Time to Fix Mobile Video Advertising.

Innovation: Interactive Interrupt

A company asked me to review some IP they had recently submitted for international patent protection. They wanted me to evaluate their current product plan for what they called an Interactive Interrupt for Mobile Video advertising with the goal of finding better and more practical applications. 

As their IP was originally conceived, a video clip playing on a mobile device is paused, or “interrupted”, and the viewer presented with continuance options, e.g., video-A, video-B or the original path. Optional paths allowed users to receive additional relevant information. For example, interrupting an automobile video to ask if the user prefers highway or off-road driving. Either response allowed the viewer to continue with a highway or off-road video clip of the vehicle. 

Having had rich media advertising and video production experience myself, my biggest concerns with this approach were 1) costs and 2) complexities associated with having to produce related or seamless complex video sequences. To address these shortcomings I searched for other ways in which the IP could be used more freely and less expensively.

Check out the solution now. Better yet, read on and see it in the end where it may make more sense. (Solution: Click Through: http://adobe.ly/2c0arxM)

1) Advertising Solution

First I researched mobile video apps including Vimeo and YouTube to see if there was anything like it being used. The only interrupts I could find were actual video ads. Upon further research I discovered there was actually very little innovation the area of advertising in the YouTube app. The traditional :10, :20, :30 and even :60-second TV-type commercial was still being used. Even worse, preloading these ads on mobile devices increased the interrupt time up to :10 seconds in many cases prior to the ad even starting. This was frustrating, and in many cases while observing users when receiving preroll mobile ads it lead to abandonment. YouTube’s biggest visible innovation in the area of video advertising was to offer a :05-second countdown timer tab that morphs into a “Skip Ad” button. 

The “Skip Ad” button seems to alleviate the issue of abandonment but has a negative effect for the advertiser and viewer. The :05-second countdown to a “Skip Ad” button suddenly becomes the primary focus of the user - not the ad. Viewers tend to disengage from the ad completely while waiting for the skip button to appear. Most ads hardly start in the first :05 seconds, giving no chance for the advertiser to engage the viewer, while at the same time annoying the viewer, effectively wasting everyone’s time.  

This discovery presented the opportunity I was looking for. We could use this “wasted time” to engage the viewer by asking for their input and in responding would effectively “skip” the traditional preroll ad altogether. I hypothesized that if viewers are willing to wait :05 seconds to skip a video ad, we can use that time to ask a :02-second question only requesting a :01-second click, flowing the viewer back to their preferred video, but not before providing a valued engagement for the advertiser. 

As long as the user can quickly clicks through to the next video there is no reason to abandon the app. This solution also solved the issue of costly and complex video production, increased potential ad iteration, reduced preload time, and might positively “engage” ad viewers. Now advertisers have a captive audience from which to gain valuable input in many ways. It could result in a new video ad unit. 

Example: Question appears at the top of the screen with two tap-able photos of cars. Question: “Do you like the blue or red 2017 Camaro?”. The user taps either car image button to continue.
Format: Question along top. Two buttons (left and right) with different colored cars displayed on either side of the screen.

2) Education 

Further research led to a solution for professional certification and educational videos. Because is ready, the cost of transferring into an Interactive Interrupt system would be small. The added value benefit could be large by helping to enforce compliance. Acceptable error thresholds can also be set to force users to re-watch video segments and re-take questions until correct. Also multiple questions could be asked within the context of a single long video clip or “chapter”.

Example: a 10-minute narrated training video with ten questions showing a loud, and clearly drunk, customer demands to be served alcohol. At interactive interrupt question 1: “What would you do here? Answers: A) Give him the drinks so he will quiet down, B) Explain that you can not serve intoxicated customers, C) Ask to see his photo ID, or D) Sing his favorite song.”

Format: A responsive grid of two to six text answers can be presented inside round rectangle buttons stacked or side by side depending on content.

3) Polling Solution

Further research showed that we might also use this same technology for political polling advertising to gauge user comprehension or agreement with issues.
Example: Question: “Due to the drought, is it fair for water fees to increase?” Answers: A) Definitely, B) Maybe, C) A little, D) No.

Format: A responsive grid of two to six text answers can be presented inside round rectangle buttons stacked or side by side depending on content.

4) Cumulative Questions Solution

Answers to a question can lead to different future questions creating a potential loop that creates a better and holistic response from the viewer, like a survey, but more entertaining.


My initial advertising proposal was very well received. I named the service and acquired the domain tappngo.com, designed wireframes, created user flows, mocked up UI and created final user interface elements for handoff to the development team. I worked with the product manager to the point of delivering an advanced MVP for market testing in overseas markets. 

Soon after education-related opportunities appeared, the company decided to pivot, and I was asked to create new UX designs for this targeted market with a product we called TappnED. TappnED borrows and extends TappnGO’s underlying technology for the education market. TappnED has already been successfully tested with teachers working with primary school students. Compliance testing examples are also in active testing with government agencies.

Solution click through - my argument for TappnGO. End Dinosaur Video Advertising in Mobile Apps: http://adobe.ly/2c0arxM