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Google’s announcement that Chrome would block autoplay video with sound came as welcome news to many. However, it may be a hard pill to swallow for advertisers who have historically taken a “spray and pray” approach to advertising and for publishers who have relied on autoplay for the majority of their inventory. With this update, we’ll no doubt start to see a surge in muted autoplay videos. But with greater pressure on advertisers than ever before—40 percent of them say their top challenge is demonstrating ROI—is this really the best solution? Given that brands are projected to spend almost $11 billion on digital video by 2021 (a 50 percent increase from what they are expected to spend in 2018), it’s crucial that we get smarter about video and make sure every placement is impactful. Will 2018 be the year of change?
Advertisers should view the Chrome update as an opportunity to improve the way we engage with audiences. After all, we already know how intrusive autoplay videos can be: A study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that autoplay is one of the most disliked forms of advertising by consumers. These ads also typically have low viewability and can result in subpar conversion rates—think platforms like Facebook or Twitter, where visitors scroll quickly through multiple videos without engaging. Additionally, a 2017 study by Google found that videos without audio had 1.4 times less ad recall and 1.6 times less brand awareness than those with sound. Additionally, in a recent study by Adweek, 63 percent of marketers polled said that muted autoplay was an “ineffective” or “very ineffective” ad format. Marketers also reported that the main objective of 62 percent of digital video campaigns was to maximize completion rates—but if sound is not part of the equation, it is likely that the content is less compelling and engaging. Advertisers thus should strongly consider adding click-to-play video (which includes sound) to their media plans.
Research suggests that consumer-controlled advertising, like click-to-play video, is a powerful solution for brands, publishers and consumers. In fact, a recent study found that opt-in (a form of click-to-play) videos engage people eight times more than autoplay videos. In addition to generating higher ad recall and brand awareness, unlike autoplay, click-to-play is a non-interruptive experience that is less likely to drive consumers to adopt ad blockers, a practice approximately 18 percent of Americans have already taken to today.
From a publisher standpoint, click-to-play videos represent a great opportunity to upgrade to premium video inventory. Leading publishers have already begun exploring opt-in formats: Pinterest, for example, displays GIF previews that viewers can click on to initiate the videos. Time Inc. followed suit this year. And according to Brian Rifkin, co-founder of JW Player, advertisers are paying three times higher rates for opt-in video than for autoplay—and the fill rate is roughly twice as high. The increasing preference for quality over quantity speaks to a general trend in advertising that extends across screens. Take, for example, NBCUniversal’s commitment to slashing their ad load for more impactful content. Inundating consumers with ads is no longer a viable option, especially with the rise of ad-free services. But for more publishers to replace their autoplay inventory with click-to-play, it’s likely going to take advertisers committing to the format—and brands ranging from Purina to Garnier to Lionsgate are already taking advantage.
Perhaps most importantly, click-to-play by nature only reaches people who are actually interested. Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker found that people have a positive view of value exchange advertising (a form of click-to-play), besting pre-roll by a more than three to one margin. And Generation Z, a notoriously elusive age group for advertisers, prefers videos that offer some kind of reward (aka value exchange). Giving consumers the power to initiate videos means a better visitor experience, which is crucial to publishers, and it also aligns with the more respectful approach the industry is advocating. In 2018, we can no longer advertise at people—we need to reach them with relevant content in their moment of need or interest.
We are at an inflection point, and marketers must rethink how to effectively leverage media. With video expected to account for 82 percent of total web traffic by 2021, the format is clearly lucrative, and as an industry, we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about how we drive value from it. One proactive way all marketers can take a more informed approach is to reevaluate the key metrics they use to evaluate and purchase media. Metrics like completion rates, post-view engagement and click-through rates provide more insight into the consumer mindset and come in spades with opt-in video units. In fact, it’s become so popular and critical that the IAB has set up a working group to help media buyers and planners better understand how to buy and benefit from the format.
As advertisers continue to step up innovation and demand measurable business results from their media spends, solutions like muted autoplay will fall out of favor. Click-to-play video, in addition to providing more powerful brand metrics, is non-interruptive and ultimately puts audiences in control. At a time when it’s become more crucial than ever to respect consumers, click-to-play video offers a win-win-win solution for brands, publishers and audiences alike.