A Guy's-Eye-View of Online Video
Behavioral Insider: What prompted the study Break just did of how young men use online video?
Keith Richman: What we wanted to do was dig more deeply into an understanding of what online visitors in the 18- to 34-year-old male demographic actually look to online video for, the perspectives that underlie their video usage.
BI: What were the key surprises, or findings that cut against the grain of expectations?
Richman: The two biggest things we took away were that prevailing assumptions about this demographic were wrong. The first is the assumption that's strongly held that younger males don't like advertising. In fact, if ads are engaging and entertaining, they have no problem with ads. The numbers are quite surprising. 63% don't mind site takeovers, for instance, which are among the most intrusive of ads. 58% don't mind five-second pre-rolls, and over a third actually said they enjoy advertisements in general.
These data points, counterintuitive though they may be, reinforce the behavior we're actually seeing -- which is that video ads continue to attain high click-through.
The other thing which is surprising is the degree and intensity with which this demographic views online video in their media diet. We knew it was important but the extent of just how much more important Internet video was [than] TV was surprising. 69% said that they can't live without Net video, describing it as much more critical than TV. Nearly half reported spending over 20 hours a week with online video.
BI: What are the key takeaways for media planners?
Richman: This is dramatic evidence that advertisers who are targeting males 18 to 34 absolutely can't afford not to be heavily focused on online video. But at the same time there's still a disconnect that all of us in online video need to acknowledge, which is that TV is still infinitely easier to buy. So the challenge is to figure out ways of replicating the ability to reach 3 million 18- to 34-year-olds online, while offering greater efficiency in the form of being able to target frequency at fans of certain kinds of content and demonstrated interest, for instance sci-fi content or music videos.
BI: Yet, although brand advertisers have moved more seriously into online video, the migration remains tentative. Why is that?
Richman: Online video will never be able to provide the reach of a Super Bowl, but it can reach a few million very engaged consumers with shared interests and a consistent message. What's obviously different is that there's rarely one particular endemic site where all of these viewers will be located all at once. Online viewing is widely distributed, so aggregating audiences in a concentrated manner by behavior and interest entails identifying patterns of engaging video content by a combination of content categories, formats, and time engaged.
There are two challenges with this. First, identifying particular kinds of content viewers download and view. Second, developing standardized systems to create and distribute high-impact ads across many publishing properties.
Segmentation is a work in progress in video. Though both these areas are still in their early stages in terms of true granularity, we have detailed data about broader category interests and levels of intensity and engagement, whether you're talking about screen junkies, action aficionados or sci-fi fanatics. Since our content targeting derives from the recommendation engines we've long used to get the most relevant content possible in front of members, we can use the same principles of relevancy to target ads. But correlating viewing behavior and specific shopping needs is less developed. Someone can be watching a lot of car videos, but it doesn't mean you can determine from that they're in-market for a car. However video viewing can give brands powerful visibility into psychographic attributes.
BI: How might your recent findings set the agenda for the next iterations of targeting and creative innovation in video?
Richman: What we've found is that the male 18 to 34 demographic favors either very brief succinct ads, 5 seconds ideally, or pervasive messaging like site takeovers. Another important component of engaging this demographic is giving them a strong opportunity for interaction through things like games or contests.
Going forward, an area that's going to prompt a lot of research is cross-channel promotion. We know from this study that video ads influence purchase behavior, but, surprisingly, fewer buy online than you might expect. In fact 47% of the visitor's studied made a purchase at an offline retail outlet after seeing an ad online. Another area we'll be looking at is how to serve creative strategically based on what we've learned about male behavior online. For instance we now know that pre-rolls are better for driving traffic -- but if you want to build brand awareness you're more likely to do so using overlays.