In Social, Shorter Ads Are The Way To Go

The social media landscape continues to shift. Meta is redesigningFacebook’s entire platform, and Twitter is in the midst of a heated lawsuit with former buyer Elon Musk. So it can be difficult to know which ads will be successful with today’s users. 

On Monday, Campaign published a story about a new report providing marketers some insightful answers about social ad performance, now and in the near future.

The report came from a study of 4,000 respondents across the U.K., France, Canada and Mexico who looked at 16 test ads on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, generating 20,300 views. It was carried out by audience measurement company Amplified Intelligence, and commissioned by Twitter and media agency OMD.

What they measured: active and passive attention (how a user processes an ad).

What they found: shorter ads tailor-made for a social media feed beat out longer ad units in effectiveness and efficiency.

Twitter delivered the most total attention (passive and active); TikTok had the strongest active attention; Facebook ads attracted much more attention once volume was turned on.

“Considering active and passive attention provides useful signals on how creative and media should be planned, which should form part of a campaign strategy,” stated Campaign.

Even though a consumer's passive watching of an ad may not seem worthwhile for the brand being advertised, it can actually create impact by driving up total attention via overall time on screen.

Lisa Cowie, Twitter’s head of agency research, filled Campaign in on the usefulness of passive attention:  “Until now ‘passive attention’ seemed like it’s not desirable or positive, but when you’ve got this type of attention, you can keep people there longer. You have this interplay between active and passive, which was the unique differentiator for Twitter.”

What surprised Cowie most was how people’s attention dies off with longer ads. Because of this, advertisers should avoid social ads that run any longer than six seconds.

“Some of the outcomes that we have seen are based on three or four seconds of attention when the ad is great, highly optimized and with upfront branding and products,” she said. “Shorter, high-impact creative on social absolutely drives up the right exposure of high impact social."

Ads that were six, 10 and 15 seconds long earned the same level of active attention as those at four seconds, while a 30-second ad only increased the active attention to ad length ratio by another 2 seconds.

In feed formats, the article states, longer ads won’t translate to more attention.

Amplified Intelligence founder and chief executive Karen Nelson-Field told Campaign that the amount of passive attention Twitter receives from its users adds to “total attention,” which placed it ahead of other social media platforms’ ad success rates.

Another factor that could have led to Twitter’s ad success was its ad optimization: about 60% of the ads on Twitter are optimized specifically for the platform.

This is a significant factor for ad success, according to OMD’s managing director of product Jean-Paul Edwards. Edwards believes that the major social networks are each so powerful now that they ought to be looked at individually by advertisers, for “optimizing for the specific human experience that happens on each of those platforms.”

This line of thinking––optimizing for each platform individually––almost sounds counterintuitive today, as each platform continues to look less and less individual. Just check out the endless copycat features Facebook and Instagram have implemented in the shadow of TikTok’s rise, Reels perhaps being the most obvious.

But the study doesn’t lie. There is still a certain level of uniqueness to each social media experience. As things continue to shift––Web3 becoming a reality (or not); TikTok continuing to take over the world (or not )––we’ll see how long that lasts.

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