In our current noisy, cluttered online environment, how should advertisers approach the delicate balance of making content worth viewers’ time without losing sight of their brand or advertising goals?
A recent joint study by Ace Metrix and Twitter, which will be presented today at the IAB MIXX conference during Advertising Week, analyzed the completion performance of nearly 170 video ads airing on Twitter and surveyed respondents about the ads’ creative effectiveness. The study determined the types of content that drove the highest completion rates and ad recall.
What makes video ads with strong completion rates different from those with early and significant drop-off? The most notable quantitative difference found by Ace Metrix was the “personality” of the ads. Successful ads took a breakthrough and entertainment-oriented approach, while bottom performers were communication-focused. Specifically, ads with strong completion were 50 percent more likely to be qualified as “Attention Grabbing” and 75 percent more “Likeable” than those video ads with low completion.
This finding implies that the best way to avoid ad avoidance is to seamlessly fit into the surrounding environment. Advertisers need to learn how to speak the language of the medium in which they are airing. Unlike TV, Twitter (and social media in general) allows consumers the utmost control. Because they are in control of their experience, they can stop what they’re doing to check something out further—and, conversely, keep on moving if an ad or content doesn’t get their attention. So, grabbing their attention at the get-go is key, and creating content that people want to watch—content with entertainment value— is critical. For Twitter, where sharing, socializing, and learning come together, it means brands need to entertain viewers to retain their attention.
This insight naturally raises the question how should brands go about entertaining viewers? In the study, the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of video ads were coded for nearly 30 unique ad characteristics to determine recommendations and best practices for driving strong completion of ads on Twitter. Advertisers should consider the following takeaways:
Entertain to retain viewers. Hook viewers early on.
The videos that had lower completion rates had a slow rise to action and a communication-focused approach. Not only did this approach make the ads audio-dependent—a risky gamble in the world of auto play—but the product-benefit narration or testimonial/interview style of the majority of bottom ads did not capture interest and make viewers skimming their feed want to stop and watch.
Conversely, successful videos included a hook early on, (81 percent of top ads featured a hook within the first 10 seconds) which gave viewers an impetus and curiosity to want to keep watching. This hook was a result of noteworthy visuals or concepts (most notable among ads of <20s), a sequential resolution, and/or the inclusion of a well-known celebrity (common among ads of 30s+).
If you got it, flaunt it…celebrities that is.
The use of celebrities in advertising has been a ploy for decades, but oftentimes the cost/reward is debated. Ace Metrix believes that the effectiveness and impact of the celebrity depends on the medium. The study found that 45 percent of top performing Twitter ads incorporated celebrities, and more than half of these celebrities were professional athletes. However, a 2014 study by Ace Metrix found that—on TV—even top-performing celebrities yield less than two percent impact on creative effectiveness for ads. Why the difference by medium? Simple. Within a social environment, celebrities play an even more valuable role in capturing interest and getting viewers to stop and watch.
For example, a Foot Locker ad featuring Stephen Curry taking on his father (Papa Bear) during 3-point training was successful at retaining the bulk of its viewers despite its longer length (90 seconds). The ad’s humorous and captivating competition between celebrity father and son hooked viewers and made them keep on watching. Twitter presents a unique opportunity for brands to leverage fandom through followers of specific teams, athletes, celebrities, music stars, and so on.
Connect with viewers through how-to tutorials.
Another effective approach is the use of relevant and useful how-to tutorials, which our study found were featured in a quarter of top Twitter ads. For example, American Express broke out of the limits of its category and created videos to help consumers with daily, mundane challenges, such as how to hard boil eggs, which Twitter viewers loved and watched to the end. Pushing outside the boundary of traditional product-focused communication is a way to build stronger relationships with viewers and change the perception of your brand.
Don’t forget about your brand.
When creating an ad for Twitter, it’s important to not lose sight of your branding objective. We’ve seen too many great ads that viewers love and watch to completion, but then can’t remember who the sponsor was. So, make sure your brand or product is appropriately incorporated throughout the ad. Don’t wait until the last few seconds to include your brand. As noted in the study, more than 50 percent of audiences drop off within the first quarter of a video.
Unlike many successful TV ads, a product benefit and communication-focused approach doesn’t work well in capturing and retaining viewer attention on Twitter. (Think testimonial, interview style, or a long list of product-benefits.) This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t meaningfully incorporate your brand into an entertaining story. Over half of top Twitter ads incorporated their brand throughout the ad and some were even able to keep their brand or product the star of the commercial.
One example of this was a Lenovo ad “Project A Little Love,” which tells a heart-warming, emotive story about a couple and their love for their dog. The ad is clever in its incorporation of the Lenovo projection tablet, resulting in strong brand recognition without compromising entertainment.
Some categories are unique in that their products are the entertainment. Automotive is one of those categories. Let’s face it—unlike a t-shirt or a vacuum cleaner, many cars have a personality, celebrity, or cool factor of their own. Two such ads—one from Jeep, “Making Hells Gate Looks Easy,” and Jaguar’s Super Bowl ad “Rendezvous,” captured and retained attention through cool, double-take visuals of the car and a stunt.
Repurpose your TV ad, but choose wisely.
Is it okay to repurpose a TV ad instead of going back to the drawing board? According to the study, the answer is yes, but advertisers must choose wisely. Of the repurposed TV ads measured, a little more than half were considered top performers, and successfully retained their viewers throughout the video. The TV ads that successfully retained viewers followed the best practices of “entertainment as king.” Bottom performing TV ads, which lost more than 75 percent of their audience within the first quarter of the video on Twitter, took on a traditional, product and communication-focused approach.
In short, advertisers should certainly consider repurposing TV ads, but they need to be smart about the choice they make and how their ads would seamlessly fit into the social and entertaining context of Twitter.
 The joint study by Ace Metrix and Twitter analyzed the completion performance of 167 video ads airing on Twitter and surveyed respondents about their creative effectiveness. Ads were chosen from 6 verticals: Auto, CPG, Financial Service, Tech, Telco, and Retail. Creative effectiveness questions were surveyed for all 167 video ads, among n=500 per ad. Respondents were required to watch the entire video before responding to ad questions. Ads were coded for nearly 30 unique ad characteristics by two highly experienced research leads from Ace Metrix. List of ad characteristics was derived from unique elements present in Twitter ad set & past expertise.
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