UM bans video ads with Fairfax until autoplay ends

Mat Baxter Media agency UM has instigated an immediate ban on running clients’ ads across Fairfax Media’s video network because autoplay videos are annoying users and making them hostile to advertisers, Mumbrella can reveal.

The decision – one of the first high profile moves by new UM boss Mat Baxter – came after the agency commissioned a survey of users and 96% said they found autoplay videos annoying.

UM’s major clients include the Federal Government, Coles, Microsoft and Sony Pictures. Baxter said: “Not all our major clients have had Fairfax video inventory on their media plans, but we have spoken to the relevant clients and the decision applies across the board.”

The agency said that it has raised the issue with Fairfax “several times” but no action had followed.

On most Fairfax sites, videos start autoplaying after a few seconds, unless the user notices and stops it. For advertisers, a concern is that their ads are playing unwatched because a user has scrolled own the page – or that their ads are potentially associated with videos annoying consumers.

When Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes interviewed Fairfax Digital’s MD of media Pippa Leary about the issue last year she claimed: “What’s amazing is 75% of people who come to the site watch those videos to completion. We test it constantly. We ask them those questions – overwhelmingly they come back and say no, we prefer to stop it.”

The interview was one of the most commented upon stories on Mumbrella last year, with many claiming that she was wrong.

And UM’s own research also directly contradicts Fairfax’s claims.

The agency surveyed a sample of 500 people who regularly visit Fairfax sites. It said that 96% of people found the practice “annoying”. And in a finding bringing into question the effectiveness of video ads in that environment,  44% of respondents saying they always muted their computer when videos played.

Meanwhile, 25% of people said that when they were interrupted by uninitiated video whilst reading an article they navigate away from the page.

And 61% of people felt more negatively towards brands advertising on autoplay video, versus only 24% when brands advertised on user-initiated video.

According to UM: “This research contradicts a study presented to media agencies in 2010 by Fairfax stating autoplay was not as widely disliked as people thought.” Baxter said:

“Our research shows that video engagement levels on Fairfax sites are significantly lower than on other sites and much of the time the video is completely ignored.

“Video autoplay is misleading by design and we are not prepared to support Fairfax’s practice. This move is designed to protect our clients from paying for video inventory that is not only largely missing consumers, it is annoying them highly.”

He added: “This issue has been discussed in the industry for some time. Our research revealed just how alienated people have become with the practice and how damaging it can be for brands to be associated with it, so effective immediately we will not be purchasing video on Fairfax until autoplay is removed.”

UM is not the only media agency putting on the pressure over online video. As Mumbrella revealed last month, Ikon Communications has given the industry until tomorrow to become VAST (Video Ad Serving Template) compliant or face being taken off its schedule. The move was in part because Ikon wants greater transparency over how many ads have been played and to whom. At present agencies are often forced to take media owners’ word for it on whether a schedule has been delivered.

At the time of posting no immediate comment was available from Fairfax.


  1. Adam Fyfe
    31 Mar 11
    3:23 pm

  2. great news,

    it’s called common sense and it’s called putting the user experience first.

    carn the pies.

  3. Elbogrease
    31 Mar 11
    3:25 pm

  4. I just use a adblocker and get a black box instead of having rubbish pushed at me.

  5. SHG
    31 Mar 11
    3:32 pm

  6. Adblock.

  7. Carolyn Hyams
    31 Mar 11
    3:33 pm

  8. Finally… someone makes a stand. Thank you!!

  9. Ben
    31 Mar 11
    3:34 pm

  10. That’s a shame…..

  11. Tim
    31 Mar 11
    3:36 pm

  12. A sample of 500 users? That’s quite a low sample size. What sample size is Fairfax using in their own studies?

  13. Turned Off
    31 Mar 11
    3:36 pm

  14. Well done UM. It is the biggest turn off when on Fairfax sites and as a result I go elsewhere for my news.

  15. Alexx - ABA
    31 Mar 11
    3:36 pm

  16. Just yesterday the ABA Digital Watchdog Committee was debating whether auto-play video should be allowable under the forthcoming video measurement rules.

    We’ll count this as another strong vote for No from the media buyers.

  17. Doug Chapman
    31 Mar 11
    3:38 pm

  18. Go Mat. Not only is it annoying but it counts as a view even if the user had no interaction with the video. Fairfax can do better on this one.

  19. Kate
    31 Mar 11
    3:39 pm

  20. They annoy me as well. If I want to watch them I WILL PRESS PLAY MYSELF. The stupid autoplay means everytime I open an article I have to press STOP. It also makes it harder to sneakily read articles at work because out of nowhere there is a really noisy news report coming on! GET THE MESSAGE FAIRFAX!

  21. Agent44
    31 Mar 11
    3:42 pm

  22. Excellent move. Pippa Leary is a bit deluded if she thinks autoplay is anything but intensely irritating.

  23. Nic Halley
    31 Mar 11
    3:42 pm

  24. couldn’t agree more, well done

  25. Peter Bray
    31 Mar 11
    3:43 pm

  26. Great leadership UM.

  27. Bart Jawien
    31 Mar 11
    3:43 pm

  28. great initiative mat

  29. Andy B
    31 Mar 11
    3:50 pm

  30. I feel no anger towards the advertisers, just towards The Age for not giving me the option of autoplay or not.

  31. Anon1
    31 Mar 11
    3:50 pm

  32. I use Click2Flash on Safari, and Fairfax Video Blocker on Chrome.

    The fact that someone went to the lengths of writing software specfically to block these videos should have sent a clear enough message.

  33. stop
    31 Mar 11
    3:50 pm

  34. @tim – 500 is a pretty solid sample, easily large enough to make a reliable extrapolation to the rest of the population. I’m going to include myself and call it 501, and agree that they are really really really annoying.

  35. MR
    31 Mar 11
    3:50 pm

  36. Well done Mat and UM!

  37. Gezza
    31 Mar 11
    3:50 pm

  38. Well done that man.

  39. David
    31 Mar 11
    3:51 pm

  40. Good deal.

    In context YouTube ads should be next. They make me want to break things.

    As a marketer, I want to reach the desired audience as much as anyone, but some things, I really think, should be off-limits and ad free.

  41. p
    31 Mar 11
    3:54 pm

  42. Isn’t the user experience Fairfax’s issue?

    UM are doing their clients a diservice here…they want their ads to be seen isn’t that the whole point!

    Maybe he can send around a directive saying they won’t buy ads on TV because viewers hate the ad breaks interupting their programmes, or online ads that expand because they get in the way of the content, or radio ads…you get the idea…

    Stupid idea!

  43. Vince Borg
    31 Mar 11
    3:56 pm

  44. Absolutely agree. In fact I also find it annoying that I have to wait a few seconds before scrolling down the story before I can hit the ‘don’t play’ button. Totally off-putting!

  45. Brad
    31 Mar 11
    3:58 pm

  46. There is no possible way 75% are ‘watched’ until completion. Maybe played in the background of browser tab #9 while the user visits something less disruptive! Ads can be avoided by simply not visiting their sites…

  47. TD
    31 Mar 11
    3:59 pm

  48. Finally!!! I agree with Kate. If we want to watch the videos, we’ll press play ourselves. Nothing is worse than opening a few articles in different tabs only to be assaulted by various ads blaring at you whilst you’re trying to sneakily read smh at work.

  49. bob
    31 Mar 11
    4:00 pm

  50. really annoying if you dont have headphones plugged in as everyone knows your watchnig a video and not working

  51. Tony Ricahrsdon
    31 Mar 11
    4:06 pm

  52. Good idea.

    I just mute them and sharpen a pencil of something.

    I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing how long 30 seconds is.

  53. bob loblaw
    31 Mar 11
    4:08 pm

  54. @ Tim
    500 is a perfectly OK sample size

  55. anon
    31 Mar 11
    4:12 pm

  56. Maybe he can send around a directive saying they won’t buy ads on TV because viewers hate the ad breaks interupting their programmes, or online ads that expand because they get in the way of the content, or radio ads…you get the idea…

    Hey P – where have you been hiding for the last 10 years?

  57. Frankie
    31 Mar 11
    4:17 pm

  58. I work for Fairfax and I find it annoying. Hope the practise stops soon as it’s rude and offensive. Sure have a small pop-up that asks if I’d like to watch the video, and 9 times out of 10 I might, just out of curiosity (especially if it contains dogs or kids !). However the ads starting a few seconds after I start reading an article and interrupting is definitely intrusive and unwanted. Oh, and it does turn me off the advertiser.

  59. Chris
    31 Mar 11
    4:26 pm

  60. Thanks for highlighting this. Great to see I’m not alone in raising the ‘fist of fury’ every time one of those damn autoplay ads pumps through my speakers. BEYOND annoying.

  61. Tim
    31 Mar 11
    4:30 pm

  62. Death to autoplay.

    And a very slow and painful death to the option where it forces you to choose from three ads, or wait an extra 10 seconds.

    You know what you can do with that, Fairfax…

  63. amused
    31 Mar 11
    4:30 pm

  64. They are extremely annoying. I now have adblock installed. The funny thing is I support non autoplay ads on all sites but not fairfax( and I have subscribed to the paper for 30 yrs). Their autoplay ads are the equivalent of those shrieking harvey norman ads on tv.

  65. Marshy
    31 Mar 11
    4:31 pm

  66. Great news. Makes me proud.
    You don’t need stats to see they’re a complete nuisance.

  67. Logic
    31 Mar 11
    4:39 pm

  68. a good excuse to run that pippa video again. the questions catch her nicely off guard.

    “yeah the users totally love the video starting on its own, many have sent gifts to us as thanks as it means one less mouse click.”

  69. LeoG
    31 Mar 11
    4:44 pm

  70. I agree UM’s move to ban auto-play ads. Fairfax can talk about 75% of ads being watched (which I find difficult to believe) but the last thing you want is a backlash against your client because of the intrusive manner of auto-play.

    But that’s not the only annoying thing about FD. I find it really difficult to believe all the figures they’re constantly spewing about UBs and SOVs etc. And as for the effect auto-refresh has on our campaigns – it’s mind-boggling.

    I don’t think my clients are seeing the results for the cost of the medium.

    So what do I do? Stop recommending the FD sites even though they, in theory, are a perfect fit?

  71. les wood
    31 Mar 11
    4:50 pm

  72. Les Wood abides

  73. A Searcher
    31 Mar 11
    4:52 pm

  74. Well done UM.

    What a positive move from an agency, which shows they truly care for their clients.

    Fairfax please take note. You can run video ad’s succesfully on your network, just dont autoplay them! That way the stats will be truthful and users wont mind(.)

    Sometimes it isnt about how many times a video ad plays, it is about whether it is actually being watched.

    I hope other agencies follow suit.

  75. Con Frantzeskos
    31 Mar 11
    5:00 pm

  76. Wonderful, wonderful news!


  77. oldboy07
    31 Mar 11
    5:08 pm

  78. cheers Matt, you have just made hitting budget that much easier for the rest of us. We salute you

  79. Rich.
    31 Mar 11
    5:12 pm

  80. Good for UM. Leading and adding value.

  81. Cap'n Salad
    31 Mar 11
    5:24 pm

  82. Salad wishes to announce that he is boycotting the Nine Network until they agree to remove those annoying ads that interrupt your Cap’ns enjoyment of “Two and a Half Junkies?” Come on, UM! Follow the Salads lead!

  83. Jonno
    31 Mar 11
    5:39 pm

  84. Whats going to be a struggle is if other agencies follow the UM lead and tell publishers auto start video ads won’t be allowed. Do they really think the public is going to click on an ad to view it????

    Seems to be a selective survey too, ask the same 96% of people who say they don’t like autoplay, how they feel about clicking on a video and getting an ad prior to it.

    To me the secret is in the sauce of the announcement, what I think they are skirting around is organic views of their ads versus publishers buying an audience directed at pages with the big campaigns. (this happens lots)

    I wonder with “select this video” only to view, what will the inventory be?
    Final note, the cost per eyeballs online has always been cheaper than TV, if online now has this total control, so advertisers and agencies know their ad IS BEING watched – does this make it more attractive offer that TV, therfore demanding a higher return?

  85. Notmyrealname
    31 Mar 11
    5:46 pm

  86. The only aspect of this that lacks credibility is that 4% of the people surveyed didn’t find the ads annoying. Who are these people, and what kind of sad lives do they live?

  87. Kerry
    31 Mar 11
    5:48 pm

  88. hmmmm now just to stop those TV ads auto playing…..

  89. Al
    31 Mar 11
    5:51 pm

  90. Hopefully these clowns at Fairfax will step into line once there’s more industry standards and guidelines to stick to…

    They should count themselves lucky they’ve got away with it for this long…

  91. Andrew
    31 Mar 11
    7:10 pm

  92. This is excellent news. I’m thrilled that somebody has told Fairfax to shove their autoplay ads. I had to stop reading just because of the intrusive auto-play ads, although they can do a step further and stop the auto-play of videos in news stories. if I want to watch a video I’ll press Play.

  93. Anonymous
    31 Mar 11
    7:16 pm

  94. Mat. What percent of revenue does this account for for your agency? Can you take the same stand against tvc’s. They too start automatically, are ignored by consumers, encourage people to navigate away etc.

    Great PR at little impact

  95. About time.....
    31 Mar 11
    7:21 pm

  96. Ummmmm….now for banner Ads~!

  97. Logic
    31 Mar 11
    8:03 pm

  98. Question: What if some of their clients want to spend money on this. Technically it’s not “UM’s” money

  99. Carlotta
    31 Mar 11
    9:29 pm

  100. Good move, who cares about the sample size, I bet most of you have used a case study that samples 500 before… Everyone knows auto play sucks ass.

    As does choose your own adventure. Like seriously, surely there is an easier way to find out if I’m a girl or a guy or… than deciding between tampons, razors or ummmmm a razor?

  101. True Grit
    1 Apr 11
    12:03 am

  102. This is an embarrassing story.

    Really bad.

    I think Mumbrella owe Fairfax an apology.

  103. Michael Aulia
    1 Apr 11
    12:58 am

  104. Ohhhhhhhhh I hate that auto play video too…. made me angry everytime I open up a page

  105. Dan
    1 Apr 11
    2:56 am

  106. Fantastic to see an agency take a stand on something everyone has been complaining about but doing nothing about it for so long.

    Well done UM

  107. Roger
    1 Apr 11
    8:16 am

  108. Online display, and video are such bad ROI investments as they stand,

    In my view autoplay can only help get some much needed cut-through. Don’t mind reading the Age etc for free if i have to put up with an ad or two. My mac has a volume control so what’s the problem anyway?


  109. Mike
    1 Apr 11
    10:27 am

  110. @Roger

    The problem is that everyone wants everything for free.

    Complaining about autoplay is one thing but I note comments here also complain about banner ads and ads on YouTube. And a fair few people are spruiking ad blocker.

    Damn it, we want our media FREE and we want it to be well-funded quality media too! Err….

  111. Hmmm...
    1 Apr 11
    10:36 am

  112. TV ads suck on websites. They just don’t work, they’re not a natural part of the experience, and they’re fucking annoying.

    Fairfax should know that if I choose to watch one of their video reports, I just take the headphones off and scroll down for 15/30 seconds so I neither see nor hear the commercial.

    Yet of course they count me as a view.

  113. Dan Warne
    1 Apr 11
    10:57 am

  114. Thank goodness… I can’t STAND the Fairfax autoplaying videos. I go to a newspaper to read the news and look at the pictures; I DO NOT go there to have TV news force-played at me.

    I’ve had to resort to blocking Flash on Fairfax sites entirely so their stupid videos don’t play…

  115. nancy
    1 Apr 11
    11:16 am

  116. I wish this research would expand to question the value of marketing/advertising. I often wonder how much attention other people actually pay to marketing/advertising. Am I member of a small subculture who have declared themselves marketing free zones or are we a majority that business refuses to recognise? Are business, the media and the advertisers just deluded? I am so sick of being marketed at that I do not view/listen to/read or click on any ads. I unsubscribe from all marketing emails and refuse to give my address to retailers or to have “loyalty” cards.

    I wish producers/retailers would just put info on a website under their own name and I will find it when I research the products I need.

  117. p
    1 Apr 11
    12:16 pm

  118. @anon – I’m sorry your counter argument makes no sense! you are stupid too…maybe you work at UM?

  119. be realistic
    1 Apr 11
    12:52 pm

  120. @nancy
    Using that logic, you’d also be happy enough to blame yourself for not looking hard enough across the different websites, when you realise you are getting charged $100 a month more for your phone bill? Or would you still be on the phone/internet to complain about “big business ripping off and enslaving the little people”.
    You are probably the same “subculture” that complains about the way society is just because you’ve been left a bit behind and want everyone to think like you. Without advertising where would you’re preferred left-wing mothpiece news options? Or for that matter, your factual news and other related entertainment you enjoy watching? Or maybe you’d be happy to pay a shitload of your own cash for it rather that advertisers that want nothing more that to have a voice to customers they feel they can create value for and improve quality of life.
    By all means, take no notice of ads and live the way you wish. But don’t demean an industry that has supported content that has contributed much more to the world than you likely ever will.

  121. Travis
    1 Apr 11
    2:03 pm

  122. @ Logic

    It’s a foundation of our business to partner with clients and advise them on the most effective ways to invest their funds. We brought this study and findings to our clients attention who completely agree with our stance.

    If your clients take a difference stance and wish to pay for video that is not viewed then that is your, and your clients’, prerogative.

  123. Logic
    1 Apr 11
    2:45 pm

  124. i agree with you travis, i just think media agencies sometimes forget they’re spending other peoples money when they make such blanket statements about who they will/won’t deal with.

    it’s not just this statement, it’s around how they deal with suppliers etc … a lot of them are using others funds as clout and sometimes it can become a bit tiring.

    completely agree with your stance btw but my question was more around what you’d do if a client perhaps didn’t agree.

  125. StudyGrl
    1 Apr 11
    3:55 pm

  126. hmmmm…

    interesting stand on the subject & interesting study result stand off.

    Who says reality entertainment isn’t alive in the digital industry?
    Its keeping me glued to my screen!

  127. Mr Correction
    1 Apr 11
    7:11 pm

  128. @ be realistic

    “where would you’re preferred left-wing”
    – sh be ‘your’…

    As you were. 😉

  129. True Grit
    2 Apr 11
    8:42 am

  130. UM seem to be learning the ways of talk back radio. Stir up trouble based on nothing.

  131. Larry
    2 Apr 11
    10:10 am

  132. honestly, who cares? UM is the last agency to do this:

  133. Caughtoplay
    2 Apr 11
    11:40 am

  134. YouTube have got it right.

    I watch loads of video’s on YouTube (obviously I am not their to read articles…) There is usually always a static advert on the right hand side that is in view when I watch a video, unless I maximize the vid. (This static ad does not annoy me.) There are those annoying text ad’s, which take over about a 5th of the vid at the bottom, however I close those immediately. (I am not sure how effective those ad’s are?) These text ad’s do not stop me from watching the video.

    Occasionally (usually if the channel owner on YouTube has signed up to do this) an ad will play before my video starts. Again, this happens OCCASIONALLY. I sit through the ad and await the video I want to watch, because again it is not EVERY time I watch a video…

    YouTube have got it right. You don’t have to sit through an advert for every video watched, therefore the user experience is a good one and they are the no 1 searched website in the world as a result (funny that…)

    I am not comparing Fairfax sites with YouTube, more Fairfax’s video tactic’s. I do enjoy lots of features of Fairfax websites. However not the auto-play vid’s which I think is giving them a very bad name (user and advertiser) thus it is harmful commercially for them in the long term.

    Fairfax; your vid’s will actually get watched far more times if you didn’t auto-play them and if the user didn’t think that they would see an advert EVERY time they requested to watch a video. Your mindless tactic has now resulted in me searching for whatever content it is you are trying to play and watching it elsewhere, minus the adverts…

    My guess is that at Fairfax the people who actually get it and can place themselves in the users shoes are not in the decision making positions. People like the bureaucratic woman towing the old media company line in the video above are calling the shots, who evidently do not understand video strategy online?!! Big company / red tape / clinging on to the ‘old’ media ways and fighting to retain revenues…; so what shall we do? I know lets rip off the advertiser and whilst we are at it p1ss off the user. Nice…

  135. Jeff
    2 Apr 11
    3:26 pm

  136. Fairfax auto-play videos wouldn’t be so annoying if they actually added something to the coverage. Auto-play video of the tsunami devastation in Japan? Sure, go for it. But so many of the videos consist of a voice over simply repeating what is in the text, accompanied by file footage (or worse, a montage of still images). It adds nothing to the coverage. But they seem to be so obsessed with sticking videos on to every major story – whether it warrants it or not – and this makes the auto-play far more annoying than it needs to be. If most people actually WANTED to see the video, they would be less upset about it auto-playing.

  137. GetTheFacts
    3 Apr 11
    1:07 pm

  138. @Larry

    Sure, everyone is “boycotting” now (24 hours after) UM has taken a stand

  139. Chris
    4 Apr 11
    9:52 am

  140. Great consistency Fairfax! This is a great reflection on your management (oh, wait, maybe not). Are those responsible for it still there? Ah, I see some got promotions. How typical. :-)

  141. Derek
    5 Apr 11
    5:42 pm

  142. Autoplay is the equivalent to a popup ad . . very 1999.

    Having an advertisement/video come up at you either visually or in audio is a disruption to your reading . . and also a major inconvenience if you are studying, at work or in a circumstance where you dont want to be blown away by a sudden stream of audio

    Blockers needed

  143. Brian
    14 Apr 11
    9:51 am

  144. Ads? Does the intertubes has ads? I wouldnt know, Firefox with the Adblock Plus add-on ensures I never see a single advert, just how the internet should be…….

  145. Logic
    14 Apr 11
    11:15 am

  146. blockers are awesome for the future of the internet … as all the content is created for free yeah?

  147. Owl
    22 Apr 11
    10:45 pm

  148. “What’s amazing is 75% of people who come to the site watch those videos to completion.” I would not be at all happy that 25% of people are leaving the website before the spam video finishes playing, without getting to see what it was they wanted to see in the first place.

  149. Craig
    27 Apr 11
    7:41 am

  150. I browse with sound turned off on my laptop, so can read the article while ignoring the video. So I would count in the people who “watch the video to completion” but never see one unless I choose to!

    Also Fairfax’s videos don’t work on iPad, so no problems there – except no option to view one should I choose to.

    I’ve been one of those complaining about auto play of video and audio on websites for 10+ years, and also complained to Fairfax management directly a few years ago. They clearly believe autoplay adds more to their vehicle than do their advertisers.

  151. Matyoureagenius
    27 Apr 11
    3:40 pm

  152. I hate hate hate hate autoplay vidoes and visit Fairfax news sites less because of them.

    500 people is statistically a huge sample size (ref person above who obviously has little understanding of statistics and sample size)

    I cannot believe someone from Fairfax says they’re not annoying. Well, perhaps I can.