Study: in-program native ads outperform traditional TV ads

Last month Watchwith, the San Francisco-based video advertising company, released technology that allows TV networks, video networks, and advertisers to place interactive ads within shows.

Now, Watchwith is releasing the results of a study carried out by Magid Associates that tested the effectiveness of the technology within an episode of Bravo’s ‘Best New Restaurant.’ The study was designed to “quantify and compare the impact on brand awareness, recall, net promoter score, and show promo efficacy, between Watchwith in-program ad formats and traditional TV commercials.”

18-49 years olds were recruited to watch an episode of the show, and were exposed to a control (traditional TV commercials only) and two tests (one being in-program display ads and the other being in-program native ads).

It’s not surprising that in-program ads generated higher ad recall than traditional TV ads: TV viewers – a group who knows what they’re getting when they sit down - are savvy enough to know when they’re experiencing something new. When shown only an 8-second brand insert in-show, 18-24 year olds had 20% ad recall versus only 8% for a 30-second ad.

What is surprising, though, is that in-program ads generate higher show affinity and intent to tune in compared to traditional TV commercials. 18-49 year old viewers of in-program ads reported higher brand familiarity (44% vs. 34%), brand affinity (45% vs. 39%), intent to purchase (40% vs. 36%), and intent to recommend (23% vs. 17%) than viewers of traditional TV commercials.

For more on the results of the study and best practices for marketers adopting in-program ads, we spoke with Watchwith CEO, Zane Vella.

Found Remote: One would think that in-program native ads would result in a lower brand opinion and intent to purchase, but in fact it indexed higher than traditional TV ads and in-program display ads. Why do you think that is?

Zane Vella: We believe that improved brand opinion and intent to purchase metrics from in-program native ads are the result of in-program placement, contextual relevance, and integration with in-program interactive content. In other words, marketers should not expect these results from simply inserting display advertising into a video. These are the results of a consumer experience that combines video, in-program interactivity, and in-program ads in a cohesive way.

FR: Perhaps even more surprising is that in-program promos generate higher show affinity and intent to tune in compared to traditional TV commercials. Why would this be the case?

Vella: We see this as a combination of both the in-program placement (in other words, a result of increased visibility and higher recall) and again the contextual relevance between the underlying program and the promoted show. Traditional linear in-program promos, referred to in the industry as "snipes" or "lower thirds", have also proven extremely effective, so this may be more result of seeing the promoted show within the context of content the viewer is already enjoying. At a high level, the in-program promo (whether linear or digital) is an invitation from the show you are watching to experience something else you might like.

FR: For brands that adopt in-program native ads, what have you found to be some best practices to make these ads enjoyable and interactive rather than distracting?

Vella: Some key things we've learned include the value of a two-state interactive creative unit that does not stop the video, and, whenever possible, for the advertiser to offer some utility or value to the viewer.

The first comes from a realization that the advertiser message is being delivered within the context of another program, and that your objective as a marketer is to entice the viewer to learn a little more. In other words, it is better to not try and use too much screen-real estate in an initial call to action, but to tease the viewer into expanding an initial call to action to learn more. Viewers have become quite adept at multitasking, and touching on an in-program ad while still enjoying the show can be rewarding to both viewer and advertiser. The second comes from seeing different kinds of campaigns and advertiser approaches. In-program ads can be used to offer downloads of related songs or games, direct links to more information about program characters and content, and other shortcuts to help the viewer to get more of what they like from a particular show or series. It is no longer just the show that can be "brought to you by" a sponsor, but a broader world of related content, goods and services.

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