Alex Khan
Jun 26, 2017

Length, buffers and control: the rights and wrongs of mobile video ads

AOL’s Alex Khan suggests mobile video advertising should be bigger than it is. A recent report highlights the need to improve the experience for viewers and provides useful pointers for ad buyers and creatives.

Alex Khan
Alex Khan

There’s no doubt that digital video is having a profound effect on the advertising market, none more so than in southeast Asia. Here are a few simple factors to consider from AOL’s latest State of the Video Industry report:

83 percent of online users in the region watch online video every day, well ahead of countries like Australia (where it’s 65 percent) or the UK (71 percent).

Whilst we lag slightly behind the US (where 92 percent watch online video daily), here more of us are getting our daily fix on mobile devices, particularly our smartphones. Almost three quarters of us watch video daily on our smartphone, compared to just 67 percent in the US.

Yet, many advertisers are failing to take advantage of the online video experience. Sure, almost half of us expect to see video spending increase by 25 percent or more, but there’s an even greater focus on social marketing and on par with the expected increase in spend on display. In other words, whilst video spend will increase, it’ll account for a modest increase in the total share of advertising spend.

How can that be? A medium that’s consumed daily, with the impact of TV advertising delivered to people on the move, is failing to grab a sizeable chunk of market share. Surely it should be making bigger in-roads in the total advertising budget?

Why the hesitation? When advertisers were asked this in the AOL study, approximately a third said it related to the quality of the consumer experience. More than two thirds of publishers shared that concern; can we deliver ads that will not intrude on the user’s enjoyment of content? This is particularly an issue for mobile users and, hence, more of a concern for video advertisers here than in regions where most online video is viewed on desktops or Smart TVs.

Getting the experience right

We asked a lot of questions in the AOL report—and many give us ideas as to how to deliver the optimum online video advertising experience. Following some of these basic pointers will help to deliver better outcomes, but they are not the be all and end all. You still need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and look for elements of your campaign that might distract from your campaign objectives. Intrusiveness is obviously the key factor here. Will the viewer resent you because you are getting in the way of the task they are pursuing online?

The good news is that, in our region in particular, users are very forgiving if the video ad they are serving is relevant and entertaining. Two thirds of online consumers in southeast Asia don’t mind online video ads provided they feature a service or product that is relevant to the viewer. Almost as many don’t mind the ads provided they are entertaining, and 56 percent enjoy ads that are interactive.

In each case viewers in the region are more accepting of online ads than most other parts of the world, with the exception of the USA. Viewers also want control, with the ability to skip ads that aren’t impressing them.

Size matters

A common bugbear is the positioning of long ads as pre-roll for a short piece of content. With most online video viewed on smartphones, users in this region are bigger consumers of short form video. Almost half of us will watch a video under one minute each day, but only a quarter will watch something 20 minutes or longer. Imagine the frustration, then, of clicking on a one minute video only to be presented with a 30 second video ad ahead of the content (especially if there’s no option to skip it).

  • For videos less than 1 minute 68 percent expect a video ad not to exceed 15 seconds
  • For videos 1-5 minutes in length 50 percent still expect the ad not to exceed 15 seconds
  • For videos 5-10 minutes long, 36 percent expect an ad to be 30 seconds or less
  • For videos over 10 minutes, just 9 percent expect an ad to be one minute or more

30 seconds seems to be the sweet spot for many ads, but if you are placing alongside short form video you really need to whittle it down to half that length. But, viewers want control, so there’s an opportunity to extend the viewing experience for those who want it. You have 15 seconds to grab their attention.

Keep it light

B…b…buffering is a bit turnoff for online viewers, and it can be a bigger issue for mobile users battling wireless speeds. 28 percent of respondents to the AOL survey said they will stop watching an online video after just one buffering interruption. You’ll lose a further 38 percent (72 percent in total) if your video buffers twice. That doesn’t leave much margin for error. Your video ads need to be light, and so does the publisher’s content you place against. If the results seem disappointing it’s worth visiting the content on your smartphone and see how it plays out.

Go for brand

Pre-roll is a very common form of video advertising but that could be changing. Branded video – where your story is the whole reason for watching—is becoming increasingly popular; out of all video formats, 60 percent of advertisers in the region expect branded content be the biggest revenue generator this year. Of course, to get anywhere, such content needs to fit the criteria of being relevant, entertaining or interactive.

Live and new

Looking for two sure-fire crowd pleasers? News and gossip. 65 percent of online consumers In the region typically watch video showing breaking news. That’s above the global average of 60 percent. But skip the politics—only 27 percent seem interested in that. Even if it’s not news, as such, we also love live content, so long as it doesn’t drag on; 81 percent of us watch live content that’s under a minute long, more than once a week, compared to just 60 percent elsewhere.

A winning combination

I am no creative wiz. Perish the thought. But if you put the data together you do get some interesting campaign ideas. For example, tapping into live video in a branded fashion. Perhaps getting users to create their own short live streams following a theme relevant to your product. All within the one minute time limit. It gives users control, makes your message seem relevant and should be nice and light, so no buffering.

It really doesn’t matter how you interpret these nuggets of insight from the AOL report, so long as you recognise that we’re dealing with a medium that is different to anything that’s gone before. Simply reformatting a TV ad and sticking it on a mobile platform will win no favours. It’s likely to disenfranchise your audience and damage your brand. Whatever the concept you develop, a campaign will only ever succeed if you follow two words, that came out clearly from the AOL analysis—consumer experience. You ignore that at your peril.

Alex Khan is the MD for Asia (including ANZ) with AOL

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