Yet publishers faced technical hurdles, like slow internet connections, that made video ads untenable. Instead, publishers served ads that were static images, which eventually evolved to become graphics with some animations and sound.
Over the last decade, fast wired and wireless connections spread, as did computers and smartphones. Consumers also became acclimated to streaming video services like Netflix and YouTube. Serving an online video became easy. So advertising firms like BrightRoll and Tremor Video, along with tech companies like Facebook, began testing video ads.
Once they got started, there was no turning back. Video ads generated 20 to 50 times more revenue than traditional display ads, and the best way to get money was to make the videos play automatically, Mr. Morgan said. Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter liked autoplay videos, too, because they were effective at getting people to stick around on their sites, said Taylor Wiegert, a director of user experience strategy for the Martin Agency. Automatically playing videos went from a rarity a decade ago to a prominent online advertising medium today.
What Are the Solutions?
Many consumers have complained that autoplay videos are a nuisance. (I am one of them!) So tech companies have come up with some workarounds:
■ Facebook and Twitter each offer the ability to prevent videos from automatically playing in their apps and websites. On Facebook, the instructions are buried in its Accessibility page, and on the Twitter website, the controls are found in the Settings menu, under Content.
■ On Instagram, you cannot disable videos from automatically playing. However, in the cellular data setting, you can configure the app to use less mobile data, which makes videos load more slowly when you are on a cellular connection.
■ Google’s Chrome browser prevents some videos from automatically playing. The web browser allows videos to autoplay on 1,000 sites where Google has determined that people have the highest likelihood of wanting to play videos with sound. Over time, after Chrome studies the websites that you visit, the browser adapts to allow autoplaying on sites where you frequently played videos with the sound on and disables autoplay on sites where you do not.