Video advertisers are digging deeper to understand the value and impact of their video buys. It is no longer enough to speak about efficient reach with the detailed performance metrics available for digital video campaigns today. We can study view-level data to understand if viewers are engaged and know what captures that engagement. What does it matter how many viewers you reach if they aren’t actually paying attention?
Google “Unskippable Labs” conducted a study and demonstrated that there is a consistent, positive relationship between the length of time a video is watched and consumer favorability towards a brand. It is then no surprise that measurement partners are crafting solutions to help advertisers address the attention measurement deficit. For example, DoubleVerify offers the “Authentic Attention” tool that gives marketers insight into the online environment that surrounds their video ad and prioritizes the placements, sizes, and creatives that drive the most viewer engagement.
Across websites and social media platforms, the user has the power to skip or scroll past video ads. When they decide to stop scrolling and watch one, they’re watching out of their own curiosity and with their full attention. As marketers, we want to make more viewers curious and then keep them engaged.
Paying for attention, and keeping it, starts with measurement
How can we use the data available to us to measure this stickiness of our videos and find those that drive the highest retention? The best place to start is with existing video creative, which can reveal insights on what is working well and guide future testing.
Based on the content in the video and the goals of your campaign, mark where the key information is served that you want viewers to see. Identifying these markers allows you to define what counts as a meaningful video view, set a goal average watch time, and establish a target view rate.
Then, factor in the length of the video into your view rate measurement. A shorter, skippable video may seem like it is garnering more attention because it will drive a higher view rate, but that doesn’t mean viewers are meaningfully engaged with your message. We’ve found that skippable in-stream videos between 13 and 15 seconds drove, on average, a 17% higher completed view rate than 30-second videos. However, 30-second videos averaged a 5 second longer watch time than their shorter counterparts, allowing more time for the brand to gain favorability with the viewer.
When measuring video performance, look to both view rate and watch time as they relate to your campaign goals.
What Keeps A Viewer Engaged?
Below are four components of top-performing video ads that we’ve found can more effectively capture the attention of the viewer, and keep them watching for longer.
1. Dig up the lead
Maximize the first five to ten seconds of video content, especially skippable or scrollable video, by leading with your brand and what you want the viewer to consider or to do.
Attention is fleeting, and clear branding and direction from the start will either hook the viewer or allow those who are not interested to move on. Research firm Visible Measures cites a window of ten seconds as a sweet spot for marketers to capture attention before a potential viewer clicks or scrolls away.
Unlike linear TV spots, digital video formats do not have guaranteed time to develop a narrative arc. Digital video must instead lead with the brand and product, and develop the story after. In our own testing, we found that videos that led with a brand’s product drove a 25% higher completion rate when compared to videos that led with a brand’s influencer and emphasized the product later on.
2. Build a structured and succinct narrative
A video that feels like an endless sales pitch, one that is long and rambling with no clearly stated goal, can lose the viewer before revealing its key point. Once you’ve hooked the viewer with a clear brand message, organize your narrative into a clear, digestible structure to set the stage for the story you will tell.
One of our most successful, attention-keeping videos was one that showcased products for every meal. It cycled through options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and drove the highest watch time of any 15 second or longer video. The narrative and production were simple, but the structure allowed viewers to anticipate that if they saw food options for breakfast, they were likely to see the same for lunch and dinner.
3. Address the viewer directly
Personal connection is key: Google research on the most successful video ads showed that brands who used video to strike an emotional chord with their viewers saw a 40% increase in brand consideration. For a testimonial video that touts the benefits of a product or service, addressing the viewer directly instead of speaking abstractly can be one way to facilitate a direct, personal connection with the viewer.
We found that testimonial videos with an otherwise similar story and structure saw watch time increase when the spokesperson encouraged the viewer to take an action. By telling a viewer to ask their doctor for help, you draw the viewer in, create a connection, and keep them engaged for longer.
4. Use text to your advantage
One value of video is its ability to deliver a complex and creative narrative to a targeted audience with a mix of visual and auditory content. Digital video, however, can be consumed in environments that may not guarantee sound-on viewing. The visual components will then need to deliver the full message, and this is where text overlay or closed captioning can improve retention.
An internal study conducted by Meta to measure the value of captioning videos, showed that video ads with closed captioning saw views increase by an average of 12%. In our own testing, we found that a mid-video text overlay drove a 35% higher retention rate for the same brand that ran two videos with similar content and style, one with the overlay and one without.
A successful video campaign starts with great creative, but knowing what makes for an attention-keeping video can be tricky to measure. View-level data from online video campaigns can help us measure performance and isolate the components that are working well. By knowing where to look and how to analyze the data, we can uncover the insight that creative has to offer and lean into our most engaging videos.
Kira Henson is Search Supervisor at GoodApple.
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