Starting this week, Fox rolled out a new digital advertising model for its Internet platforms. Previously, fans watching the network's shows online were treated to an ad structure more or less identical to what they'd find on TV - ten minutes of ads total, stretched out across the entire runtime. Now, however, they're trying something completely different.
Users tuning in to MasterChef Junior will have the option of watching a 60-second ad in front of each episode rather than sitting through the regular ten minute load. After sitting through that pitch, they can then watch the rest of the show completely uninterrupted. Those who choose instead to skip the ad will see the standard load.
"If advertising is going to survive, it's got to be something that consumers accept," Fox Networks advanced advertising products president Joe Marchese told Variety. "The interruptive ad model needs to evolve. [Our new model] is the difference between someone shouting a message at you as you walk by versus 'okay, I'm going to choose to watch this.'"
Finally, someone gets it.
Of course, that isn't to say Fox's new model is perfect, either. Online advertising is currently in a bigger rut than ever, thanks in large part to the distaste modern web users have for ads. There's a reason ad-blocking software is on the rise, to the point that Apple's even baking it into new iterations of their browser. But this is old hat - I've talked about all of this before, and I'm far from the only one.
So why is it that Fox seems to be the first large business to actually take action?
"I think that publishers aren't listening to the consumer," writes Make Use Of's Mihir Patkar. "If the consumer is annoyed by ads, then the consumer has already made a choice. He doesn't want annoying ads, and he wants good content. The onus is on the publisher to figure out how to make that happen. They need to innovate."
The fact that an entertainment property as large as Fox understands that something's broken about the traditional ad model is huge. It means that maybe others will start to follow suit - that maybe people will start looking at alternatives to ads that shove irrelevant products into the face of users. That maybe, just maybe, people will start to realize that a quality ad is every bit as important as a quality product.
I realize the video ads on Fox's online shows aren't really in the same camp as banner ads, popups, and inline ads. We've still got the same underlying principle at work here, however. People want a quality browsing experience, and advertising severely impedes that.
Until more businesses follow suit, consumers are going to continue having an adversarial relationship with online advertising - and that's not exactly the best way to sell a product, is it?