What’s Next for Mobile Video Ads?

It’s going to take us another few years to figure out mobile video ads. When I scroll through the ads on my Facebook app or on the New York Times mobile, I still see mostly banners, although mobile video spend  has increased 76% this year. This is only the beginning for mobile video.

On the other hand, the banner is a 20-year-old technology, although meant for the days when we surfed the web to specific web portals and pages. And yet AppNexus predicts it will have served 6.2 trillion banners in 2014. That’s despite a trend toward native advertising, and despite CTRs that are down at .09%. Just for fun, do you remember what the CTRs were for the first banner ads? 44%, according to Ad Age.

Why do banners survive? Partly because we know how to serve and deploy them. We know how many should be on a page, and which locations work best. We also know how to optimize them, especially for direct response.

But while banners may be okay for performance advertising, they don’t cut it for brand ads. For those, video is best. We already know this from TV. You can tell a story with a 30-second spot; you can’t do that in a banner. You can also create “native” video — content that’s in the stream and looks like editorial content. That can’t be done with banners either.

So why aren’t there more mobile video ads?

It’s partly because agencies are still experimenting with whether they can re-purpose their existing creative, or whether they truly must create cross-channel campaigns from scratch. We don’t even have the metrics to answer that question yet, although comScore has just integrated video into its vCe tools.

If there are to be true cross-platform campaigns with different creative assets for each channel, what does a purpose-built mobile video look like? Some creatives think the most a mobile viewer will stand for in his stream is 6 minutes — the length of a Vine. That’s what many brands that advertise on Twitter are using, including Dunkin Donuts and Sony. But other brands prefer Instagram, where Nike, Adidas, and Starbucks rule. However, no one thought people would watch a YouTube video longer than two minutes either.

Six- and ten-second videos are challenging brands and agencies to tell their stories succinctly. Tremor Video  conducted a small study (150) people, and found five elements that constitute a good video:

  • Entice and Intrigue: Give consumers a taste of your brand so they have a reason to engage – meaning, start the story but don’t tell the whole story. This applies to both getting people to pay attention to the ad (completion rate) and encouraging them to interact (engagement rate). In fact, the results showed that high-performing mobile creative outperformed even TV benchmarks.
  • Bring Them In: Great design begins with visual appeal but it’s important to align design, technology and medium to strategically create engaging ad units. Don’t push consumers away from your ad with “tap-out” features in hopes that they’ll spend more time with your brand; let them stay in the video overlay and make the conscious decision to interact. Clear branding is not the enemy of creative success.
  • Symphony Not Noise: The ad should sing and flow like a story. Make sure the ad and the engaging overlay have a consistent theme and messaging throughout the layers of content. It’s tempting to overload the ad unit by utilizing every tool in your belt, but too many messages, graphics and functions cause confusion and dilute the effectiveness of the ad experience.
  • Make Them Feel _______: Consumers have an emotional connection to their mobile devices so take advantage of that and create experiences that trigger an emotional response. The ads in this study generated more interest and excitement than we tend to see with TV or online video norms. Remember: emotion is the heart of why advertising works.
  • Catch the Moment: Mobile devices serve as a first-screen so much of the time, that it’s important to get people in the relevant moment. Find a way to keep consistent creative messaging across different platforms while leveraging the unique role of each device. Design for a diverse set of potential situations to make your own luck and not rely on happenstance.

We’re a leader in the nascent space of mobile digital video with our inArticle format that allows the use of either existing creative or purpose-built video. We’re watching with interest where digital video ads on mobile will go next year.