Think Small: Smarter Video Practices for Smartphones

June 15, 2017

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A lot has changed since the first ad ran on a television screen. Last year happened to be the 75th anniversary of the TV commercial, which now represents a $70B market. Like we saw in the early days of mobile ads, in the beginning there was a skepticism toward TV commercials as well.

To put it into perspective, in 1951, radio was still the most important medium, representing a $210M business vs. a measly $12.3M for TV. It took time to figure advertising out for TV. Marketers were not keen on adopting shorter form TV commercials, instead opting for spots that were 90 seconds long. Soon, however, TV got it right, and the TV commercial became the dominant creative market asset, and in many ways, still is. But times are different now, and consumption habits are changing. And as I just alluded to, marketers have been trying to follow this shift intelligently.

It isn’t easy to translate a big idea onto a small screen, or understand how to take a traditional video asset, which averages 15 or 30 seconds in length, and convert it to the smartphone. I propose a re-think on this one, as smartphones are undoubtedly the center of our universe, with now almost 89% of people using their mobile device while they watch television. Time on TV as a singular activity is in fact dwindling, but not to worry, because the mobile screen presents a captivating opportunity to take advantage of, if adapted to suit the intuitive behavior of the consumer using that device.

Smartphones are not televisions. There, I said it. The same old video rules do not apply here.  If you consider for a moment platforms like Facebook, Google, Snapchat and Instagram, we know that short-form burst videos are the flavor du jour. But with faster navigation speeds and a dwindling attention span, completing videos is in no one’s interest. Consumers want you to dazzle them with a message, get to the point, and allow them to move on to something else. These top mobile platforms understand that VCR (video completion rate) is not how you measure the effectiveness of a video ad. Out of habit though, we continue to seek out TV ads on the Internet, because it is hard for us to think with renewed vigor. The tendency is to either force or incentivize views through shoddy UI gaming experiences, while ad exchanges everywhere are dangling video inventory around like it is the last item on a rack. But are traditional forms of ads on mobile the right forms?

Traditional pre-roll assets have driven the rise of ad-blocking because people don’t want to watch them. It seems so obvious that mobile ads can achieve more with less, and luckily, advertisers are finally starting to experiment. Google launched bumper ads this month which helps raise the question, is it time to re-think video for a mobile first world?

Kargo recently tested a variety of video ad formats in partnership with WPP-owned Kantar, exploring everything from more traditional video assets to shorter form solutions like in-article video. Let me caveat all this by saying that we understand that pre-roll has an advantage: it’s really easy to use those same traditional assets that were created for the rest of your media campaign. But on mobile screens, it just doesn’t translate. Our research revealed that 76% of people will skip pre-roll if given the opportunity and 15% of people will do something else while it plays if possible. Seeing a traditional ad = making a phone call. Imagine for a moment if we looked beyond VCR, and at top funnel metrics like recall, favorability and awareness. When a consumer likes an ad they see on mobile they can remember it fast. Fast like under three seconds fast. When the research looked at a small, but highly-viewable, video teaser anchored to the bottom of the screen vs. traditional assets, consumers were 76% more likely to remember the anchor ad. But that’s not all. Formats also affect favorability. In-article units in the study saw 27% greater brand favorability than pre-roll and people looked back an average of 4x after the initial onset of the ad. You may be asking yourself if you can still be creative with only a few seconds. The answer is yes. Take a canvas for example, an easy add on to a video ad that increases branding and overall makes for a more aesthetically pleasing user experience. Canvased units saw an 85% greater unaided recall, 19% greater brand favorability and 12% greater ad likeability in the video ad study.

When questioned about their perception of ad formats other than pre-roll, study respondents thought all were more innovative, memorable, modern and informative. I can’t help but wonder if VCR has become the new CTR (click through rate). All I can suggest, is that marketers think a bit more deeply and ask themselves some questions before implementing their next campaign strategy. Is VCR the right KPI to measure effectiveness?

The good news is, well-made ads don’t take long to work. Ads placed in editorial environments on mobile on average take under two seconds to be remembered and we saw three second assets outperforming traditional video units across all of the top funnel metrics I reference above. So if you remember anything remember this: Let’s not do to mobile what we did to TV. Let’s do it in a new way. Let’s do it the right way.

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