Reinventing Video Advertising for the Age of Attention

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Digital advertising is at a crossroads. We’ve come this far based on the enthusiasm of advertisers for following online audiences as they explore and engage, but there has been an elephant in the room for the past few years.

We know that very few (sub 1%) of ads actually get clicked on but still, some persist in measuring the success of a campaign using click-through rate (CTR). And we’ve all been expending a lot of energy making sure that the viewability of ads is as good as it can be – but what happens if an ad is in-view but is ignored because it is irrelevant to the context it is served within?

Thankfully though, we are in the midst of change. Progressive advertisers and agencies are moving the debate along to consider how we can capture and measure the real attention of viewers in an era of online advertising overload.

Not only does this mean getting beyond the out-dated assumption that an ad has to be clicked on for it to have any value, but it also means acknowledging that irritating an audience by disrupting the natural flow of their viewing/reading is never likely to endear them to your brand. We need to be working with this flow, not trying to pull against it.

Are you really there?

Media players including Dentsu Aegis have been spearheading the creation of what has become known as The Attention Economy. This would define exactly what the benchmarks of online media value are in terms of how we define consumer attention that translates into commercial success. One of their initial ideas is to challenge the view that all ‘impressions’ – i.e. opportunities to see an ad – are equal in terms of their impact.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in the video advertising sector. This is a market that was built on the idea that viewers would be willing to wait a while for the content they want to see and view pre-roll commercial content first – a classic disruption to the direction of their attention.

But there has been a rising realisation over the past few years that viewers who are watching impatiently while waiting for the skip button to appear are not likely to be paying effective attention to an advertiser’s message.

In fact, they are more likely to be switching the kettle on, looking out of the window or finding another way to fill the time until they can access what they wanted. In this context, Opportunity To See (OTS) is likely to remain just that – an unrealised opportunity.

Earlier this year we conducted some research with Digiday into all aspects of video advertising and discovered that nearly half of all advertisers cite this kind of consumer low engagement as their top concern about the medium. It’s high time for some new thinking on this issue.

This is not to say that the premise of pre, mid or post-roll ads is defunct. But our experience has shown us that it is necessary to employ some creativity in order to ensure that viewers will engage with, rather than simply tolerate, a commercial message.

Researching better formats

Our research also informed us that 87% of advertisers believe that formats are an influence on viewer engagement and that consumer demand for non-interruptive ad experiences is likely to have the largest impact on future video ad strategy. So we’ve been researching how we can take contextualisation techniques a step further to create a less intrusive and better way to deliver branded messaging within video content.

The result is our in-video ad format. This is a small overlay ad unit that appears as an animation along the bottom of a piece of video content for six seconds. Not only is the ad contextually relevant to the video itself, but it also allows the viewer to continue watching their chosen video while giving the branded message enough attention to make it commercially successful. We’re not preventing the viewer from getting to their content, but we are sliding alongside that viewing with something carefully designed to work with their interest.

According to our research, this approach is much more aligned with what online users want from video advertising. A survey we conducted found almost 63% of respondents said they preferred in-video over pre-roll because the content wasn’t interrupted. In pilot testing, we have also found the average brand uplift of in-video is 27% when compared to other content overlay offerings.

This is what we regard as the future for video advertising; combining media creativity with contextualisation in order to score a much more effective slice of consumer attention. At the moment, these innovations are at an exploratory phase – fast forward a few years and we believe they will become the norm.


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