Rock On with Spotify’s New Ad-Skip Features

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Just a few days ago I saw an interesting banner ad beneath one of my Spotify playlists. It offered 30 minutes of ad-free listening if I opted to watch a short video in lieu of the usual interruptions. I was pretty ecstatic, but clicking on it brought me to a page that basically said, “Just kidding. That was a survey to see if people would actually do that.” Those little devils. If the ad hadn’t disappeared right afterwards, I would have started hitting it like a strobe light. Who wouldn’t want more uninterrupted free music?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only taker, because Spotify just made it happen – more or less. Today, the popular music streaming service announced two new kinds of video advertising features that will scratch the backs of both users and advertisers in different ways.

A Spotify spokesperson announced that the new video options, Sponsored Sessions and Video Takeover, will undergo testing in the fourth quarter with a select group of companies. So far, the first round of global advertisers includes Coca Cola, Ford, McDonalds, and NBC Universal Pictures, with Target and Wells Fargo joining the bunch in the United States. Spotify plans to extend the service to all other advertisers in early 2015.

Spotify’s Chief Business Officer, Jeff Levick believes the changes will enhance user experience, stating that the commercials in testing are “perfect examples of the kind of high quality, high value experiences we want to offer our brand partners and our audience.” The ads will reach a crowd of around 30 million users.

At this time, the two variations are being implemented separately on the mobile and desktop versions of the service. If you are using Spotify on mobile, you will reap the benefits of Sponsored Sessions. This will allow you to earn your way out of the regular interruptions by doing your time with a 15 or 30-second video beforehand (a similar tradeoff pops up on Hulu every now and then, but it will likely be a more regular option on Spotify). The idea is that the advertiser treats you to 30 minutes of ad-free music if you just listen to them hawk their wares for a few seconds. The free user community must be putting out some really good karma lately, because this is fantastic. Keep rescuing kittens from trees, everybody.

Conversely, the other new rollout is called Video Takeover, and affects the desktop version of Spotify. You can probably guess from the word “takeover” that this one is unfortunately going to be more intrusive to your listening experience, not less. Video Takeover gives advertisers the opportunity to catch your eye with a full-screen video ad instead of the usual audio announcements. Companies who take advantage of this new format will be filling the regular commercial slots you already expect if you are a free user.

“These new video ad units give us the opportunity to be a small part of people’s everyday passion for music and create better experiences across Spotify,” said Ivan Pollard, Coca Cola‘s SVP of Connections. “Spotify are great partners in helping us execute new ways of connecting with people on their platform leveraging data, intelligence and creativity to bring a little refreshment to an already uplifting experience with music.”

Of course, if you tend to keep the Spotify window minimized while you listen (as many people do), the video ads will just sound like regular audio ads. So when it comes to improving the overall experience for free users, the mobile feature is making some great strides, while the desktop feature is kind of just running up the down escalator. The good news is, it’s still very early in testing, and it seems logical that they will eventually push the changes to all platforms.