Fast forwarding your brand with online video

07 Jun 2012  |  Leonie Gates-Sumner 

Leonie Gates-Sumner, senior research manager, Media and Digital Practice, Millward Brown, says brands who have clear objectives for online video, taking into account content, context and delivery, and who do this as an integral part of their wider brand strategy, can make a real impact...

Media Playground Thought Leadership

The growth of online video is a current hot topic in the world of digital advertising, and there are numerous statistics demonstrating how both web users and brand marketers are embracing this highly engaging format.

YouTube is one of the biggest sites in the world right now, and in the UK online video site visits grew by over a third last year (Source: Experian Hitwise). Brands are increasingly reacting to this consumer trend by utilising online video sites and formats on their media plans.

There is every indication that this growth is only the start, and Kantar predict that by 2015 global online + mobile video ad spend will reach $10 Billion (USD). But what does online video actually offer as a marketing channel, and how can it best be used to build brands online?

Simply defined, online video is video content available on any device with an IP address - be this computer, mobile, tablet, games console or web-connected TV. Yet despite this array of platforms and the evidence of growth, in the wider world of digital advertising, online video still makes up a relatively small part of the whole, largely due to the cost premium placed on this type of content.

According to the IAB's 2011 Online Ad Spend report, video only accounts for 10% of online advertising spend in the UK, and within Dynamic Logic's MarketNorms database, only 13% of the 2,300 campaigns measured globally over the past three years have contained online video, compared to 48% for rich media and 49% for simple flash. Clearly there is a lot of scope remaining for future growth.

That said, the case for the brand impact of online video is strong, and goes some way to justifying the higher spend needed: MarketNorms shows a significant uplift across all brand measures for online video campaigns, and compared to standard online display formats online video delivers greater uplifts on the key persuasion measures of brand favourability and purchase intent (see Fig.1). Furthermore, the power of online video is clear when looking at results by frequency, with much greater impact seen at a single exposure than other online formats (see Fig.2).

So we know online video can help build brands, but why do some campaigns falter where others succeed? Competition for viewers' attention online is tough, and for consumers online video is fast becoming an expected part of their online experience. Just putting a video online is not a guarantee of success, the content of that video, along with how and where consumers view or interact with it are all important factors in harnessing the power of this highly impactful format.

Unsurprisingly the most important of these is creative strength. Consumers will only watch an online video ad if it offers something to them - whether that is useful, relevant content, or pure entertainment - if it doesn't hold their interest it's easy for them to just browse away. The introduction of YouTube TrueView further highlights the importance of a strong creative, as publishers start to hand control over what advertising they watch to consumers.

For many brands their online video efforts are focused on 'going viral', yet very few campaigns truly achieve this. Millward Brown looked across a range of online video campaigns and identified four elements which were present in popular viral videos, giving us the acronym LEGS: Laugh out loud funny, Edgy, Gripping and Sexy.

We have also seen that ads that are particularly enjoyable, involving, distinctive or those which feature a popular celebrity are especially likely to go viral. However, brands should take care that the quest for viral fame doesn't overshadow their brand personality - it's no use having a brilliant online video if no-one realises who or what it is advertising, so branding must remain an intrinsic part of the creative throughout.

How you deliver this content to web users is also key. As advertisers there are a range of online video formats to choose from, and it's important to consider how users will view these.

For in-stream videos such as pre- and mid-rolls, how these are bought can have a huge impact on how they are received. Our data shows that in-stream advertising has the greatest impact on awareness metrics, delivering ads to a highly engaged, captive audience. But think about how users consume VOD, often watching several episodes in a row - how many of us have been driven to distraction by the same ad shown over and over again when catching up with a favourite TV show online?

Irritating consumers by bombarding them with the same ad is a sure-fire way to drive down favourability and purchase intent, so think about frequency capping, or make the most of the cookie to deliver different creative messages each time.

In-banner advertising, where videos are delivered through traditional display formats, presents different challenges. Here the key to success is in grabbing attention, whilst not interfering too much with a visitor's browsing experience. In-banner video can be auto-play or click-to-play, the former can be more attention grabbing but causes more disturbance, while the viewer control allowed by click to play tends to maximise viewing time.

A happy medium between the two can be use of a 'teaser' clip, to grab attention without too much intrusion, giving site visitors the opportunity to watch the video when they're ready.

Context is also a vital part of any successful online video plan. What people are viewing online when they are exposed to advertising has a significant impact on how likely they are to engage with and respond favourably to that ad. Placing videos on relevant sites and around relevant types of content will help to maximise views and minimise irritation.

In context eyetracking case studies have shown us that contrasting colours between ad and website content can attract attention more quickly, but we have also seen that synergistic advertising content can retain attention longer.

Seeded video is one way of making the most of these contextual benefits but consumers' expectations around such content are exceptionally high, so remember that the more obvious an 'ad' it is, the less likely users are to respond positively and share it.

Some view online video as an extension of TV, and it is true that the two share many similarities, delivering engaging AV content to consumers. But using TV ads online is not as straightforward as it may seem, and just putting your TV ad online may not deliver the results you expect.

Our data shows that both re-purposed TV and made-for-web video ads can be equally successful in driving brand metrics, but that brand position and placement are important factors.

For high awareness brands, made-for-web videos that offer something different to TV seem to have more impact on awareness and persuasion, whereas for new or low awareness brands, re-purposed TV shows more impact, perhaps benefiting more from synergies with offline media.

In addition, on video sites where users' expectations are high, using a re-purposed TV ad can actually have a negative impact on persuasion. Either way, making the most of the online environment is key, so think about including a relevant online call to action, and offer interaction as a way to communicate additional messaging.

A question we have been hearing more and more recently is whether online video can replace TV on a media plan. This is a subject that will be re-visited many times as online video continues to grow and develop in line with technological advances in the digital space.

As things currently stand, however, we do not see online video as a replacement for TV as it quite simply does not have the reach. Based on multimedia campaign research from Millward Brown, the average reach for online video campaigns is 13%, compared to 75%+ for TV.

There is some way to go before we can even start to consider it as an adequate substitution for TV. That said, online video has already established itself as a valuable addition to the media plan.

Although it is early days in terms of evaluating the impact of online video as part of a wider media mix, Millward Brown studies so far show online video delivering additional brand impact to TV, and doing so very efficiently.

The ability to accurately target online video to the relevant audience allows it to work harder at driving brand equity and further improves the impact of this highly engaging format.

Another string to the online video bow is who you can reach with this type of activity: in a study conducted by Millward Brown and WebTV the hypothesis that online video helps brands connect with harder to reach, lighter TV viewers was tested and proven, with online video adding an additional frequency of exposure to those elusive light viewers.

This offers huge cost-saving potential for brands, giving the opportunity to increase frequency among these consumers without incurring the astronomical wastage among heavy TV viewers which has previously been unavoidable.

With consumer enthusiasm for online video content showing no signs of abating, and the boundaries between online and offline becoming increasingly blurred through the growth of things like VOD and web-connected TVs, there is a growing need for brands to really embrace online video as an ad format.

Millward Brown have clear evidence demonstrating the power of online video, and we firmly believe that those brands who have clear objectives for online video, taking into account content, context and delivery, and who do this as an integral part of their wider brand strategy, can successfully harness this power and ultimately have a real impact on the success of their brand.

Vincent Blaney, account research director at Millward Brown, will be on the Social Media panel at next week's Media Playground 2012 event. To see the full line up and get your ticket, click here.

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