We’re back with Part 2 of our look at eMarketer’s exhaustive study, “7 Trends For Video Advertising Engagement.” In Part 1, we looked at the recent changes in how advertisers measure engagement as well as some of the reasons for those shifts, such as an increase in variety of choices for audience members. Today we’re going to dive further into the report to look at how ad targeting impacts engagement and how longer ads can improve it.

We did most of the introduction stuff last time, so let’s just dive right back into the trends and forge ahead, shall we?

Trend 3: Ad Targeting Influences Engagement

Traditionally, online advertising has been dominated by ad networks. The brands go to these ad networks because they typically have tremendous reach–they can get your ad in front of the most eyeballs, which historically is a good thing for advertisers.

But these days we’re seeing targeting move into a more prominent spot on the list of advertisers’ goals, even jumping ahead of reach. They’re not choosing the ad network solely on reach alone anymore. Check it out:

Even when brands eschew ad networks in favor of buying ads on specific websites, they’re still favoring that site’s targeting ability over its pure reach:

Of course, like most everything else in the world of online video, “targeting” can mean a lot of different things, depending on who you ask. Are we targeting by where people live? Or by gender and age? Perhaps we’re targeting by behavior?

Never fear, though, as eMarketer has data to help us understand the most popular methods of online video ad targeting:

Brands need to choose not only the right network or site, but the right form of targeting in order for their ad to stimulate engagement. Targeting counts as much–or more–than even having a great ad:

“Imagine a superb ad for a women’s hair care product shown on Break.com, a site that targets males 18 to 34. They’re likely going to watch it, because of the beautiful women in the ad. They’re possibly going to remember the product, too—but the video is not going to get any real engagement because it was targeted incorrectly.”

eMarketer’s ultimate conclusion may frustrate you if you’re the type that looks for easy answers, because they say there aren’t any. It’s obvious that targeting can impact engagement in positive ways or negative ways–there’s a clear relationship between the two.

Online video ad engagement is a very inexact science, in part because of how inexact and subjective ad targeting is. The general conclusion seems to be that online video–and targeting, and engagement–is just still so new that it’s impossible to have it all figured out yet. Brands will get better at targeting as ad networks get better at targeting, which will boost engagement across the board.

Trend 4: Longer Ads Can Extend Engagement

If “time spent watching an ad” is a good indicator of engagement, why don’t brands just create a bunch of super long ads, which should boost the “time spent watching” stat and, therefore, audience engagement?

The answer is that longer doesn’t translate directly to engagement. Infomercials on television are long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have higher engagement rates than standard ads.

eMarketer encourages advertisers to use longer video only after they have identified the proper context and ad content. The first suggestion is to match the ad length with the content length most associated with that location (put simply: don’t put 15 minute ads on a site that specializes in 10-second videos). So then the starting point is to examine the most popular types of video, along with their relative length:

Longer ads are a double-edged sword. They improve engagement numbers in the areas of exposure and “time spent watching,” but they actually hinder engagement numbers related to things like audience involvement or “finishing the ad.” eMarketer quotes a recent YuMe report that showed longer pre-roll ads lowered completion rates significantly.

This pushes brands away from pre-roll and other traditional video ad formats whenever considering a long ad, which is why we see so many more advertisers making branded video (viral video, branded sponsorship of long-form video, etc.).

In fact, branded custom content is the number one area of interest for media executives looking to market their company online:

Longer online video ads can come in any variety, obviously. But placing those longer ads in the more traditional places–like pre-roll, post-roll, or in-stream banner ads–is a bad idea. It doesn’t lead to audience engagement and might even develop animosity on the part of the viewer. However, longer ads in the areas of branded content–viral videos and video product placement–have proven to boost awareness.


If brands have any hope of better understanding their audience, and understanding how the audience views their company, then they’re going to have to get better at targeting. Targeting shows signs of being a very effective tool for increasing engagement, but only when applied correctly. Poor targeting can sink a campaign just as excellent targeting and make it a success. Similarly, longer video shows signs of increasing engagement, but not across the board, and only with specific varieties of online video ads.

Join us for our third and final installment of this series, Part 3, which will be coming in the next day or so. We’ll take a look at the final three trends eMarketer has pointed out, and wrap it all up with some simplified takeaways.

You can get a full copy of the report here @$695 from eMarketer – and it’s well worth it.