Why Social Sites Are Less Friendly to Video Ads

When it comes to online video ads, social networking and gaming sites don’t measure up to content sites and e-mail in terms of user engagement.

That’s according to a wide-ranging report produced by third-party ad server Eyeblaster, which examined data from thousands of campaigns it executed for brands over the past year encompassing billions of impressions. Specifically, the report focused on two metrics deemed key by Eyeblaster analysts:

• Dwell Rate, which measures the proportion of ad impressions resulting in users engaging with an ad, such as mousing over or clicking on them.

• Dwell Time, which measures the amount of time users spend engaged with a particular ad.

Eyeblaster found that overall online video boosts both Dwell Rate and Dwell Time when compared to other forms of online advertising. However, online video tends to perform better when adjacent to content or e-mail than in social media and gaming environments — both areas that have enjoyed major spikes in usage over the past five years, resulting in increased interest from advertisers.

Given social networking sites’ challenges with monetization, it’s perhaps not surprising that users are less inclined to engage with video ads. Yet sharing video is increasingly becoming a key component of these sites. Ariel Geifman, research analyst at Eyeblaster, said the company was somewhat surprised by their findings.

“What we found is that people browse social networks really quickly,” he said. “People spend a lot of time in social networks, but it’s not on the same Web page.”

The result is that auto-start video ads don’t often have a chance to actually start, and that people have few opportunities to stop and linger like they do on content sites. “It’s not about the mind-set,” Geifman said. “It’s the browsing habits. People don’t browse as they do in news and finance, where they read an article and have more time to look at an ad.”

It would seem that users have time to look at ads on casual-gaming sites, where there are often natural breaks between levels or when games load. Indeed, video has proven quite popular with advertisers on gaming properties. But Eyeblaster found that when gaming, “people are more focused on the game” and thus less likely to touch, click or interact with video ads.

But given that so many brands employ TV spots for their Web video efforts — and those spots tend to not be designed for interactivity — isn’t pure exposure arguably as valuable as measures like Dwell Time? “That’s true,” said Geifman. “But it is sort of challenging to measure the [attentiveness] of people. You can always argue that people have seen an ad and not touched. In this case, we are taking the conservative approach. . . . If they touch an ad, we are quite sure they’ve noticed the ad.”

So should brands pull their online video ad dollars from social and gaming environments and stick to content? No, says Geifman. Rather, they need to consider users’ attitudes and behavior when running video ads in different environments, and adjust accordingly — ideally with custom ads. “Video is still a very much emerging medium,” said Geifman. “It is changing as we speak. This is a picture of video right now. People will find ways of engaging people in different environments . . . they need to make adjustments.”

Nielsen Business Media