Is short format content the way forward for digital video?

As YouTube launches six second ads, the argument over long and short format content looks set to re-ignite

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Jul 13, 2016 7:48 AM
Is short format content the way forward for digital video?

Recently, YouTube launched a new 6-second, non-skippable ad format called Bumper Ads specifically designed for smartphone users. This decision is interesting as quite a few marketers have started to question the efficacy of long format ads that might not really engage the viewer and could provide brands with more creative control on their video advertising campaigns.

“We like to think of Bumper ads as little haikus of video ads – and we’re excited to see what the creative community will do with them,” wrote Zach Lupei, Product Manager (Video Ads) at Google.

Giving an example of the niche that these ad formats could occupy Lupei further stated, “Bumper ads are ideal for driving incremental reach and frequency, especially on mobile, where “snackable videos” perform well.”

There is sense to this reasoning given the popularity that products like Twitter’s Vine and Snapchat Videos have attained since their launch. So does this mean shorter format video content is set to become the preferred tool for marketers on the digital medium?

Google does not want to say this is the case, for obvious reasons. “Given the succinct nature of the format, we’ve seen Bumper ads work best when combined with a TrueView or Google Preferred campaign. In early tests, Bumpers drove strong lift in upper funnel metrics like recall, awareness and consideration. We also see that Bumpers work well to drive incremental reach and frequency when paired with a TrueView campaign,” writes Lupei in the same blogpost.

RP Singh, Head of Media, VML SEA & India, feels it is a great initiative, especially suited for the growing mobile user base. He agreed that it would be a compliment to existing ad formats.

“The bumper ad formats can very well act as a tool to create reminders to reinforce brand messages. Given the success of shorter video formats across other social networking platforms, it is definitely going to stay. The challenge for marketers will be to compress the communication for a mobile generation,” he said.

Studies, including some by Google itself, have found that viewability for video ads is a definite problem. For example, a study by Unruly, an ad tech company that specializes in video, stated that 81 per cent viewer’s mute videos, 62 per cent are annoyed by pre-roll ads while 93 per cent consider using ad blockers.

Another recent study by eMarketer, while extremely positive about the future for video ads also cautioned that “And yet bad user experience is, if not the rule, certainly more than mere exception.”

Piyush Chhaperwal, Director (Sales) for Mobile & Online at Vdopia India, attributes increasingly longer format content as one reason for this. “Shorter the format, better is the engagement,” he told us.;-are-online-video-ads-effective_64734.html

Subrat Kar, Co-founder and CEO of Vidooly, which specializes in video analytics, quotes an IAB study that says that millennials prefer short form advertising, while older audience preferred the more traditional 20-30 second ads.

When asked if creating long format ads, some as long as 4-5 minutes, was working against brands, he said, “This is not an easy question to answer. I still believe that if done right, brands can try their hands at longer formats. However, embedding the brand message in a great story is how they should do it. India is still a country that loves stories. To give you an example, Paper Boat ran an ad campaign in the last couple of months called Rizwan. It was a 3 and a half minute advert which was watched over 2 million times on YouTube. We analyzed the performance of this video and found out that it had an average watch time of over 2 minutes! The audience was watching an advertisement for over 2 minutes sounds unbelievable but it worked only because the storyline of the ad was so touching.”

The bottom line for brands, he advises, is to go for short form ad campaigns mostly but to try their hands at long form storytelling ads that will leave a lasting impact on the viewer. Talking about YouTube Bumper ads, he gives the example of Warner Bros, which aggressively promoted The Conjuring 2 with 10-15 second ads just prior to the film’s release. “I think any brand from an industry vertical that caters mostly to young millennials, would find bumper ads really helpful. We'll definitely see brands experimenting with it in the coming days,” he opined.

On similar lines, Singh also suggested that shorter formats deliver on deliver on upper funnel metrics while long formats deliver on the lower funnel metrics and hence both could co-exist. 

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