Giving Users Brand Choice Is Key To Video Ad Success On Short Form

Giving Users Brand Choice Is Key To Video Ad Success On Short Form

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The Pool, a unique research initiative made of people from Publicis Groupe, publishers and advertisers, aimed to identify optimal ad models across emerging media platforms recently put out some new research that says giving consumers the ability to select the ads they see is vital to the ad success on short form video.

VivaKi, founding member of The Pool, is part of Publicis Groupe the world’s third largest communications group, the world’s second largest media counsel and buying group, and a global leader in digital and healthcare communications.

Lane 1 vs. Lane 2 – Long form vs. Short Form Ads

The research which they call Lane 2 (as in the second they’ve done, the first being based on long form online video ads) talks about how best to utilize online video ads for short form video. They call the ad model ASq, aha now I remember where I’ve heard their names before, they’re the ones responsible for the choose-your-own-ad venture (haha! get the pun?!) on Microsoft, Hulu and Yahoo! which I wrote about back in August. CBS, AOL and Discovery were all set to start ASqing viewers which ad they wanted as well.

If you recall from my previous article, Hulu was working on that ad choice format and Vivaki was doing research for them on its usefulness. Well now it seems that the research is done (all 200 pages of it I might add but they could have cut out all the pretty pictures and it would be 100) and The Pool has dubbed it ‘good’ for short form as well as long form.

The ASq is similar to  Pre-Roll, with one major difference: the slate (as pictured). This is the billboard that appears in the video player before the content runs and asks the viewer to choose an ad. The viewer is given up to 15 seconds to choose. The chosen ad then runs pre-roll. If no choice is made, a default ad runs.

It seems that users are actually interested in choosing their own ads from this recent research for both long form and short form video now.

Lane 1 included6 brands (in their PDF there is a typo that has Nestle and Purina as the same brand…scary thought that)

  • Allstate
  • Applebee’s
  • BlackBerry
  • Capital One
  • Nestlé
  • Purina PetCare

It also included seven publishers

  • AOL
  • BBE
  • CBS Interactive
  • Discovery Communications
  • Hulu
  • Microsoft Advertising
  • Yahoo!

The Pool Lane 1 considered 29 different formats, tested 43 different executions, spent more than 8,000 hours with industry peers and spent more than 230,000 hours with more than 25 million consumers.

Best Long-form online video ad format – user choice

Lane 2, which tested ad formats for short-form online video content, found that users prefer to select the ads they see from a group of advertising options for pre-roll. So now it seems that no matter the content, it’s best to let the users choose which pre-roll they want to see. Is that any surprise?

Brands included in the Lane 2 research include

  • Bank of America
  • BlackBerry
  • Denny’s
  • Disney Pictures
  • General Mills
  • Kraft Foods
  • Mars
  • Procter & Gamble
  • U.S. Cellular
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Sites include the aforementioned AOL, CBS Interactive and Microsoft Advertising as well as BBE, Comcast Interactive, FoxNews, Tremor Media, Warner Bros. Digital Media, YouTube and YuMe. All told there were 13 brands (two are missing from the list), and 10 publishers (listed). I guess it’s possible some were doing double duty as both.

Best Short-form online video ad format – user choice

The Ins and Outs of Lane 2

It was some rather extensive research as the Pool Lane 2 considered 28 different formats, tested 48 different executions, spent over 13,000 hours with industry peers, and spent over 860,000 hours with more than 22 million consumers. Combined with Lane 1, this results in over 2 years of research, 57 formats considered, 91 executions tested, and over 21,000 hours spent working with this industry.

Click me for an actual readable version of 28 ad formats

Enabling user choice has obvious benefits for advertisers as they know their ads are being viewed by interested parties (something that we recently found might not be the case on some major video platforms), it gives the content publishers the added boost of looking like they care about their viewers or are at least forward-thinking enough to let them choose which ads they want to see. We all know that ads pay the bills for websites and that in many cases their a necessary facet of Internet life. Of course, in the case of Hulu you have to pay and still watch ads, just not more ads than they showed on the previously free service. How bunk is that?

Now they say they tested five ad formats:

  • ASq – Users given a choice from three brands for 15 seconds
  • Fusion – pre-roll and overlay on pre-roll
  • Rich Playlist – clickable overlay bug on screen and banner in video playlist. Animated
  • vChoice – Menu billlboard prior to content with interactivity and ‘watch an ad’ option (ha! who would click that?!)
  • Watch or post – To see content user must watch pre-roll or post message to social network (FB or Twitter)

Judging from the options I would have completely ruled out vChoice because given the choice of watching content or an ad, who would choose an ad? Pre-roll or cluttering up my wall with junk I don’t want? Hmmm, I have enough junk on my walls already I think. They then narrowed it through qualitative research to two. The qualitative research was based on four factors:

  • Relevance
  • Empowerment
  • Respectful of time
  • Leverages of Web

ASq and Rich Playlist made the final cut as the top two. Fusion scored high on all but relevance while vChoice did so on time and Watch or post on leveraging the web only. Most likeable was Rich Playlist with ASq in second, then pre-roll and Fusion close behind. Worst was watch or post and vChoice landed between them.

The 18 sessions had 108 consumers with 1/2 being each teens (15-17), young adults (18-34) and adults (35-54)

The participants were chosen from those that have broadband at home, use Internet daily, watch online video and watch short form video.

The Final Lap

That then narrowed the list to two as mentioned above. Overall they found that ASq enhanced recall, offers personal relevance, choice and is visually appealing as well as drove engagement and click through. Rich playlist only leveraged the web and gave user control.

Here’s a quick look at their overall findings:

The ASq offered consumers exposure, relevance and consideration though it was seen as somewhat distracting in short-form content. Its primary strengths were that it was less easy to ignore, offered greater personal relevance, resulted in higher purchase consideration and offered the ability to learn about products without spending a lot of time. On the downside, the ASq was seen as more TV-like, distracting and less subtle than other online ads.

The Rich Playlist offered a well-integrated and Internet-friendly format, but one that was easier to ignore and less relevant to consumers. Additionally, the Rich Playlist was least likely to generate consideration of the products advertised.

Thereis a lot of other data in the 207 page report and I think it would behoove you all, provided you’re here as an advertiser or a publisher in the online video realm, to go read it. I figure you’ve all got time enough to read through this lengthy article you’re probably interested enough to pore over their data and find something useful for your situation. Here’s the link to the Vivaki blog post. The complete findings from Lane 2 can be accessed via a 200 page book PDF or an iPad app available on iTunes (search for “VivaKi”). How’s that for fancy?

Interested advertisers and publishers can also go to to find out how to get involved. It’s a shame they aren’t interested in journalists, I would be more than interested in participating in their further research in regards to online video in one way or another.


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