the last six years were called ‘the year of mobile’ then 2016 – and 2017 as well - must be the year of mobile video. Let’s see why.

Mobile video ad

When we talk about this type of video ad we mean the automatically loaded, mute videos appearing among content on mobile web. One may consider that serving video ads on mobile is easy, especially after the HTML5 bang in which video content is allowed. Unfortunately, the story is not that simple. We had hard times, because either the official browser of iOS and Android used to forbid the automatic video playing function. The developers considered better not to allow this option on mobile web, because that would consume many KBs of the monthly internet data traffic. Of course after interaction – e.g. clicking on the play button – the videos started without problem, but as the users first only saw a static image with a play button on it, the ad had smaller impact on them.

Searching for alternate solutions

The mobile media owners and editors obviously wanted to display video content on their pages, thus, they searched for alternate solutions.

  • Firefox: Firefox is an exception to the above mentioned rule. It was always allowed to run autoplay videos within the content on mobile web. The only problem is that only 0,68% of the mobile devices have this browser.
  • Canvas: There are several solutions for Android, one of them is canvas. It’s a complicated development process and in the end the autoplay function is available only on Android devices. It’s not a cheap solution, thus, it’s not easy to program and license it, and we have to plan a big budget if we want to use it.
  • Trigger: the other method works only on Android as well, and is the closest to the final solution. We were already able to run campaign using this method. The core of the development is that a JS is build into the site which tracks if the user is active or not (touched or scrolled on the page), and plays the video according to this interaction. Its main problem is that it should be optimized for each version, so there were several issues with the banner while running, on some devices it stuck out or pushed the page apart.
  • GIF: it’s the most commonly used format to replace videos. Popular, because it’s an easy format, doesn’t require any special knowledge. Even if you search ‘video to gif’, several free online converters are available that conduct the transformation within seconds. Besides that, every device, operation system and browser supports it without any restrictions.

There are two obstacles regarding GIFs: on the one hand this formats limits the displayable number of colours in 256 (comparing to mp4 which allows thousands of million of colours). Therefore, the quality of any kind of video – except greyscale ones – is be low. Due to the low-grade quality one would expect that the size of the file is far smaller than the videos’. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The size of each pixel of the lossless GIF file format is equivalent with one full picture’s size, so while a video in mp4 is 200KB, in GIF format it will be 900KB.

The final solution isn’t created by us. The developers of the operation systems realized that the alternate solutions emerging due to the restriction of autoplay videos are generating far bigger data traffic. To end this struggle, in autumn 2016 this rule was abolished either on iOS and Android devices. Above iOS 10 and on Android the Chrome 53 version the videos are played automatically, without sound.

May we lay back, if we could display videos on mobile as advertisements? Not really.

Surfing on the internet users decide quickly whether a content, article or a video is interesting for them or not. It happens within 3 seconds during scrolling. If the video doesn’t grab their attention in this time, they will go further without any concerns. These 3 seconds should contain the brand, the punch line of the video, and should be interesting or funny.


We, at Madhouse are cheerful even if we could think in video solutions, and the client has available video material. We are even more happy, if this video is not a 1-minute-long TV spot but a 10-15 seconds cut version. But frankly, these are far from the videos made directly for mobile.

In real mobile video ads the most important is to draw the users’ attention to the product every 3-8 seconds. This McDonald‘s ad was presented at the IAB Video Conference because it showcases perfectly it doesn’t matter if we see 5 seconds of it or the whole one and a half minute. The message comes through rapidly, doesn’t change, even if we get more impulses remains the same.

Just quietly!

Autoplay videos start on mobile web without sound. We cannot bother users more than that during consuming content. Only 1% of people turn the sound on in mute videos. So the question rises, what kind of video is able to be effective silently as well? During production it has to be kept in mind to rise attention within the first 3 seconds, the brand has to be constantly visible, and also fight with the muteness. It takes only creativity to beat this disadvantage and turn it into a benefit, like did in its video ad produced directly for mobile.

No advertiser should avoid the fact that users are tending to consume video content on mobile devices more and more. Nowadays we mostly receive cut TV spots for mobile ads. But there are an increasing number of advertisers who are aware of the benefits of this solution, and schedule the production to have time to make at least one mobile version. We are heatedly waiting our first video ad, shot directly for mobile.

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