Quartz Says No To Pre-Roll, And Lincoln’s Along For The Ride

Lincoln QuartzBuyers looking for 15- and 30-second pre-roll spots on online business publication Quartz are out of luck. There aren’t any for sale.

Instead, it created its own custom video advertising solution, which it launched on Monday with Lincoln Motor Company.

In the bottom right corner of the video player is a small, animated button with the Lincoln logo. Mousing over it launches a TV-style ad starring Matthew McConaughey. Move the mouse back to the center and the video tucks back in place, and the original video resumes where it left off. Mouse over the downsized ad unit again and the ad resumes where the viewer left off.

Lincoln signed up because it wanted to find a less intrusive way to engage prospects about its MKX sport utility vehicle.

“Our data shows that luxury automotive shoppers value their own time more than almost anything else,” Lincoln marketing manager Lee Jelenic said. “We strive to have the most contextually relevant advertising, which is served in a meaningful way when it will have value for them.”

Eschewing pre-roll is a risky move for the Atlantic Media-owned publication because the format is the easiest way to tap into digital video budgets.

“Despite the fact that the majority of ad dollars are going into the pre-roll bucket, viewers don’t love it,” said Mia Mabanta, director of marketing and revenue products for Quartz. Instead, pre-roll gives advertisers scale through forced views, which aligns with their short-term marketing goals.

Quartz hopes its solution will recalibrate video advertising. “We think there is value in a user choosing to engage in content from an advertiser,” Mabanta said.

Lincoln and Quartz are measuring every interaction with the ad unit, including when people roll over the animation and how much of it they watch. Jelenic said Lincoln is paying closest attention to the completion rates and engagement.

“I want to know if it’s stopping people in their tracks,” he said. Although the launch campaign falls under the branding umbrella, Lincoln also looks at the quality of actions people take afterward on the Lincoln.com site.

The campaign with Lincoln, which is the exclusive launch sponsor, runs until the end of the year in the United States. While there’s additional advertiser interest, Mabanta said, Quartz is cautious about the ad unit’s prospects.

“We’re not naïve to the challenges that we’re all up against in the industry,” Mabanta said. “Advertisers have invested in significant dollars in producing great video assets, and the option that guarantees a certain number of impressions remains pre-roll.”

Quartz is banking on two trends working in its favor: users growing weary of pre-roll, and marketers consequently looking for alternative ways to reach viewers.

But the unit isn’t a life raft against all the industry trends. The video ads are served through DFP [DoubleClick for Publishers], so the Lincoln button doesn’t show up if a viewer has Adblock Plus installed. It doesn’t work on mobile, either – launching a video player on the mobile web is already a clunky experience, and Quartz didn’t see an easy way to add on that functionality for the initial test of the player.

Lincoln is OK with accepting a solution in progress in pursuit of more effective and less intrusive advertising. “We take pride in being a challenger brand,” Jelenic said. “Our philosophy is to try things and learn.”

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