YouTube's 30-second ad ban not exactly working

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Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

YouTube viewers have to sit through 30-second ads on videos from the site's biggest partners despite the ban on the long-form commercials.

YouTube video clips in shows from NBCUniversal, Viacom, Turner and other networks still run some 30-second pre-roll ads, even though the Google-owned site said it would stop serving them. Brands, including Time Warner, Verizon and GMC have been among the big ad spenders still running the longer spots.

Early last year, Google announced it would stop showing 30-second ads that don't have skip buttons, because viewers generally hate the lengthy intrusion, and instead it would push 20-, 15- and six-second ads. The change took affect in January.

"We stopped supporting 30-second unstoppable ads as of January 2018, but while we ramp down, a very small number of impressions coming from third-party ad sellers might still be working its way through our systems," a YouTube spokeswoman said in an e-mail statement. "As always, we're working with our partners to focus on formats that work well for both users and advertisers."

The major TV networks can use their own ad teams and technology to handle the commercial experience on their YouTube channels. They use third-party vendors like Freewheel to coordinate digital video ad campaigns that run across videos on their own sites and YouTube.

Only a select few YouTube partners have that privilege of managing their own ad inventory.

Universal, Viacom and Turner did not return requests for comment on their YouTube ad practices.

The 30-second commercial is the standard on television but the digital world is trying to advance shorter formats that users might tolerate more. The six-second ad is starting to take off, even with traditional networks like Fox, which has run six-second commercials during primetime television.

However, brands are still very much attached to longer messages, and many are skeptical about how much impact they can have on consumers in just six seconds.

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