As consumer attention increasingly becomes a finite resource, how do you get people to spend more time with your video ads?

Getting people to actively spend time with your brand has a positive impact on brand metrics and sales lift. All our work suggests that using online video is the most consistent way to do this but how do you make it happen?

In this article, we’ll explore the teaser video design and, in subsequent articles, we’ll discuss the full engagement experience and the role of the video asset itself.

Modern desktop and mobile web site design enables many different options for video assets including IAB formats such as the standard 300x250 medium rectangle, ‘Rising Star’ 320x50 mobile portrait Adhesion Banner and in-stream players. 

So, if the objective is to tease users into watching a full video experience that captures their attention for as long as possible, how should these spaces be utilised? Here are four tips:

Stream video through available ad unit 'windows'

Over the years, we’ve tried all sorts of static creative and rich media animation executions within standard units to achieve engagement. It is possible to have great results with these, but video is the vehicle for consistent success.

So, the first step is to stream video itself in the teaser and take advantage of the visual and emotional impact of video to attract people’s attention.

This is technically challenging outside a video player in Apple’s iOS devices, but not impossible. For in-stream video ads, it is conventional to have sound on for pre-roll, but the sound should be off (nobody likes trying to find which tab is playing video at them).

Maximise the video size

There are two temptations when streaming video into a teaser and both are potentially detrimental for brands. 

The first temptation is to resize the video to the canvas width or height in order to maintain the aspect ratio. Within an in-stream player and 300x250 units, this is fine as the result is a natural video size. 

However, for a leaderboard or skyscraper, the result is a video that is too small to achieve its only function: to harness the sight and motion of video to pique curiosity. For a leaderboard, the video shrinks to 151x86 pixels (i.e. just 23% of the unit is video).

Be careful about re-sizing video ads

Instead, think of the teaser as a window onto the full video. The challenge, then, becomes how to crop and pan the video so that this window gives enough sense of the underlying creative.

The second temptation to try and avoid is to include player controls, branding, and call-to-action elements in the teaser. While brands may feel they need this, the result crowds the creative and takes away from video as the main act.

More importantly, our testing shows that it also reduces the engagement rate and the average time spent once the user engages. In this example 300x250 unit, you can see the video is reduced to 296x168 pixels (i.e. 35% of the scale is lost). 

Reduction in video size due to adding additional functionality

Set user expectations

The hype around native advertising has at least confirmed the need for brands to set clear expectations about advertising versus editorial content. Interactive video is no different.

Our tests show that a gentle ‘peelback’ layer, periodically pulsing, that exposes the brand logo and an invitation to “explore” further is the best way to signal to users the main purpose of the video ad being shown. With a clear countdown timer appearing in the peelback upon interaction, the expectation is clearly signalled: rollover, click, or tap here to explore further.

Even if video teaser units are designed in different sizes, in different media (e.g. in-stream, in-banner, native), and on different devices, people’s expectations are further established with the consistency of this approach. While the video creative itself may change, the teaser experience can remain consistent.

Respect the consumer journey

Once those expectations have been set, the penultimate act is to make a smooth and clear transition to a large overlay video experience, with the original site the person was viewing greyed out in the background. The final act shrinks the video slightly and exposes the interactive elements.

These transitions serve three purposes: 

  • First, it gives the user multiple opportunities to realise they are entering an ad experience and so, therefore, qualifies their interest fully.
  • Second, if the billing point (the moment in the ad at which the advertiser is charged for the engagement) is several seconds into the transitions, then the potential drop off after billing is minimised.
  • Third, it respects the user journey by not jarring them into an ad experience or giving the sense that you are taking them far away from their original purpose – after all, you want them to love your brand, not resent it.
Doug Conely

Published 25 June, 2015 by Doug Conely

Doug Conely is Chief Strategy Officer at Exponential and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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