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by Jessica Ramesh Exponential

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Graham Ratcliffe, Client Strategy Manager, Tribal FUSION

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Average engagement rate by day of week (May 2010 – April 2011)

Graham Ratcliffe, author of Tribal FUSION’s white paper on video engagement, talks to Figaro about the study’s findings

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but quality, sharable video can be worth thousands of clicks a minute. Econsultancy reports that online video sharing almost doubled in the nine months between May 2010 and February 2011. Video content is predicted to form 66 per cent of all mobile data traffic by 2014. Why? Because video is uniquely suited to its environment. It’s interactive, sharable and measurable. It’s a brand-builder and a purchase-enabler. It provides marketers with instant feedback. It provides users with instant entertainment. And it’s thrown up some of the most memorable creative campaigns of the last few years. (Step forward Old Spice Guy, Evian’s roller skating babies and T-Mobile’s Royal Family.)

Graham Ratcliffe, Client Strategy Manager at providers of online display advertising Tribal FUSION is the author of a white paper entitled ‘Driving Engagement: Research Into The Factors That Determine Success in Online Video Advertising’. The study examines a year’s worth of data on the use of the Firefly Video ad platform, with specific focus on the pattern and extent of user engagement by the day, the hour and by vertical.

But before we delve into the numbers, how does Ratcliffe see the role of ‘engagement video’ (defined as content users have chosen to view by clicking on an ad) within the broader context of a multi-channel campaign?

“Engagement video sits in the same place as pre-roll and post-roll video,” he says. “The fact that it’s ‘engagement video’ is really in the nature of how it’s served. It’s very much an awareness format which has evolved from TV – it’s allowing traditional TV advertisers to find a format that they’re comfortable with online. It’s typically a blend of TV creative, though there is plenty of purposely designed online creative, and it’s about engaging users with the brand and building brand-awareness.”

Focussing on users

This means understanding the context within which video content is served, and being clear about your objectives. Among the issues addressed in the white paper is the depth of user-engagement, including the extent to which users watched a video to completion. The most obvious reason for viewers not making it to the end of a video is unengaging creative. But, points out Ratcliffe, there can also be a danger in asking people to do too much: auto ads that invite users to click away from the video and arrange a test drive or fashion ads loaded with links to competitions and Facebook pages are, effectively, asking users to do something other than watch the video in front of them. So, in the rush to get their video content up online, does Ratcliffe think there’s a danger marketers are overlooking the opportunities unique to social media – the capacity to engage and above all share?

“It depends if that is your objective,” he says. “Creating a video that really goes viral – and I hate that term – is uniquely difficult to do and very hard to predict. I was at a presentation once and they said if a consultant tells you, ‘we specialise in making viral videos’, they’re probably lying. I would say you need to have video that’s engaging and communicates your brand message. If you get the social sharing and so on, that’s secondary. You just need to provide the tools and make it as easy as possible for people to do what you want them to.”

So what specific findings did the study generate, and were there any surprises for Ratcliffe within the data?

Day watch

The first part of the study examines engagement throughout the week. Users are more likely to engage with online teaser ads on a Sunday and, in a downward trajectory that no doubt reflects real life, from Monday through to the end of the week engagement is on the decline. More significant for Ratcliffe than the weekly viewing figures, however, is the breakdown of engagement rates throughout the day.

Unsurprisingly, Tribal FUSION’s research found that users claimed they would be more likely to pay attention to ads between 6pm and 8pm. At the start of the working day – 9am to 10am – engagement rates were low, and after a mid-morning lift remain stable throughout the day.

“This perhaps shows what people expect,” says Ratcliffe. “The evening is when people are most engaged. But what was perhaps surprising was that it wasn’t that different to the day time.” This raises, he acknowledges, an intriguing point about the methodology of reports studying online user behaviour during the day. “Typically,” he says, “People don’t know that much about office behaviour – a lot of the panels are home based. But it was interesting to see that once you got past the first couple of hours of the day, engagement was pretty constant. Interestingly, people are engaging with ads and video all through the night. I thought after midnight the figures would fall of a cliff, but in fact it shows that actually we never really switch off.”

Vertical limit

The second part of the study examines engagement trends by vertical. FMCG advertisers gain the highest level of interaction by a healthy 70 per cent suggesting, the reports says, that brand recognition is a key driver. Next came the automotive sector, charities and then games. Software, telecoms and recruitment lag behind – possibly a consequence of the narrow audience for these sorts of video campaigns, and less enticing creative.

Less anticipated was a comparatively poor showing for entertainment (films and TV) – a sector ideally suited, one would have thought, to online engagement video. “With film,” says Ratcliffe, “clients are always telling us their content is very engaging. But the hypothesis we came up with was that if you want to watch, for example, film trailers, it’s easy to access this content elsewhere – in the cinema or on TV.”

So, given the study’s findings, what advice does Ratcliffe have for marketers seeking to maximise engagement with video?

“Understanding your audience is key,” he says. “As is taking advantage of the tools available online to profile your audience. And combine that with your offline. Really understand who you’re going to be reaching. That’s the one way you can make sure you have the right message. Brand advertisers are all about reaching the right audience and then driving those brand metrics within that audience, so the first thing is to know who your audience are and how you can find them online. That’s a challenge you don’t face in traditional media, where you don’t have to find your audience in the same way. Online it’s far, far more dynamic.”

Targeting, he says, is another key area in video. “When you talk about pre- and post-roll there’s a limit in scale – there’s just not much viewed online that you can buy against.” Right now, he says, video marketers may not be making the most of targeted content “because there isn’t the scale. But it’s something we’re hearing more and more about. It’s evolving, and we are selling more targeted campaigns because, of course, online has the ability to target at a level that traditional media doesn’t have.”

A versatile, measurable format loaded with creative possibilities, uniquely capable of generating brand engagement – online video has all the potential associated with good old fashioned TV advertising but with the added advantage of full-on interactivity. It remains a key channel to watch.

Driving Engagement: Key Findings:

  • Behavioural targeting, online specific creative assets and brand recognition generate an increase in engagement time.
  • Users are more likely to engage in online teaser video ads on Sundays. Between Monday and Sunday, engagement rates decline. User engagement peaks between 6pm and 8pm.
  • A user’s decision to share a video via social networks is almost entirely determined by the quality of the creative. A good creative is crucial to encourage engagement and to persuade users to view videos to completion.
  • Video engagement rates are much higher when users are engaging in leisure activities.
  • Known brands featuring in ads in the FMCG industry have a higher proportion of engagement rates and a higher proportion of users that view 100 per cent of the video.Download Tribal FUSION’s white paper here.Article by Jon Fortgang