Some Popular Key Indicators That Aren't So Key

Research conducted by Nielsen Media Lab for supply side platform HIRO attempted to measure the effect of  online video ads.  Almost every time I see one of these studies, I marvel at the simplicity of the query.  Like, what the hell are we doing here?

That seems to be a bedrock question. HIRO, which claims 70 demand partners that reach over 60 million consumers obviously has good reason to ask away.

The answers are, in my opinion, so tepid that they are probably right. This report is  pretty remarkable for making the seemingly anti-advertising claim that good enough is really good enough. In a twisted way, the less a brand tries the better it may do.

The research is better at determining what doesn’t make a difference.

That includes viewability. Nielsen Media Lab points out prior research found that ads under the MRC threshold for viewability had higher recall than ones that achieved the threshold. So as an ROI indicator, viewability has big limits. Strike one, this report says.



Then there’s the view-through rate (VTR), which would seem to be a pretty good way to measure effectiveness. But not so. Nielsen Media Lab notes a Facebook study that determined that people who watched under three seconds of an ad “created up 47% of the total campaign value” and people who watched under 10 seconds created up to 74%. So while watching the whole ad is better, it isn’t necessary to make the campaign a success. So measuring it may not be worthwhile. Strike two.

Next, there’s player size. Here, the Nielsen/HIRO report is a little more nuanced. But in short, a known brand isn’t much affected, recall wise, by the size of the player. A lesser-known brand can be helped by a larger player. But the intent to buy is not markedly affected by the size of the player regardless of the size of the ad.

That’s not exactly strike three, but it is something like “strike two-foul tip and the catcher can’t hang on.”  

The report also points out larger player ads might be remembered a lot by people the advertiser isn’t trying to reach in the first place.

You know what makes a difference? Content! Who would have thunk?

The content on the site where the ad appears, and content of the ad itself really matter. Content relative to the ad and audience created 30% increase in recall and purchase intent.  So that’s a solid hit.

The Nielsen/HIRO study has a clearer idea of what doesn’t work than what does, but also some interesting insight into how things really don’t have to be perfect to work pretty well.

If you are known brand, this study dares to say, it doesn’t matter much if people saw 3 seconds or 15 seconds of your ad: “You just need to remind the viewer of your existence. That’s it. Short clip on small site in a small player will do just the same job as a 60-second creative in a big player on a top five site that will like cost 10X more.”

Indeed, to carry this further, the report reminds, “We are the ADHD generation.” And that means while in the past, loud and big advertising was clearly more effective, “Today it will probably be regarded as aggressive and unfriendly. “

And, it says in a multi-tasking world an ad that appears in a side column will have pretty much the same effect as a full screen ad. But, the smaller ad will have a “significantly lesser amount of negative reaction due to its [lack of] aggressiveness.”
3 comments about "Some Popular Key Indicators That Aren't So Key".
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  1. Jon Jarog from Starcom, August 29, 2016 at 4:19 p.m.

    Interesting article P.J. Is there more information available on the details and methodology of this study? Would love to understand more about how things like fraud were accounted for, or what kind of creative was used.

  2. Harrison Wise from Wise Collective Inc. replied, August 30, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    @jon you can download full report via HIRO's site -

  3. oded napchi from hiro-media, August 30, 2016 at 12:05 p.m.

    Hello everyone and thanks for the interest in our research. I am Oded Napchi, the CMO of HIRO-Media the commissioner of the study.

    You can find methodology notes in our research (link in the article). I will be glad to answer follow up questions, please email them to

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