Sara Cheng
Jul 15, 2016

How to make mobile video ads work for your brand

Six tips for maximising your bang for the buck, from Sizmek's Sara Cheng.

Sara Cheng
Sara Cheng

Video is the branding format that will dominate the digital advertising market in the next few years.

The consumption numbers for video across all platforms are booming. In most surveys, the moving image and audio format is consistently the leading category that brand marketers say they plan to invest more budget.

However, video is technically complex, the cost for ad positions are high compared to other formats, and advertisers demand bang for their buck. Also, it can be expensive to produce dedicated made-for-web video, and dangerous to a brand’s reputation to simply churn out repurposed TVC’s onto digital platforms. The results can be clunky and unattractive.

The rise of mobile video as the dominant entertainment format will mean advertisers and agencies will need to take into consideration a number of factors in order to drive brand awareness and engagement.

Here are some best practice tips aimed at making your branded video work better on the small screen.

Think about screen size and interactivity

The size of mobile device screens has increased, allowing mobile interactive video to flourish. Engagement elements can include simple social share buttons or non-intrusive invitations to further engage with the creative.

To get the most out of mobile video creative options, use the HTML5 VPAID standard, which lets you run interactive pre-roll/mid-roll/post-roll video, regardless of device and screen or whether it’s on tablets or in-app environments.

Take users’ bandwidth into account

Mobile video is typically loaded in a progressive manner, meaning the video player chooses a segment of pre-determined quality and attempts to download each of them in chunks. Because bandwidth fluctuates, it can result in choppy delivery as the video downloads a payload that’s too large for a more constrained bandwidth.

Adaptive streaming technologies address these problems by chunking up video into small bits. As bandwidth fluctuates, the user’s player automatically adjusts to download the next video segment’s resolution for smoother delivery.

Consider landscape versus portrait orientation

Since shooting for a different aspect ratio is often prohibitive and uneconomical, many advertisers have opted for less-than-optimal solutions such as locking the orientation, which forces users to switch orientation to view the video properly.

A better way, assuming that nothing can be done with the video itself, is to leverage HTML5 VPAID to ensure that the device’s real estate gets maximized using a branded background or branded canvas.

Use dynamic video creative to personalise messages

You can tailor a brand’s video ads to each of its audiences using different clips for different audiences, such as clips about performance on a tech site or clips about safety on a family site, to help the message connect. Dynamic creative can help ensure relevance, and thus drive higher engagement, of pre-roll video. Test different messaging strategies and gain valuable insight from your target audience with dynamic creative.

Autoplay options can be limited, depending on context

Native mobile video formats, such as videos playing in-feed or embedded in the middle of the content, are usually auto-played only when viewable and are often played as silent movies. In these cases, it often helps to provide cues that might capture users’ attention to unmute through closed captioning.

Device makers and app developers often control auto-play options. Certain native mobile video formats, such as video interstitials that are common in in-app environments, should autoplay.

When deciding to mute or unmute, be considerate to the user

Unmuting should be done only when appropriate and the availability of skip can be preserved.  

Video interstitials may show up during a game app, which the user has unmuted. Autoplay unmute is probably appropriate here, but you will also want to give the user the option to skip, especially if they have already seen the ad (your ad server can help determine this).

In-content formats (a.k.a. out-stream formats) that show up as a user scrolls down an article page (either on the mobile web or in-app) can be autoplayed when in view, but should be muted because the user is engaged in reading copy. A sudden burst of unexpected sound would most likely be unwelcome.

Video advertising offers the ideal platform to deliver compelling and memorable brand messaging. Like any technology, if you know how to get the best out of it, everyone is a winner.

Sara Cheng is head of creative with Sizmek

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