Many Believe Short Video Ad Durations Are the Only Options — Not So Fast

On the surface, one might surmise that the video viewing experience has deteriorated for viewers, because it’s gotten, well – smaller. The visual experience on a mobile device is different than on a 60-inch television, of course, but audiences are just as engaged in the content on smaller screens, and that bodes well for advertising as well. We went from 60-second TV ads to 30 seconds, and now the norm on desktop and mobile devices is a 15-second message. We’ve now seen even shorter video advertising emerging in the digital world. The logic is that the smaller the device, the shorter the ad should be. Unfortunately, this ad abbreviation might be considered a devolution, one that keeps us from doing our best creative work. Regardless of whether or not a crafty creative agency can tell a story in the time it takes to read and retweet a tweet, consumer engagement should determine the right ad duration, not screen size.

The ad duration should not be determined or prescribed by the device but rather the context and how our brand’s content is likely to be received. It’s more about rendering a video ad experience that does not feel like an ad and taking the time in these connected, more personal formats, to bring across our brand’s point of view with humor, intelligence, and fun. One way of knowing if there is a fair value exchange between a viewer and advertiser is looking at ad completion rates. We’ve seen very little difference between completion rates of 15-second ads and 30-second ads when they are placed in engaging long-form programming. Think about that: you can run one ad or another ad that is twice as long and get virtually the same result. Both completion rates average more than 80 percent by the way.

Another approach is a series of ads that draw in the viewer. I had a chance to weigh in recently on some work that seemed to keep this approach in mind. If you look at the Smirnoff “The Party” campaign, it’s clear that the brand had faith in a fun, character-based approach that would connect with today’s active consumer. They believed they had a consumer who is open to accessing their content in different ways, and so they played with that. The spots were concise and helped consumers reimagine a brand most had known for years. Leveraging a short chapter-based or sequenced format gave the viewer a chance to engage on their own in parts or all at once with one singularly engaging video ad rendition. By enabling both options – the sequential or the singular execution – the brand created a learning opportunity for itself as well, an opportunity to learn how consumers are engaging at their fingertips with the Smirnoff brand.

While the industry is rife with stats that show shrinking attention spans of consumers and a potentially low tolerance for all sorts of ad formats, none of these take into account the creative renaissance that we are experiencing around new available formats and video execution options in general. And, they don’t really deal with the reality of cross-device viewership and consumerism. We are not only entering but now living and working inside the golden age of branded content creation and video storytelling. It’s here. The infrastructure and enabling video ad technologies now in market finally, absolutely support new levels of engagement by video storytelling across platforms.

I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at ad duration engagement comparisons, device by device and sharing what we discover. More on that in a future column…

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