Gasp?! A Good Looking Video Ad Gets More Engagement, A PointRoll Study Shows

If you see a good looking car with clean, crisp lines, do you think you’d be inclined to like it more than a plain-looking car?

Me, too.

So I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn that Point Roll conducted tests to discover if high-resolution online ads registered more favorably with viewers than low-resolution ads.

Spoiler alert! They did.  Well, knock me over with a feather. 

Todd Pasternack, the vice president of digital innovation and product strategy at PointRoll, acknowledges that the results of this test did not knock his socks off, except that it gave some statistical underpinning to a somewhat obvious but apparently untested supposition.

And there were some surprises, too.

This was a little, itty-bitty test for which PointRoll seems to be making no oversized claims.  PlayCollective hooked up just 19 people between the ages of 25-40, and they only saw four ads—for Walmart and Lowe’s and “Dr. Oz” and the Bravo network.  (The test results separate computers from tablets, and smartphones weren't included.)

“The biometric results demonstrate conclusively that higher video resolution significantly increases engagement with digital advertising," PlayCollective’s CEO J. Alison Bryant says.

It’s of no small interest to PointRoll, which Pasternack says tries to take care to encode the media it delivers, so its quality is top notch. 

The test was based in part on Pasternack “seeing a lot of video that was of real crappy quality and being surprised by it and wondering if that made any difference.”  This test says it does.

Advertisers and agencies, he thinks, may take it for granted.

Onto the study. PointRoll measured heart rate to measure attention, skin conductance to check arousal and facial gestures—frowns and smiles and such--to note emotional response.

One thing I learned right away is that, as an indicator of attention, the heart rate goes down, not up.  (Great cocktail chatter!)

And the PointRoll charts show emphatically that heart rates stayed much higher through low-resolution ads than high-res ads, particularly at the start and the end. If attention somewhat equals engagement, high-res wins.

Especially on a tablet, hi-res ads garner much more attention.

As for arousal, though, low-res ads would seem to have done much better than high-res ones on tablets, but PointRoll’s study notes, even there it ends on a downer.  (PointRoll also points out these weren’t the most exciting ads in the world to start with.)

Emotional response doesn’t seem to be radically different between low and high resolution. We just soldier on!

But here’s an interesting thing:  Near the end of ads seen on tablets, the positive emotional response indicators seem to spike for low-res ads—which may not be good news.

Pasternack suggests that’s because study subjects sense the ad is over.  “It’s the ‘Thank God this video is ending’ phenomenon,” Pastenack says. Your body wants a quick out.  

The study says the same thing, mushing together the other low-res measurements.  The charts are measuring a kind of “ad avoidance, as the strongest response occurs toward the end of an ad and attention and arousal data showed that participants were less engaged at the end,” the study narrative reads.

The bottom line study result is not based on any kind of fancy dial reading, just a survey. 

Participants like high resolution ads better and perceived them as higher quality videos  On a typical scale of 1-10, viewers  on a computer gave high resolution ads a 7.2, and tablet high-res ads a 6.8.  They gave low-res ads on a computer a 6 and 6.1 on a tablet, with similar stats for the quality of the video.

For Pasternack, the results say what he and I (and you) have figured all along. Vivid, high-resolution ads are just plainly more eye-catching. “They make a difference,” he say. “It makes no sense to take it for granted.”

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