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Display ads may have a reputation for being ignored, but not all digital ads are created equal. According to a new study from Nielsen, online video ads are actually more effective than TV ads.

Considering that online video ads also cannot be skipped, that doesn't necessarily mean they're better than traditional TV ads. In fact, often, they're exactly the same.

Online video ads have a 65% general recall compared to 46% for TV ads. Brand recall online is also higher — 50% compared to TV's 28%. Message online recall is 39% compared to TV's 21%. Likability is at 26% online, compared to TV's 14%.

Dave Kaplan, Nielsen's senior VP of product leadership, and Beth Uyenco, director of global research at Microsoft, evaluated 238 brands and 412 products in 951 ad executions in streaming full-episode TV programs to get to their findings. In the process, more than 14,000 surveys were conducted.

Consistently, online ads had more impact on consumers.

This is for two reasons — and one has less to do with the digital medium than brand control. Namely, online there is both less ad clutter and forced ad viewing. Video programming has fewer ads per show than on TV. But perhaps more importantly, people watching online video are being retrained to sit through the commercial break. Consumers who happily fast forward through commercials on television are watching video online either out of necessity or preference. And there they have to watch more ads.

Digital videos usually carry an ad load of 4 minutes per hour of progamming versus 10 minutes of national ads for traditional TV (15 minutes after including local ads and promos). But people are actually watching those ads, which is why digital video is becoming a better way for brands to reach people.

And for all of the work that brands are putting into tailoring their content for the digital space, the most effective ads online were simply TV ads aired in a digital viewer. According to Kaplan:

“Advertisers might be able to save money by utilizing those ads already in the hopper. Even when controlling for exposure, we see that repurposed TV spots resonate quite well in the streaming full-episode environment."

The ad load for online programming is likely to grow soon, especially as both television channels and advertisers try to increase their digital revenues. But the fact that viewers are skipping the same commercials on TV that they're being forced to watch online means that they would rather be avoiding the ads they're currently interacting with. Brands will surely squeeze as many dollars out of forced commercials in digital video as they can. But this is clearly not a longterm solution to dwindling television ad dollars.

Image: Hulu

Meghan Keane

Published 23 April, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (7)

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With IPTV, broadband and cable trying to scurry to provide it's viewers with their favorite programs online it comes as no suprise the advertising dollars are being transferred to the online medium. Soon enough it will all be the same and large ad agencies are going to suffer from the smaller dogs wanting a piece of the revenue and connecting with companies.

about 7 years ago

Mike Stenger

Mike Stenger, MikeStenger.com

Great stats Meghan. I can honestly see how this is. For one, I'll watch an episode on Hulu versus that same episode on TV any day. Less commercials and can consume the content much faster. Even though it's less commercials, I'm still receptive to them and have an appreciation for them because it's making my viewing experience better in a way.

about 7 years ago



I'd be interested in understanding their methodology better - I know that, when I'm watching video online, I switch to another tab in my browser during ads. So, I'm not actually watching the ads but, depending on how they're tracking, it could look like I am. I'm frankly always suspicious of stats produced by companies who have a vested interest in the results. That said, I can see that the smaller number of ads would be helpful - that people will be more tolerant or actually appreciative of them.

about 7 years ago


Rahman Mehraby

I open th evideos in another tab too, but for a different reason: I want to read the other stuff on th efirst page while th evideo gets loaded. This happens to the people who are using the low-speed Internet service.

This seems another advantage of online video ads. With TV ads, you may get fed up and change the channel, but on the web, you keep it to be watchdd on another tab and judge it after you see it.

about 7 years ago


Dr. Strangelove

The audience has a different relationship to non-traditional screens (laptops etc), and with that will come different psychological dynamics, such as greater intimacy and, in teh case of YouTube, authenticity. I would not count on the online audience being 'forced' to do anything in the long term -- a central characteristic of online audience behaviour has been ad avoidance. I discuss amateur video and advertising in Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010) Dr. Strangelove University of Ottawa

about 7 years ago


Fred Farkle

Just wait, the longer ads are on the horizon.

almost 7 years ago



Online ads are garbage, they make me upset as I am forced to watch them and will literally look away and mute them, go to another tab etc. I have a feeling of resentment to the companies in said ads. For example I watch a lot of videos on nba.com, and this fall I was forced to watch the same sprite commercial prior to any video. Watch a video of a one minute highlight, then want to check out another? Oh wait, same sprite commercial again, just overkill and I now hate sprite and have a worse feeling for nba.com for this. Online ads are garbage and the only ppl watching them are simpletons who are watching tv ads. An ad has never made me feel compelled to buy a product. Anything I need to purchase, will just be done so by reading reviews, doing ample research as always. I don't see a commercial and want to buy anything, I don't see the commercials. The sprite one was forced and it got muted, tabbed off etc. It only made me hate sprite. I am 28 and I get the same response from almost anyone I know in my age bracket. Ads are becoming archaic.

over 6 years ago

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