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Un-TrueView: Why a 'view' doesn’t mean anyone has paid attention, engaged with, or even enjoyed your content

It was unsurprising to hear Santander’s chief marketing officer Keith Moor talk at Advertising Week Europe about the poor performance of a recent online video campaign and the reaction from his media agency.

He had been guaranteed 1.7m placements of Facebook, and the video received around 603,000 views, but only a measly five per cent watched the video all the way through.

Apparently, they told him that was pretty good. Which it isn’t, it’s actually complete shite. Great content and clever messaging can result in far higher watch-through rates.

Actually, it would be interesting to know how many of the 603,000 were near the threshold of the three second metric Facebook considers a ‘view’. All these views mean is that a video has popped up on someone’s screen because you paid for it.

But that’s why the industry loves Facebook for video – racking up a view has never been easier. And the same applied for YouTube. TrueView enables an agency to say ‘we delivered a million views.’

Want to know if you have bought a load of fake views on your video? It’s simple: it comes down to engagement rates, which should be the key metric for measuring success on Facebook and YouTube. This puts the focus on likes, shares and comments. If you have a million views but only a few hundred likes and barely any comments or shares, that means no-one has seen your video.

Basically, a view doesn’t mean anyone has paid any attention, engaged with or enjoyed your content.

Sure, putting swathes of ad spend behind online video can be an effective way of finding the right people to target, and for boosting reach, but what are we targeting them with? On Monday, James Murphy called out the industry for the ‘digital landfill’ of poor content we’ve created.

That’s why I have to question Google’s claim that online video spend drives more ROI than TV, because so much of the end impact of a campaign is driven by the quality of its content, not just paid-for results. Google is comparing apples with pears. You can’t compare ROI on a campaign that had great content versus one that had rubbish content. There’s more to it than that.

Maybe Google really does think we’re all bots. After all, isn’t that who they serve most of those TrueView ads to?

Making content that engages people is not simply about making it excellent and compelling. It’s about adding in hooks to the creative that will appeal to different verticals and interest groups, it’s about understanding the zeitgeist and what people want to see, it’s about knowing what is going to trend on a given day and making that work for you. All of this knowledge plus many other factors, needs to feed back into the creative and inform the story you are telling.

This sort of powerful and clever creative work will find people organically, and can be boosted with some strategic ad spend. But more investment needs to be made in content that grabs people’s attention and keeps it, that earns the full view. Brands have got to stop wasting millions in media spend because their campaigns aren’t innovative or engaging enough.

Making content that generates shares conveniently solves the issue of adblocking and is another reason to do things differently.

You can’t pay to get inside people’s heads. You need to earn it.

Joe Wade is managing director and co-founder at Don’t Panic

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