Video Ad Receptivity: TV Still Comes Out on Top


Duncan SouthgateWhile the industry is becoming increasingly focused on multiscreen advertising, the reality is that not all screens deliver the same impact. In fact, a new study – which looked at approximately 13,500 users across 42 countries – by Millward Brown (part of WPP) has found that ad favourability on digital screens is low so brands need to make strategic choices that will enhance consumer acceptance. Here Duncan Southgate, Global Brand Director for Digital at Millward Brown, explains the findings and how ad favourability differ across various markets.

After all the hullabaloo about digital and its potential as an advertising channel, it seems that consumers still prefer TV ads. Our latest 42 market study among multiscreeners found that while even live TV ads are not viewed favourably overall, they still perform better than video advertising on all digital screens.

It may simply be that we are conditioned to accept advertising on live TV as we’ve all grown up with it and understand the value exchange of ads for content. It’s noticeable that ads via on-demand TV platforms are less popular, a new technology using the same screen.

TV is the Best of a Badly Received Bunch

In fact, ad receptivity on live TV is a net -4 (the difference between positive and negative scores) but -23 for on demand TV and worse on laptops (-25), tablets (-26) and smartphones (-30). This overall hierarchy is consistent globally, but the gap between TV and smartphone receptivity is most marked in Japan, Argentina and France.

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. There are strategic decisions that can be taken to ensure video ads on digital screens are viewed more favourably, and they can easily be more popular than TV advertising. Globally the most popular video format on digital screens is mobile app rewards, which scores a net +26 (even higher in the Philippines and Brazil where it scores +59 and +52 respectively).

Control is Key

However, rewards advertising is not appropriate for all advertisers or available on all platforms. Therefore, the central move that brands should make is to give consumers more control over the advertising they see e.g. by making ads skippable. This one simple change alters the picture dramatically. Skippable pre-rolls are more popular globally than live TV ads scoring a net +1. They are particularly positively received in Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific (+15) and in North America (+14).

Other formats which provide some user control also do comparatively well: social click to play (+2), skippable mobile pop-ups and in-banner click to play (both -6).

For brands that refuse to give consumers control, favourability is dramatically lower: social auto-play video ads score -33, in-banner auto plays score -40, unskippable pre-rolls score -45 but worst of all are mobile app pop-ups, which score -47. In Czech Republic and Russia this format scores as low as -77.

Content Improves Receptivity

As well as embracing more popular ad formats, brands can also improve video receptivity if they develop alternative, non-paid forms of content. Branded videos score particularly favourably, with tutorials ranked at +55. If brands are willing to relinquish control and provide expert review videos or user review videos they also score well hitting +41 and +39 respectively. It may be challenging to generate significant reach via these alternative approaches, but it is clear they should be part of a balanced video content strategy.

The video marketing multiscreen challenge is not just about improving receptivity by providing more control. It’s also about the quality of the creative and the distribution approach. AdReaction Video highlights the need to consider digital early in the creative process.

The use of more skippable formats means online ads need to work differently than TV ads. They should aim for early impact by cutting-to-the-chase, and branding early and clearly. Humour is the single most effective way to avoid getting skipped (top reason in 30 of 42 countries studied), although clearly what defines humour varies from market to market. They should also aim in particular to be more distinctive.

Emotion is as Important as Ever

Some things, though, are just as important online as they are on TV. Emotional engagement is essential to generating cut-through and driving long-term memorability in all channels. Brands also need to decide whether they are primarily looking to communicate new news, or just to reinforce an existing positioning.

When it comes to distribution, while consumers are receptive to targeting, they don’t want to be stalked. It’s a fine line but consumers are most receptive to video ads targeted based on their interests (net +20 receptive) or preferred brands (+19 receptive) and least receptive to ads that are evidently based on their web browsing history (-12 receptive).

Brands also need to be wary of the context in which their ad is presented. Most video viewing (even on mobile devices) takes place at home, and people are slightly more open to ads in this environment, so those are viewing occasions worth targeting.

As digital media consumption continues to grow, digital screens represent a great opportunity to reach and connect with people, but a nuanced approach is required to overcome the receptivity challenges. However, if advertisers make use of the best media formats and the right framework for creative development and distribution,


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