How do you measure video ad success? It’s not about the click

by Tyler Hampton, director of product marketing, Turn

If no one clicks on a video ad, does it have an impact?

Like the philosophers who pondered the sound of a tree falling in the forest, media traders have been grappling with this issue for ages. Yet, unlike that classic thought experiment, the question about video ads has real-life consequences. So what’s the answer?

A survey conducted by Turn shows that this issue persists. In particular, while 84 percent of all agency executives said they thought video was the most effective medium to get a client’s branding message across, 56 percent of execs under 30 said that there are more effective ways to advertise than video. This schism is likely the result of an over-reliance on clicks as a metric in online advertising.

The case against clicks

While the survey didn’t reveal why those under 30 had such a markedly different view of video ads than their older peers, one possible explanation is that these younger execs grew up in a digital environment. Unlike legacy media, digital media can be measured in granular detail. Perhaps younger media execs believe that digital ads are there to be clicked and if people aren’t clicking, then they’re not working.

These media agency execs may be expecting direct action from video units. An emphasis on clicks is understandable, but many in the industry have argued for some time that clicks are irrelevant to understanding an ad’s performance.

Less than 1 percent of people actually click on video ads –if there’s anything to actually “click” in the first place. If clicks are your main metric, then you’re optimizing your entire media plan according to less than 1 percent of the people who saw your ad In other words, you’re skewing your whole media plan.

Exodus from linear TV

While younger agency execs are disappointed with the performance of video ads, older execs who come from a TV-centric world have different concerns. They know that linear TV is collapsing. Our survey shows that 67 percent of digital video dollars have shifted from linear TV.

Millennial agency executives may be more apt to see digital video as a direct-response medium, while older execs would like to find a standard metric like the gross rating point on which to base their buys and ROI metrics. Because of the granular targeting capabilities of digital video, there are more accurate ways of measuring a video ad’s performance. Measuring DR is easy enough – just look at clicks. Measuring branding success is squishier because it’s based on estimations of how many people have viewed an ad and on how the ad’s performance affected KPIs.

The end result: confusion

These differing expectations and the lack of universal standards for digital video are a recipe for confusion. Vendors and solution providers complicate the issue by pushing their preferred metrics.

Digital video advertising is a complex medium that requires complex metrics. Unless they’re pure DR, campaigns don’t perform in isolation but rather as part of a larger effort. An ad might not get a lot of clicks, but could still help nudge the needle on sales, brand affinity or other key metrics.

So what’s the solution?

Executives need to take off their media blinders and look at their KPIs instead. Forget about clicks and look at video-specific metrics that tie in to DR goals and sales metrics. The data shows that video can drive sales, but only if you optimize the right metrics. And that could easily be completions rather than clicks.

In answer to the question of clicks: Yes, video ads can be successful regardless of how many people click on them.

Learn more about how to get true ROI from your video budget.

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