Commentary

What Are Subtitles Worth On Facebook? Or Teasers?

You’ve seen this a million times: Just before an episode of a TV series, you get a short teaser reel to convince you to stick around for the whole enchilada that is following within moments.

That’s also the gist of an experiment conducted by Adaptly, the platform advertising solutions firm and Refinery29, the cooler than average fashion, style and way-broader-than-that digital platform

“It’s a natural progression for brands to start thinking about ways to distribute content of different types - not just 15 and 30 second spots, but high-quality premium content which is created for the Web and can be much longer in length,” said Sean O’Neal, in an email exchange. “We are seeing a lot of data to indicate that the Facebook audience will engage with longer-form, custom content from brands when it is well-produced, and entertaining or informative.”

But with variables.

Adaptly and Refinery29 joined together to show 2,000 mobile users two kinds of 22-second previews of Refinery29’s “Style Out There” series, which features styles and trends, that are, well, way out there. One came with “subtitles” of the preview and feature--because of Facebook’s silent auto-play--and one came with the preview and the feature, but without subtitles.

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As a kind of control group, Adaptly also presented “Style Out There” without any preview but with in the two modes--subtitled and without subtitles.

Stopping right here, I’d guess the results would be best for the version with a preview/subtitle combination. That’s what Adaptly and Refinery29 assumed too, “that by combining both tactics – trailers and subtitles – we would see the greatest impact on long form video views, completion, and engagement.”

And well…

Well, don’t I feel so (partially) foolish! According to the study, “The results from this study suggest that sequencing trailers prior to delivering a long-form video may increase the view rate of the long-form video, but may actually decrease the overall completion rate and therefore might not be necessary to drive deeper engagement. The study also suggests that adding subtitles into the long-form video may increase the completion rate and overall levels of engagement.”

In short, trailers increased the view rate, and decreased the completion rate, the advertising equivalent to all those good news-bad news jokes.

It seems, the preview’s worth (a 6% lift) was offset by the completion rate. Those users were 53% less likely to watch the long-form video through to 100% completion.

The subtitle story is a little different. The use of subtitles increased completion rates by 4%. But the big news was,   “We observed a statistically significant increase in the engagement rate overall and also a statistically significant increase against each of the three individual engagement metrics when long-form videos contained subtitles.

And the share rate of the videos increased by 26% when comparing the groups of users who saw the video with subtitles over those who did not see video with subtitles. Subtitles increase the “like” rate by 10% and the comment rate by 29%.

So in the end,  when Adaptly mushed all of the data together-- aggregating completion rate with overall engagement rate, the winning combo was the group that didn’t see the trailer but saw the long-form video, that Adaptly calculated, had a 290% advantage over the group that saw trailers but didn’t see a video with subtitles.

In its conclusion, Adaptly is pretty gung-ho on subtitles, not so much on previews.

Unspoken in this survey is that unlike the trailers for TV shows, a trailer for “long-form” video is really tricky business because long-form videos aren’t very long. Showing 22 seconds of a seven-minute video, it seems to me, is far different than showing a teaser before a half-hour or longer TV feature. And since this viewing is happening on mobile devices, brevity all around makes sense. "Based on the results of this study we are beginning to introduce these strategies to our clients who are running long-form branded video on social platforms like Facebook, " O’Neal says.

pj@mediapost.com

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