Yume and IPG Media Lab just released a really interesting study regarding how viewers engage with online video ads differently than they do with television ads. To draw their conclusions, they took measurements of facial expressions, eye movement and placement and biometrics to determine the interaction and engagement levels of both TV and online video...and the winner is...
Do Viewers Interact With Online Video Ads Differently From TV?
First thing first: the what, why, and how. They set out to answer three major questions in their research:
Do people pay attention to online video differently than they do when watching TV?
If they are different, should an online video ad impression be valued the same way that TV ads are?
What are the quantitative and qualitative differences between TV watching and online video?
It seems that these guys really got it because their basic assumptions included the fact that a controlled environment adds bias to the behavior. Ad avoidance is normal; an ad on-screen doesn't mean a view. How people watch is as important (or more) than what.
Now this was a very limited study, there were only 48 participants who were chosen based on demographic diversity and their viewing of online and traditional TV.
They they showed them an hour of video and did facial tracking analysis and some biometric analysis.
That's as technical as I'll get for you. Let's get to the results!
Online Video Ad Recall Vs. TV: The Results!
It seems that short attention spans and instant gratification needs have teamed up in Americans to show that we can't just watch most shows for their entire length. Or maybe the content of the shows just isn't totally engrossing and so we fill the attention gap with other media. Our mobile phones are the biggest distraction in regards to ad avoidance with 60.4% of subjects using it and DVRs play a big part of that as well with 45.8% using that. Having a laptop in the room is also a major distraction for TV viewers.
For online media, the phone still reigns supreme but surprisingly, 27% of the subjects had no distractions while online. One might say that online video content is far more engaging, or it could have been a fluke (remember, only 48 subjects in the test).
Using a DVR often brought attention levels up, but that was mainly to actively avoid commercials by skipping over them.
Overall, online ad retention and recall were far higher for online than they were for TV. This is mostly because of the DVR-memory gap effect (my term) where people are actively avoiding ads with the DVR, after all, that's half the reason to use one right?
Catch programs you might miss and skip the ads.
This graph is really quite strange if you think about it and shows that DVR memory gap effect. For TV the unremembered ads is increased by the DVR and yet, unaided ad recall is about the same level while aided ad recall is lower than both. It almost seems counter-intuitive. Perhaps what's happening is that people are actually seeing the ad images while DVR ad-skipping and because they weren't completely bored, as they didn't have to sit through the whole ad, they remembered a single frame with branding on it which flashed by as they were fast forwarding.
The New TV Ad Format?
That could be something really interesting to investigate more thoroughly. I've noticed a lot of remotes don't have ad-skip buttons so that means if you're actively ad-skipping you're going to push the FF button until you see a frame of the show you're watching and then hit play.
What if advertisers were to know exactly how many frames were generally skipped, how often a frame showed up on screen and how often a viewer stopped short? Those would then be the ideal places to stick big, branded, static images because then those frames would be seen, even somewhat passively, by the viewers and could be far more effective than fancy live-action ads which don't show the brand much of the time.
This might be the new way to start designing ads for TV.
The Big Win for Online Video Ads
For the online video crowd, i.e. us, this is far easier to deal with. Anytime a video is fast-forwarded over an ad or where an ad would be placed, the ad simply plays when the viewer stops scrubbing or presses play. I've seen this on places like Hulu, who actually show you where the ad will be. Since Hulu is giving me the content free, I don't even bother skipping the ads (see how tolerant I am sometimes).
Here are the big results from the survey if you ask me: online ad recall was twice as high as TV ad recall, both aided and unaided. Check out the chart below.
Perhaps that's the anti-DVR effect. You generally can't get past the ads online whether you're scrubbing or fast forwarding, so it means you'll see them more often. However, I think that the ads also need to still maintain both a short length (15 seconds) or be entertaining and not too frequent.
Because the other thing this research shows is just how easy we, as online video viewers, might simply start multi-tasking far more and mentally blocking out the ads. So advertisers...be warned.