What You Want and What You Get In Digital Video Advertising

Lately, the analytics about digital video ad challenges and projections have become hot with both Casale Media and Break Media releasing their research on the subject.  Break Media just released their report based on the growth projections for video ads and video ad networks in general, while Casale Media released theirs a couple months ago from the planning angle and challenges as a whole.  Both completed their surveys in partnership with Advertiser Perceptions, but each end product was tailored to their standing as a publisher/network (Break) and Agency (Casale.)  ROI was also the intense concern discussed in both. What the findings pointed to was a disconnect between what video ads are most capable of and what is expected.  What you want and what you get in digital video advertising is not always clear.

Here’s the disconnect:  Advertisers responded in Casale’s report that the overwhelmingly most important function of digital video advertising is to increase or build awareness of brands, products/services and provide more detail about the same. They then responded in Break’s report that the highest measurements for video success were click-through rate, product sales and visits to the brand website.  Brand awareness was fourth – just above video completion.

So, before going into any specifics, the most important reasons for the video ads was the fourth-highest barometer of successful attributes.  Of course there’s going to be a challenge in measuring ROI or reaching the ROI milestones when you’re not even measuring the effectiveness based on the strength of video ads in the first place.

Courtesy of Casale Media

Some of those faults in logic – which lead to the confusion are:

  • Break’s report specifies that the overwhelming preference is for Pre-Roll placements – meaning that the video must be viewed in its entirety before the user can view the video they actually selected. If your key measurable is video completion, then this is good for you.  If you want a click-through, this placement doesn’t fit.  When was the last time you clicked out of something prior to getting to your chosen destination (video) due to an ad – no matter how good it is?  I can’t remember one occasion, personally.
  • There is no mention of run-time for those video ads.  The product and its goals would weigh heavily as a determining factor whether you go for a 15 or a 30.  Some networks won’t even let advertisers run 30s, so that pre-planning is crucial.
  • There is a discussion point related to success as driving sales with no mention of those markers or what the call to action might be.  With media providers increasing their technological options, the opportunity to test stronger calls to action or incentives differs this form of media from all others. If an exact correlation to driving sales is needed, those incentives are required – or the media mix needs to leave out other sales drivers so that you can judge your ROI.  The problem is that you might not end up with the strongest campaign possible.
  •  One of the challenges was the lack of consistent pricing model options other than CPM (Cost Per Thousands) and CPC (Cost Per Click) or even CPV (Cost Per View) across the board.  Of course, the one that advertisers wish they had the most was CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) while that was offered the least of the models presented.  I understand that CPA would be great because it would provide a direct correlation to sales, but if the overall thinking is that video ads are for brand awareness, this is off base.  And, even if you can get a publisher or network to serve your video on a CPA basis, it would effectively over-saturate the market with your ads to generate the revenue it would need – thus possibly making your brand or product a disliked one.

Video advertising has many other nuances, but it definitely cannot be considered in a vaccuum in most cases.  Break’s report focuses briefly on where the video ad dollars will be taken from and the best worthwhile number was 38% representing ad budget growth.  The highest number was actually 45% for online display, but that’s essentially irrelevant unless you’re relating it to mobile spending as video ad executions are not mutually excluded from traditional online display formats.

If video ads are best utilized as awareness generators – which I think they are in 9 cases out of 10 – they need to be thought about and planned for in the context of the rest of the media mix.  Its ROI should also be derived more similarly to existing media platforms like television, out-of-home and print (and social media to an extent) since they all play a part in bring the consumer to the purchase or product relationship.

I think much of the confusion and barriers to use (or justification of ROI) stem from the inherent knowledge that digital can physically enable users to interact in ways they can’t with other media, but doesn’t reflect human nature and whether users actually respond in those ways.  Take into account that we are still talking about linear video experiences that are placed in between content that people are navigating to and from.  Just like people watch television commercials in order to get to the other side to see their program continue, the same goes for people who are navigating the internet or their mobile devices. There might be some great content that will drive further engagement or make the video their actual destination (and, hopefully derive the click or transaction) but advertisers and their planners are setting themselves up for disappointment if they are relying entirely on videos and their limited measurements as the key to success.

These issues are not limited to digital video ads.  They are prevalent across the board in digital media and will be so until there is a paradigm shift in how we address ROI and its relation to all other forms of paid and earned media.  Until then, we will continue to respond to the exciting headlines about numbers and penetration with no real meat while some smart marketers build an atmosphere within their companies that takes all of the variables into account to provide what you want –  a measurable and meaningful ROI.


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