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Length of advertisement on digital platforms impacts viewership, says GroupM study

The ‘State of Video 2018’ study says viewers’ attention is scarce and expensive and so ads must make the point quickly

An advertisement’s length scale impacts its viewership, finds a new study by GroupM titled ‘State of Video 2018’. Ads can help harvest demand as well as create it. Viewers’ attention is scarce and increasingly expensive so ads must make their point quickly, with tangible benefit for the viewer.

The study also finds that advertisers and broadcasters are in fix between the traditional and modern digital formats. They can either force-fit digital video into linear mechanisms, systems and pricing structures, or modernise television to look more like digital — targeted, automated and optimised.

It says long works (16+ second ads) appreciably better than short (1-10 second ads) at the top of the funnel, generating more unaided awareness than both short form and non-video. Towards the bottom, a longer video can cement purchase intent better than shorter or non-video. A fully viewed ad does a better job of improving brand recall, perception and purchase intent; this should be no revelation, but in today’s market it is, and that is staggering.

GroupM data suggests that fewer than 20% of Facebook videos sustain viewing for three seconds. It is uncommon for feed users to watch all of a 30-second or even 15-second ad.

Ad loads are often regulated. Content quantity is not. Viewers self-regulate such breaks. Shorter ads could help lighten the load. Japan’s standard length has been 15 seconds for decades. The average in Europe is 22 seconds. In the USA, 61% of ads were 30 seconds in 2014, falling to 49% by the first half of 2017, while at the same time 15 seconds copy rose from 29% to 36% and 10 seconds from 2% to 5%. In June 2018, Nielsen published results from its “neurological ad compression” study of 80 US TV ad campaigns, finding 15 seconds spots can work as well or better than 30 seconds for certain messages and objectives.

It recommended, sticking to 30 seconds for new, complicated messages or when seeking high awareness; 15 seconds is recommended for simpler messages, familiar campaigns (e.g., already flighted six months), and generalised or top-up branding.

Fox experimented with YouTube-style six-second ads in the 2016 Teen Choice Awards and with nine six-second spots in an NFL game on Thanksgiving 2017. AMC has put six-second bumpers at the front of “The Walking Dead.” The digitisation of video seems likely to accelerate any trend toward brevity, both for the imperative to make an impression in as few as two seconds and to remain in proportion to shorter-form content.

A welcome trend is the growth of fit-for-purpose, made-for-platform creative ads. Around two-thirds of video ads are now platform-specific, as opposed to the versioned or truncated TV assets that have permeated too long. Any publisher making the case for brand-safe, viewed, sound-on and user- initiated video positions itself well for growth in digital area, but investment patterns suggest that message isn’t always landing with clients and planners alike. Perhaps scale conquers all.

The second annual ‘State of Video’ report by GroupM offers intelligence on consumer video consumption, advertising platforms and demand. Among a series of GroupM reports on the future of advertising, the new publication is co-authored by GroupM’s Futures Director, Adam Smith, and Senior Advisor, Rob Norman. It provides in-depth commentary on key trends concerning advertisers: declining linear TV viewing, new addressable television capabilities, competitive digital video platforms, measurement, cord cutting and more.

Linear TV Viewing Continues Declining

Globally in 2018, linear TV has shown no new signs of life; ratings continue to fall, even with mainstays like the National Football League (U.S.). Despite this, linear TV has sustained advertiser demand, implying the perception that linear TV is as effective and essential as ever, but for how long and in what balance relative to alternatives?

Measurement even more important

Measurement has always been essential to accountability, planning and optimization and in the more fragmented world, it’s even more so. Data is used in planning and buying, but is most prevalent in the former. The industry must solve for a measurement solution enabling better understanding of viewing patterns across all screens and channels. This is still a couple of years away even in the most advanced markets. BARB’s Project Dovetail in the U.K. may set the example, albeit with imperfect inclusion, and is expected to combine current TV panel and census data with data from mobile devices.

Addressable Television

Addressable TV is on the rise but far from ubiquitous. However, 2018’s megamergers may catalyze change. Several company combinations enable vertical integration between content and distribution, creating significant scale with homes served and content viewed. Should these merged companies succeed in making their owned inventory fully addressable on their platforms, it will help realize the long-promised future where TV is a more efficient, targeted and digital-like medium.

Digital Forces

Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and YouTube remain the top challengers to TV’s incumbent media owners. Among ad-supported players, YouTube leads with a staggering number of non-traditional premium content producers. YouTube’s scaled audiences have been embraced, to varying degrees, by major advertisers. Facebook and Amazon have become competitive acquirers of sports rights in tentative but telling steps this year. While the success of the newly launched Facebook Watch is unclear, Facebook’s future in video should not be underestimated.

“The ranks of television advertisers are swelling with new entrants, mostly direct-to-consumer businesses that have exhausted all the reach and awareness ‘performance’ media afford them. It’s reminiscent of the dot-com boom for television in the late 1990s; maybe it will end better this time,” said Norman. “One thing is for sure: linear television is still perceived to be as effective as ever, despite the absence of granular measurement.”

Click Here to view State of Video study

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