Digital Video Ad Metrics Must Change

TRESemme YouTube ad | Aulia Masna

TRESemme YouTube ad | Aulia Masna
TRESemme YouTube ad | Aulia Masna

Back in August I went on a short Twitter rant about how video advertising is being measured. Media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook count video viewership in seconds regardless of how long a video advertising may be. This is unfortunately a misleading practice and deprives advertisers of actual reach and impact of their ads.

The point of an ad is to not only draw people’s attention but to get the message across. Being able to reach the audience is an important aspect of placing advertisements but ultimately advertisers want ads to affect how people think, to persuade consumers towards their products in a positive manner.

Advertising placement, measurement, and interaction have changed with digital media. Placement has traditionally been about timing, reach, and, attention. On digital media, those aspects remain important but the way they are measured have become more detailed which affects the cost structure. Digital allows advertisers and platforms to introduce more interactive elements, measure audience reception with more precision, and receive feedback directly. It’s no longer just about buying a strategic or premium ad spot, platforms must also be more transparent about the numbers.

If a company produces a 30-second spot but is only seen for three to five seconds by the audience before being dismissed, then that’s a waste of resources in creating the remaining 25-27 seconds. While some say that ads should then be good enough to maintain attention beyond the first five seconds, sometimes, five seconds is all it takes. The compulsion and ability to skip ads today are far easier, making audience attention a far more valuable commodity.

American insurance company Geico went ahead and did just that earlier this year. Knowing full well that people tend to skip YouTube ads after five seconds, the company created a series of unskippable ads for YouTube that basically ended after five seconds. In other words, all of the company’s messages for YouTube viewers were delivered in those five seconds, leaving the remainder of the ad as dead air with nearly all the characters in the video trying to remain still, though not without a humorous payoff for the audience who decide to stick around.

Since YouTube’s preroll ads can only be skipped after five seconds, Geico’s strategy really paid off. Americans already know what Geico is so the company did not really need to do too much in the ad aside from delivering its message on the need for insurance. The ad series also elevated the brand internationally due to its innovative strategy which no doubt will be or may have already been imitated elsewhere.

However, not all advertisers can adopt Geico’s trick. Most of them will stick to the regular 30 second or 60 second spot, whether it’s on traditional broadcast or digital, which means that as far as digital goes, viewership numbers as reported by the media platforms will remain inaccurate for as long as they maintain their current measurement method.

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell the other day called for platforms to overhaul their viewers measurements exactly for this reason. “We believe the measurement problem needs to be changed”, he said in Germany at Dmexco, an annual digital marketing conference held in Cologne. “Three seconds—and 50 percent of video online not listened to with sound—is ludicrous, he said. “The standards have to change”.

Sorrell criticized how Facebook considers a video advertisement as viewed when it has only been seen for three seconds and half of them were watched without audio. Television ads he said, have a much higher standard of measurement and digital platforms can and should do better.