"Passing the Torch" video from Columbia Sportwear illustrates that 360 video gets more traction, experiment suggests

Columbia Sportswear recently collaborated with Google to create a digital ad campaign featuring two U.S. Olympic skiers Hannah Kearney and Keaton McCargo during a trip to Chile.

The goal of the video, entitled "Passing the Torch" was to determine whether YouTube 360 video ads drive more viewer engagement than standard video ads.

The video ads offer a virtual reality like experience and are defined as immersive ads that drop the viewer right into the middle of the action - or in the case of extreme skiing it drops you right on the edge with the skiers.

Each of the campaigns featured a 60-second spot for Columbia sportswear, with the two versions including the 360 video and the standard format video ad used in the campaign.

The results were surprising as the 360 in-stream ad underperformed compared to the standard ad on view through rates, across desktop and mobile. However, the interaction rate, which measures how often viewers explored more of the 360 functionality by tilting or scrolling, was higher than the view-through rates for the 60-second 360 ad. Additionally, the 360 ad trounced the standard ad on all the earned action metrics, including views, shares, and subscribers. Additionally, the 360 ad drove 41 per cent more earned actions than the standard ad. It also drove more engagement with Columbia's YouTube channel than the standard ad.

Further, the experiment revealed the full-length 360 video had a 46 per cent higher view count at the end of the experiment than the standard full-length piece. As a result, the 360 ad was deemed to be a more efficient buy since its cost-per-view was lower when organic and paid views were combined.

The video showed a lower retention rate yet a higher click-through rate, and the viewers were more interested in seeing the full-length version of the video. When the 360 in-stream ad underperformed the standard ad on view-through rate, across desktop and mobile as well as the lower retention rate, the higher click-through rate indicated that viewers were more interested in checking out the full-length version of the video.

As 360 video technology evolves, its merits are broadening as it allows brands to focus on the storytelling aspects of the highly immersive 360 video experience. Columbia Sportswear found the results indicate that the viewer is more likely to click past the ad and copy and share the url directly with others. In fact, messaging apple like WhatsApp and iOS messenger cited that more traffic went to the shared version of the full length 360 video than the ad. It turned out that a full-length 360 video had a 46 per cent higher view count than the standard full-length piece. As a result, the 360 ad was deemed more efficient buy since its cost-per-view was lower when organic and paid views were combined.

As the technology encourages viewers to get in on the action by controlling their perspective with a simple tilt of a smartphone or nudge of a mouse, this in turn means the 360 video has the potential to drive more engagement, the experiment suggests. For brands, the novelty of that viewing experience makes people want to watch 360 videos, but also share them with others. As the technology continues to develop and more brands experiment with the format, its value will likely become stronger, the experiment suggests.

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