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Broadcaster VOD advertising formats

From clickable pre-rolls to full interactivity, broadcaster VOD advertising is always innovating. Here you can get the low down on the various VOD formats currently available from the UK TV companies

Key points:

  • Most VOD advertising is in the format of pre-, mid- and post-rolls which are clickable and typically deliver high CTRs
  • Suites of iVOD (interactive VOD) formats are available from the TV companies that can be adapted to fit just about any brand purpose.
  • Viewers can respond to an ad and then see the results of that interaction within the VOD player. 
  • Interactivity can take the form of a game, extra content, a competition, a synchronised product description, a social interaction, or something as simple as ‘choose your own ad’.

Pre-, mid- and post-roll VOD formats

Advertising on Broadcaster VOD services such as ITV Player, All 4, Sky Go, Cartoon Network, and Dave on Demand – and aggregated services on Virgin Media, YouView – give advertisers the opportunity to get close to their best content with pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls of varying lengths. This is similar to the way that spot advertising appears around linear TV content and in fact advertisers generally use a version of their broadcast ads for the BVOD component of their campaigns.

Each broadcaster site has a varying number of ad slots available within a break and the standard advertising length for pre/mid/post roll is 30 seconds. However you can run anything from 5 to 90 seconds. The general guideline however is that the shorter the content to be viewed the shorter the ads should be.  There is some more flexibility than in linear TV because the broadcasters sell slots, not precise minuteage.

Sponsorship, AFP, product placement

Individual shows can be sponsored, as can genres. Best practice is for the broadcast sponsor to follow the content to VOD, aligning themselves with that programme in whatever form it is made available.  However there are VOD only opportunities where broadcasters have created extra content for their web players.  It is also possible for brands to create branded content (advertiser funded programming), or branded microsites or games.

iVODs: interactive formats

Most VOD formats are clickable (can take the user out of the player and to brand website). However, in addition to click-throughs, there are a number of innovative interactive formats that can be used when advertising around Broadcaster VOD content that mean the viewer can respond to an ad and then see the results of that interaction within the VOD player.  This interactivity could take the form of a game, extra content, a competition, a synchronised product description or something as simple as ‘choose your own ad’. In your media plan they take the place of a standard pre-roll ad.

“VOD innovations are evolving all the time so  it’s worth speaking to the broadcasters if you have an idea that you want to investigate.”

iVOD benefits:

  • Increased brand engagement
  • Multiple click-through to different products
  • Increased click-through rates
  • Uplifts in brand recall through higher engagements
  • Increases in dwell time
  • Increases in interaction rates
  • Deeper engagement through user control

These VOD innovation formats fall into four broad categories: deepen, extend, choose, and substitute

Types of VOD 


At the shallow end of the “deepen” experience there are simple overlay options with all sorts of potential functionality.

ITV’s Ad Show: This is aimed at supporting new-to-TV brands and regional advertisers, is an interactive ad format position around ITV video content without the need to require a video creative. Brands can make use of existing print, radio and display assets to creative these interactive experiences.  A typical Ad Show creative lasts for 30 seconds before the user is able to close the ad. During this time the audio plays and the interactive elements, such as thumbnails and hotspots can appear and disappear at different times and can be set to highlight automatically. When clicked on they open a small window with more product details including an image carousel and a button.

Channel 4’s Ad Link and ITV’s Ad Explore Buttons formats provide a range of social media and bespoke clickable links directly onto the pre-roll. They overlay the pre-roll with an interactive toolbar or buttons that allows users to click out to numerous websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter or a bespoke link to the advertiser’s site or to a variety of products at the same time.

ITV’s Ad Explore Ribbon allows brands to advertise products to an audience though multiple time-synced experiences. The unique time-synced feature allows products to pop into the ribbon as they appear in the video. This synchronised trigger enables consumers to discover more about featured products (for example, what someone is wearing in an ad or film) and click to purchase on the advertiser’s website. 

Channel 4’s Ad Pause format sees an animated or static ad fill the player when the viewer pauses the content they are watching. The ad remains there until the user resumes or exits. Ad Pause is also clickable to external sites.


And at the deep end of the ‘deepen’ category, we find VOD microsites.

ITV’s Ad Explore Microsite allows for a compact mini-website experience to live within the video player with extra content for consumers to discover; for example, videos, downloads, offers or further product or service information. What’s more, with social media functionality, advertisers can engage with their audience through Twitter, Facebook and many more platforms. 

Channel 4’s Ad bloom enables a similar microsite experience, which is initiated via a brief pre-roll and a branded custom transition. This format increases brand engagement and time spent with videos, product features, and photos.  Functionality includes data capture.


Ad extend enables the viewers to extend their viewing from a standard video spot. With an optional call-to-action, the format extends video content such as theatrical trailers or 60/90 second ads which can be viewed in full, without any interruption to the user. BothChannel 4 and ITV offer these. Channel 4’s version can also be used to showcase numerous videos.

ITV’s Ad Explore Carousel format allows non-disruptive viewing of additional content such as video, gallery or links to websites in a tidy and thoughtfully positioned carousel. Viewers can browse through content whilst the video plays and access content that interests them.


Some formats encourage viewers to make an active choice regarding the advertising.

Channel 4’s Ad Elect format allows viewers to choose which ad they want to watch, usually from a selection of 3 options. The ability to select which ad they prefer means they are more engaged in the process and also can choose the ad which they feel is most relevant to them. Typically, it increases CTRs by 100%.

ITV’s Ad Explore Select format works in a similar way and is a great way of letting your audience be in control. Viewers can select from multiple videos, while advertisers can engage with audiences through the content they find most appealing. A call-to-action can be added after the video has ended to discover unwatched videos.


The “substitute” category is all about using datasets to add granularity to your VOD plan: for example by using user registration data of live geographical data (weather). Here are two new innovations from Channel 4.

Channel 4 Ad Adapt. This option utilises the extensive Channel 4 database to demographically target pre-roll messages to logged-in users, utilising details like age, gender and location. For example, a fashion label could serve a different ad proposition to men and women, or an advertiser can address individuals by name. Once the national ad is called, the adapt data is recognised and the adapted ad is delivered to the viewers.

C4 Ad Weather 

Channel 4 Ad Weather. With this format, when the national ad plays, the location is recognised and then matched with World Weather Online. The ad is delivered to the viewer with overlays inserted relating to the weather in the viewer’s area. So a supermarket may promote a soup offer in the freezing South West and sorbets to a sun-drenched North.

For the full menu of what ad opportunities each UK broadcaster offers, visit their websites:

And here are the VOD contacts at the broadcasters:

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