November 2, 2016 Last Updated 10:37 am

When it comes to video content, shorter is better

Guest column: Mark Yackanich, CEO of video advertising company Genesis Media, says creatives can cultivate a better user experience in shorter ads, as irrelevant, loud and long ads tend to frustrate readers

Thanks to technology and innovation, digital video advertising has become a medium that’s constantly evolving. Advertisers have been forced to adapt quickly to changing platforms and digital has become highly desirable and probably the most important channel to reach consumers.

However, digital advertising is maturing. The industry faces challenges with viewability and inventory availability; but targeting capabilities are stronger, buying and selling processes are increasingly streamlined, ad formats are evolving and, in turn, all of these elements are working together to produce more impactful impressions from video ads.

Now, the question is whether the most important part of the advertising campaign – the creative – is keeping pace with these ever-evolving practices. Although we are seeing brand campaigns steer away from standard 15 and 30 second ads, a format largely repurposed from television advertising, I think we should examine the “bigger is better” truism more closely.

A Changing Space

While brand campaigns explore longer native and branded content to add depth to their messaging, it is no secret that consumer attention spans are shrinking. According to Chartbeat, a web attention and monetization firm, “Fifty-five percent of web page views get less than 15 seconds of attention.” That gives brands 15 seconds or less to impact a viewer who is not likely to remain on the page.

If this dwindling attention was not enough, all screens, from desktops to tablets to smartphones, are competing viciously for time and engagement. According to eMarketer’s Q2 Digital Video Trends Report, “Viewers have come to expect a seamless experience across all screens—smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, consoles, smart TVs, set-top boxes and traditional TVs.” Any programming strategy or ad campaign that underserves any of these screens will underperform. It is time for the advertising industry to adapt to the inevitable changes in consumer attention.

In addition to addressing the multi-screen migration, brands seeking a legitimate connection with their ad viewers must accept that consumer attention spans are shortening. According to the 2015 Microsoft Attention Spans Research Report, the average human attention span in 2013 clocked in at eight seconds – in 2000, it was 12. Additionally, ad blocking rates are also rising (by 41 percent globally in 2015 according to PageFair) and consumers are increasingly difficult to reach. Brands are working with increasingly less attention, which begs the question; shouldn’t creative strategies evolve with these changes?

The Creative Solution

It is no surprise that advertisers have an inherent tendency to want to engage the consumer by providing longer pieces of content that deliver value – this is why branded content is growing.

However another solution may be to simply ask less of these consumers and provide them with shorter content. Instead of lengthening ads, why not shorten them to make more of an impact? When distributed sequentially, these tidbits of brand impact can tell a story to give more immediate value to brands seeking a higher viewability, attention and recall rate.

Shorter content will have all of the benefits of the best distribution technologies and targeting, yet will cost less, yield a higher completion rate and translate better cross-screen – what’s not to love?

Additionally, creatives can cultivate a better user experience in shorter ads. Irrelevant, loud and long ads tend to frustrate readers. By shortening the ads, it is less likely that viewers will utilize ad blocking software or have an overwhelmingly negative reaction.

YouTube will soon begin using a six second un-skippable ad format, called “Bumpers,” which was announced in May. These ads show a complete, six second advertisement before a video rather than giving the viewer a 15 second ad they will likely skip. As reported on The Next Web, “’In early tests, Bumpers drove strong lift in upper funnel metrics like recall, awareness and consideration,’ [YouTube] wrote in a blog post. These early testers include ads from companies like Audi Germany and Atlantic Records.”

emarketer-onlinevideoHow to Keep Up

Brands are learning that viewability is hanging around 50 percent, and they are not achieving effectiveness on half the impressions they are running. When they do run viewable placements, the completion rate on traditional lengths is very low (26 percent on average). This is illustrated in the below chart, reported in the eMarketer Q2 Digital Video Trends Report.

Some brands are optimizing on the shorter creative approach; in the past few years, Lowes has seen success with Vine videos showing DIY tips in six seconds.

Brands must continually adapt to their audience’s shifts in content consumption to remain relevant. We saw Yahoo! invest in long form content like TV shows and live streaming concerts, which ultimately was fairly short-lived. Though they continue to keep at it.

Creative advertisers must keep up with the evolving market and create shorter ads. Utilizing new technologies to develop these ads can help position the brand as an industry leader.

Moving Forward

my-genesis-300It may not be a popular stance to suggest that creative agencies harness new technology to build extremely short ad formats to appease the agitated consumer. Agencies are looking to tell stories, and they would rather have two minutes than five seconds to create something compelling. To justify these changes, creative needs to get closer to data. Data is the most complete way to inform what strategies should be taken, and when examined, it point towards length compression for greater efficiency. If creatives, media, and tech can all share insights within the ad space, it is possible to deliver the best experience for all sides – good for users, compelling to watch, and cost effective.

Mark Yackanich is CEO of Genesis Media, where he is focused on advancing the company through new stages of growth and building technologies that impact the way the online advertising industry operates. Prior to joining Genesis Media, Yackanich served as the CEO of MegaPhone Labs and before that was the vice president and head of corporate strategy for NBC’s Local Media Division. Mark holds a B.S from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

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