Not all VOD is the same

Video ads served on broadcaster video-on-demand command 3.5x the attention levels than those placed on YouTube, according to an innovative new study from Channel 4.

The research, which collated over 100 hours of second-by-second viewing data harvested via screen capture software and eye-tracking glasses, found that All 4 delivered a 96% ad completion rate, compared to Youtube’s 59% and just 17% on Facebook.

According to the results presented by Martin Greenbank, head of advertising research and development at Channel 4, viewers of broadcaster VOD regard ads served on the likes of All 4 and ITV Hub as being of higher quality; they are accepted as part of the viewing experience, and thus generate higher levels of ad involvement. This, he suggests, is a result of being in a more relaxed and emotive state, as they enjoy their favourite shows.

Conversely, the research indicates that YouTube and Facebook audiences are much more likely to be in a state of cognitive dissonance, or in other words, distracted attention.

For YouTube, factors such as the content sidebar and comments thread entice a viewer’s focus away from the ads, though that’s not all. The study also implies that YouTube is often used as a music player, suggesting that most of the ads served on the platform are never seen.

In fact, Greenbank and his team posit that 73% of the total passively observed minutes measured on YouTube were hidden from view, with 57% of 16-34s seen to use it for background music at least once a month. Interestingly, across all VOD platforms, younger viewers are the most likely to be both highly active and distracted viewers.

With Facebook, the findings are even more alarming. The study showed that 70% of video ads served on feeds were immediately scrolled past; if they were viewed, it was likely to be without sound. The longest duration for an ad engagement totalled in at just 3.5 seconds, indicating that advertisers running video ads on the platform are largely being charged for nothing.

In the wake of Google’s recent troubles, the issue of online video ads being served but not seen – along with concerns over placement and context – is a subject that requires no further scrutiny. The true cost of advertising on BVOD compared to YouTube and Facebook, however, should be of fresh interest.

Whilst the headline CPM (cost per thousand impressions, or views) on All 4 (£30) is more than YouTube (£6-£12) and Facebook (£2-£10), when factoring in variables such as the percentage of non-distracted viewing and ad completions, a different picture emerges. All 4 delivers a CPM of £22, whilst YouTube and Facebook rise to £28 and £67 respectively; increases of +27%, and a huge +300%.

Naturally, a research study commissioned by Channel 4 will always showcase BVOD in a positive light. Yet it’s difficult to argue against the fact that, in terms of true value for money, quality of content and ad engagement, the likes of All 4 and ITV Hub should be regarded as a safer bet for advertisers requiring online video advertising environments that protect the interests of their brand.