Sandeep Balani
Guest Article

Video blindness: the reality of skippable ads

Video advertising is now dominating the digital advertising market. According to the International Advertising Bureau (IAB), ad spends on digital video continue to accelerate. Marketers report an increase for digital video budgets by 25 per cent year-on-year. Digital video is expected to have the fastest growth, with CAGR of 37 per cent that will touch Rs. 5,545 crore by 2021. The reasons are obvious — in videos, stories and emotions can be communicated very well and user engagement is higher than in other advertising formats.

The dictation of distribution

The downside of the boom is that we are now flooded with videos across websites and platforms. Videos are constantly popping up on social networks, on video platforms or on publisher pages, or in the form of pre-rolls, forcing us to look at an advertising message before we can finally consume the content we have chosen.

Sandeep Balani
Sandeep Balani

This unrestricted projection of video content upon unsuspecting consumers has given rise to a phenomenon called 'Video Blindness’. Users ignore the video and the advertised brand. According to a recent study by Magna, users skip video ads on YouTube automatically when they have the option, without paying attention to the brand or the content. On an average, users in Germany skip an ad after just 2.3 seconds.

Many advertisers are heavily influenced by these metrics when designing their video ads. You can see the logo right at the start and the video comes to a climax within the first few seconds.

In addition, the same videos are simply scattered on different platforms in different formats. For example, TV spots are subtitled in the social feed, and videos several minutes long appear as a pre-roll with the hope that the user will not click on ‘Skip Ad’. But is this really the way a brand wants to present itself and how videos should be consumed?

Seen vs. visible videos

Brands are thus guided by distribution formats, without questioning if the distribution mechanism really benefits the user and the brand. It seems that the mistakes of banner advertising from the previous decade are now repeated in video advertising — visibility at any price — regardless of user experience.

But what does viewability in video advertising mean? Internationally, the IAB's 50/2 rule on video usually applies — 50 per cent of a video's pixel count must be visible in the user's visible area for at least two seconds. What makes sense in banners — (where rule 50/1 applies), as it is relatively easy to capture a banner message — is more than problematic in a 60-second video.

A video can thus achieve many thousands of ‘views’ without being really noticed by a significant target group. A division between real views, where users really focus on video, and visible ads is imperative to getting real metrics.

What can we do?

Some sensible adjustments can significantly increase the results and effectiveness of video campaigns.

Analyse KPIs accurately — KPIs should not be rigidly selected and analysed equally for all channels. A non-skippable pre-roll will inevitably result in a very high completion rate. For autoplay formats, if possible, a more sophisticated definition of a ‘view’ than 50/2 should be agreed upon.

Plan Additional Engagement — A very good measure of the effectiveness of a campaign is the engagement that comes after the video. A call-to-action, such as a link that leads to a landing page, for example, shows whether:

● The right audience has been reached,

● The videos were really viewed and not just visible,

● Pre-Rolls have really taken care of interest,

● The ROI of the measures is really true.

Choosing Proper Distribution Channels — The boom in video advertising has led to a wide range of providers. YouTube and Facebook may be the standards. Not to be underestimated are publishers who guarantee a secure and high-quality environment. They can be booked directly or via platforms.

Choose the appropriate formats — Pre-Rolls, Autoplay, Click-to-Watch, Stories or Streams: different formats are suitable for achieving different goals. Brands should first define the goals and then choose the right formats for their purposes.

Be careful when recycling — Reusing a TV spot on Facebook is certainly very easy, but often not very effective if the video is then played on smartphone screens without sound. These ads have to work well without sound. The videos must be adapted to channels and formats.

The focussed users

Brands should be very interested in reaching people who really care about their brand and products. They should be concerned with real views, not just visibility. Only then can they achieve real commitment and achieve business goals.

Video advertising has the chance to not suffer the same fate as display advertising, and to cure 'video blindness'. Providers such as marketers must finally remember the principles of good marketing — inspire users with exciting topics and emotional videos and not overwhelm them with videos on every single page they visit on the Internet.

The author is the head of Outbrain (India), a web advertising platform.