The power of video advertising may be well documented, but as consumer behaviour changes amid familiarity with video browsing on mobile devices, marketers who think the rules of engagement for digital video have already been written - and that there is a one size fits all approach - should think again.
The rise and effectiveness of native video on social media has been well researched to date. Engagement rates, reach, frequency and return on investment studies all show positive associations. But until now, there have been few studies showing the rise and performance of native video formats across the open web, specifically on premium publisher environments, where in-feed native video formats are becoming increasingly common.
We recently sought to fill that void through an analysis of more than 30 million in-feed video views run across our platform from January to April 2018. While we expected to be able to report findings on native video on the open web that were in line with the positive findings in social media, we didn’t expect that our findings would challenge the very notion of 'what works' in native video. But that’s precisely what happened.
Conventional wisdom in the video space, based on social data, has indicated that less is more when it comes to native video advertising, with many espousing that anything longer than 6 seconds in native video is simply too long. However, our findings would seem to contradict the perceived wisdom that mobile users have limited attention spans and are only interested in short video content.
According to our findings, smartphone users are more likely to spend time engaging with long-form video ads compared to 6-second ads when executed correctly. In fact, 72% of mobile users who have watched 6 seconds will continue to watch and engage with video up to 22 seconds. When native video reaches 15 to 22 seconds in length across premium publisher environments, mobile and tablet users that have watched this far are significantly more engaged than desktop users.
The evolution of our 'mobile minds'
Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that people’s attention spans for native video seem to be growing longer. While the findings in our report represent the first of their kind in native video, there have been several studies undertaken around the attention of mobile phone users when it comes to reading. Over time, conclusions have shifted.
One study in 2010 found that reading on a mobile device was impaired when content was presented on a mobile-size screen versus a larger computer screen. But a similar study, undertaken six years later in 2016, showed different results. This study, conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, concluded that there were no practical differences in the comprehension scores of participants, whether they were reading on a mobile device or a computer. In fact, the study found comprehension on mobile was about 3% higher than on a computer for content that was just over 400 words in length, and at an easier level to read.
Why the difference in results? It’s very possible that, over the period between 2010 and 2016 — the exact period during which smartphones became ubiquitous — we’ve all become more accustomed to reading on smaller screens. It’s reasonable to assume that the challenges the average person had reading on a small screen back in 2010 no longer apply now that people have adjusted to life on those smaller screens.
In a similar manner, it would appear that user behavior is changing around video consumption on mobile devices as well.
Well-held assumptions that less-is-more for video length and the broader worries about a crisis in user attention spans very well may prove to have been misplaced.
Creating compelling video content
As attention spans for native video lengthen, marketers would do well to reassess their best practices as it relates to creating content for mobile consumption. In particular, native video creators should think carefully about improving video performance during the key drop-off periods on a specific device.
For videos that will be consumed on mobile or tablet, videos should be edited to pack a punch in the first 6 seconds, in order to draw in users. The latest data suggests that the optimal length for native video content on mobile and tablet should be between 15 and 22 seconds. After 22 seconds, user interest does wane. If videos have to be longer, marketers should ensure that there are more-exciting sequences and enticing calls to action around 22 seconds, in order to maintain viewer interest up to 30 seconds.
If nothing else, these recent findings demonstrate that marketers must remain fluid in their understanding of how users engage with content on their devices. Behaviour is shifting, and yesterday’s best practices won’t necessarily apply tomorrow.
Dale Lovell is co-founder of Adyoulike