I just discovered a report published late last year on video trends observed in the 3rd quarter 2011 (ending Sept. 30). It seems we watch 30% more video when on an iPad (versus desktop). Ooyala, a service provider to media companies, tracks a mess of activity and provides some nice signals in this report (see PDF). The company defines “conversion” as the percent of videos viewed against those displayed. I’d estimate these to be rather small (low single digits) on YouTube. But the publisher sites seem to be doing much better, with 40% to 60%. Game players take the lead with 60% which is remarkable, but probably a function of fewer content choices.
I really like this visual of the complete rate by form factor. It confirms what we’ve been saying about our tolerance for longer form when on devices beyond desktop.
Yes. Video prerolls are both growing and declining. The good news for viewers is that we saw fewer prerolls. But we saw more “polite prerolls” (option to escape) in Q1 2011 as reported by AdoTube/eMarketer. Since this doesn’t include YouTube data and presumably a small sample of total online-video ad streams it does need to be taken with a grain of (Morton’s: when it rains it pours!) salt.
Forget prerolls, friends. The increasingly competitive ad networks have a whole sleuth of weapons in their online-video ad formats that range from the innocuous “polite pre-roll,” to a bit more ominous names like in-stream takeover, ad selector, in-stream skin, inside-out roll, interactive overlay, video-in-video, interactive gaming overlay, data entry and capture, branded player, over the top, and beyond stream. I believe that Seroquel example, placing a “reminder” ad without “fair balance” adjacent to depression content is (shhh) a violation of FDA guidelines, but I digress. ANY of these ad-format names beats the “fat boy” branded by Point Roll.
Take a look at some of the bold “engagement” formats presented in AdoTube’s ad-format gallery and you’ll see why viewers are, according to eMarketer, about 30% likely to engage in an ad… even when not forced (hence the term “polite”). You’ll also see that it’s often not clear there’s an opt-out available.
The eMarketer report, titled “Options for Online Video Ad Viewers Leads to Higher Engagement” is encouraging. With online video being one of the leading (if not #1) fastest-growing portion of a marketer’s “media mix,” advertisers will want and expect formats that achieve their goals: from branding to engagement. This chart is important to viewers because it shows that “cost per impression” remains the dominant percent of spending. In “cost per impression” (often called CPM, or cost-per-thousand), the advertiser simply pays a few bucks to reach 1,000 eyeballs without much accountability.
While few of us welcome more aggressive online-ads, this also substantiates a business model to fuel the medium’s growth. While it’s easy to complain about intrusive ads (especially as the pendulum seemed to swing dangerously to the advertiser’s benefit in the past year), it’s a vital element to online-video’s maturity. If the advertisers don’t get what they need, friends, we won’t be seeing our content for free.
There are three ways to increase “engagements” in this online-video advertising medium, and I’ll list them from best to worst in order of sustainability: novelty, creative and targeting:
Novelty: A new ad format generally enjoys a period of high engagement that’s deceptively high. We’re curious about what the ad does, and may not realize we’re engaging, so it’s not necessarily suggestive of purchase intent. In early February, a debut YouTube customer of YouTube’s “skip this ad in x second” preroll told ClickZ he was seeing a 30% engagement rate. That’s far higher than we’ll see as a norm, and a tribute to the novelty effect.
Creative: Great creative always wins, and this is a fairly enduring trait. While overall engagement might slip when we’re “numb” to an ad format (like monkey-shooting banner ads, or even the “InVid” format that creeps up on YouTube… the best creative wins the best attention, engagement and results.
Targeting: Ultimately the most sustainable and important characteristic of a high-engagement online-video ad is its ability to reach the right target. I can engage in a tampon ad, but it’s not going to sell more maxi’s. But if I get a rich-media ad over (or adjacent) to my valued content, then we’ve got a win-win-win (advertiser, publisher, viewer). That’s where we can expect Google/YouTube to be better in the long haul, but it appears the sophisticated advertiser networks are ahead. These ad networks marry data from a variety of sources to serve ads invisibly on the videos across a variety of websites.
So what are the takeaways to advertisers, video sites and us viewers?
First, the options available to advertisers means that online-video ads will begin to get as aggressive as other forms of interactive ads. This has positive and negative effects, but as long as it’s targeted it’s sustainable.
YouTube, which reports very little about its ad performance, has not radically departed from its debut formats, with the exception of breaking its early commitment to make pre-rolls optional. Now most pre-rolls are mandatory, but we can opt-out of some after a few seconds (at which point the “opt-out” means the advertiser pays YouTube and the creator less).
Ads are a vital cost-offset for those of us that have been enjoying free video content for 5 years and would like that to continue without avoid pesky Hulu-like subscription models (unless a “value ad” bonus to the cable contract, assuming we haven’t “cut chord.”).
Check out Diana, a random stranger on Chatroulette (where two webcams are randomly paired). Little did she know that a personalized love-song and proposal was waiting for her… by DoneRightJr on YouTube.
Epic “top comment” below since Chatroulette is notorious for pervs.
Advertisers on YouTube now have an option where they only pay when a viewer engages with the pre-roll ad. It’s a bold way to get digital marketers to move confidently into the medium since, like Google Paid Search, it’s more accountable. Here’s the YouTube blog post about this new format called “True View.”
Since most content is too short for the new option (similar to Hulu’s format, viewers get to pick a long preroll or several short ad interruptions), the more interesting of these two new offerings is the “instream” 5 & 15/30 format. You watch 5 seconds, and then you decide if you’ll continue watching the rest of the ad (15/30 seconds). That means creators/publishers will make no revenue on those who abandon. But the format will no doubt demand a higher premium (per click) for those who choose to engage.
This also means advertisers should do a better job of giving the consumer a REASON to continue. The first 5 seconds should certainly mention the brand (free exposure like the “reminder” effect of unclicked paid-search ads). But most advertisers who want deeper engagement or direct response will want to use those first 5 seconds to PITCH THE AD.
For instance, “find out why this kitten is crying” would compel me to finish the ad. Or “be one of the first to own what’s in this box” is a nice teaser. Eventually when the format is less novel, the “calls to continue” will need to be better.
…given how different this is from what most consumers are used to, it may be a bit too early to gauge how well these ads are actually working — users may be skeptical of hitting the skip button at all because they’ve never seen it before.
It should be obvious that this is an additive option not a replacement of your traditional 15-30 second preroll. If it was my choice, I’d move to it quickly a) to learn, and b) to see if there’s a better ROI on them, c) to take advantage of the novelty factor. Then again, I’m biased. I’m making money from these. So frankly, I hope you buy whatever’s most expensive. But I hope you also get an ROI on it.
Engagement is the new “portal.” It’s tossed around so much, we have varying definitions. I use it broadly to refer to any action on the part of the media “consumer.” If they watch my video, that’s kinda engagement, but if they comment, respond, follow a link, purchase a product… that’s far more interesting.
Here’s Forrester’s Brian Haven with his shiny head and retro glasses, espousing the four I’s: involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence (source: Content to Commerce blog). What’s worth noting is that you’re not likely to be influential without interacting and connecting (intimacy), yet most brands try to jump right to influence. Kinda like popping an engagement ring on a blind date. Ewww.
“We need to provide content and tools within the context of use… this is where engagement’s going to happen.”