Unfortunately, however, the metrics by which we evaluate the performance of these campaigns trails far behind in innovation.
The problem with traditional TV and online display metrics
Digital video performance metrics depend on the specific objectives of a campaign. Nonetheless, marketers tend to gravitate toward one of two orientations: 1) traditional television metrics around audience reach and frequency; 2) relatively recent online display metrics focused on conversions or other low-funnel activities.
Given that online video spans a wide variety of marketing, we could predict the strong influence of both of these disparate poles of the discipline.
Attribution and mixed-media models promise to eliminate the need for so-called intermediate variables and focus on final outcomes. While data mining and tools have advanced significantly, few marketers rely on or trust those models completely.
Many campaigns, especially in the brand landscape, are longitudinal, and we may undervalue their impact in the immediate moment.
What about context and viewability?
Rarely do online video metrics contain information on the context in which they are consumed. Because so many platforms and technologies were oriented around audiences, our metrics have been as well.
Nonetheless, data has proven that the context in which we reach a target matters greatly. Magazine print ads command much higher CPMs relative to online video — due, at least in part, to the assurance of contextual relevance.
Consider a very popular online video metric: completed views applied to a targeted audience. While this metric is important and potentially useful, many additional parameters should be considered.
Over the last few years our industry has honed in on viewability, and the evidence and importance of this is now, rightfully, incontrovertible. As such, “viewable completions” have become an often leveraged key metric.
Yet there are many more parameters that remain relatively unnoticed. For example, rarely do we see requests for reports and queries about player sizes or volume levels — rather perplexing, since videos are produced to take advantage of how the human brain reacts to the combination of sound and motion. Common sense tells us that the larger the video, the greater the impact.
The changing landscape of digital video ads & time earned
Completed views provide only a limited lens (pardon the pun!) into campaign performance, because they ignore any other media consumption. Which campaign yields greater value: a 15-second video with 50% completion rates, or a 30-second with 40% completion? Total time spent, or “time earned,” will gain more and more traction as the online video landscape continues to evolve.
The advent of the six-second ad makes the point obvious. Indubitably, completion rates will skyrocket with these snippets, while actual time spent likely will drop. This doesn’t mean six-second ads will not be valuable or have an effect. Part of the argument in support of reduced ad lengths hangs on the premise that attention paid to ads — and media in general — continues to wane. While perhaps true, marketers will also innovate to better capture that attention and ensure that their media dollars orient toward captivated, engaged audiences.
Interactive video and metrics specific to these formats provide the best complement to evolving units like six-second ads. Interactive ads are purposefully designed to enable incremental time earned from the engaged viewer. As the amount of purchasable time diminishes, incremental time earned will only grow in significance.
The difficulties of measuring advertising effectiveness remain, particularly for online video. Tried and true metrics such as reach and frequency, viewable completions, or even clicks provide some intelligence; however, (viewable) time earned provides greater insight into the reality of online video consumption. With the continued evolution of the medium, this metric’s utility will grow.