How effective is 360 video really?

Can 360 video advertisements drive more engagements than regular video ads? Google partnered with Columbia Sportswear to find out and discovered it's not always the case.

Can 360 video advertisements drive more engagements than regular video ads? Google partnered with Columbia Sportswear and discovered it depends on what is being measured.

Google and Columbia Sportswear developed two different (but similar) video ad campaigns to find out what types of formats drove the most viewer engagements.

The two 60-second video campaigns showed two U.S. Olympic skiers on the slopes in Chile. Both videos were developed using TrueView. One was shot and presented in 360 video, while the other was created in a standard format. Extended versions were also created for both ads.


Different content was created for the different mediums but the narrative remained the same – two skiers training and learning from each other against a beautiful snowy backdrop.

The standard version of the ad for example, used wide-angle shots of the runs and the landscape, while the 360 version placed the viewer within the terrain, as if they were skiing alongside the two main characters.

Here is the regular ad.

And here is the 360 version:

Both ads included call-to-actions (CTA) in the lower-left corners of the screens, driving viewers to an extended version.

Google_Columbia Sportswear_CTA_600


The CTAs allowed Google to compare viewer engagements across both ads, and looked at typical metrics, including view-through rates and viewer retention.

For the 360 ad, a new engagement metric – the interaction rate – was used to measure whether viewers engaged with the functionality of the 360 videos by dragging the viewfinder on a desktop screen or tilting a mobile phone.

Google_Columbia Sportswear_Viewfinder engagement_600

Both 60-second ads and the full-length versions, remained unlisted throughout the experiment. Therefore the ads could initially only be viewed via in-stream ad campaigns or peer-to-peer sharing.


The results have been published in a Think With Google blog by Jim Habig, product marketing manager, YouTube.

Here are the findings:

1. Traditional view through rates

The 360 in-stream ad underperformed on standard view-through rates across desktop and mobile, says Habig. “This led us to conclude that viewers aren’t always in the mood to interact with 360 video if they’re primarily watching standard video,” he says.

2. Interaction rates

However, 360 video did motivate viewers to watch and interact more with the content. For example, while the 60-second 360 video ad had a lower retention rate than the standard ad, it had a higher click-through rate when compared to the full-length version of the video.

“As a promo for the longer video, the 360 version of the ad worked extremely well. Viewers didn’t even need to watch the full cut to know they wanted more,” Habig adds.

This means the 360 ad drove engagement via interactions, even if people didn’t watch 30 seconds or more of the video.

3. Earned media

Columbia Sportswear’s 360 ad over performed on all earned action metrics, including views, shares, and subscribes, compared to the standard ad. The 360 ad drove 41% more earned actions than the standard one. It also drove more engagement with Columbia’s YouTube channel than the standard ad.

4. People like sharing 360 video

Because all the ads (60-second versions and full-length) remained unlisted during the experiment, the only way a viewer could get to a longer piece was to click through from the ads. The team therefore expected to find that the number of views for the longer 360 piece would match the number of clicks for the 360 shorter ad. However, they didn’t.

It suggests that people who saw the longer 360 piece were copying the URL and sharing it directly with their friends. Messaging apps including WhatsApp and iOS messenger were listed among the traffic sources for the 360 version – but not for the standard version.

The full-length 360-video had a 46% higher view count at the end of the experiment than the standard full-length piece.


The report concludes that 360 video has the potential to drive engagement in new ways.

“The technology encourages viewers to get in on the action by controlling their perspective with a simple tilt of a smartphone or nudge of a mouse. That’s great news for brands, as the novelty of that viewing experience not only makes people want to watch 360 videos, it also makes them want to share,” says Habig.

“As the technology continues to develop and more brands experiment with the format, its value will likely become stronger for viewers and brands alike,” he says.

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