It may have gone unnoticed by some, but social media has (relatively) quietly undertaken another revolution in the past year: video content is now everywhere. It didn’t happen overnight, but video streaming has come a long way in the past 5 years and, as 2017 begins, we are likely to see advertisers ratchet up their use of this medium further still.
Streamed video ads have existed online since YouTube first burst through. We are all familiar with the 15 or 30-second pre-roll ad, our cursor impatiently hovering as we wait for the “Skip Ad” button to appear. These commercials have always had their foibles: poorly targeted, too long, lacking the production values of primetime TV and frequently buffering because of a too-high automatic resolution. As a result many consumers saw them as an irritant and a barrier to accessing their desired content. While viewability metrics may have been high for these ads (artificially so, as sometimes there was no option but to watch them), the reality was that they rarely made a lasting impression on the viewer. Adtech, however, has started to change all this.
Platforms such as Snap and Periscope have always placed video at the heart of their services. But while Snap’s Sponsored Stories have done well, it has remained tough for advertisers to embed themselves in the core social-video offering of these applications. Recently, more established social media players have taken note of these successes, and as mobile data capacity has increased, previously more linear, image and text based channels – particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – have jumped on the video-content bandwagon. So how can advertisers take advantage?
When Facebook first ventured into video ads, their offering was creaky at best. 2016, however, saw video become an integral feature of the app for both users and brands. Facebook themselves claim that video viewability grew 50% in 2016, largely thanks to a far more integrated, streamlined experience for the user. Video ads and user-uploaded content look the same, and while video ads are clearly marked out as advertisements, they are nevertheless a more native part of the Facebook experience. The app also provides brands with useful data as to how their video ad has performed, breaking this down into datasets including clickthrough rates, views and average percentage of video viewed. Within the last few weeks, industry insiders have suggested that Facebook is to begin testing a new mid-roll ad format, which will enable publishers to insert 15-second ads into videos across the network.
Facebook also now offers its “Live” service, allowing users to broadcast in real time (imitating Periscope and YouTube Live). 2017 will be an exciting year for innovation in live streaming advertising as marketers are only just starting to exploit this new medium. Facebook has positioned itself well to take advantage.
Once it had been acquired by Facebook back in 2015, Instagram began to include adverts for the first time. This soon expanded to include video and a new “Carousel” feature, whereby users received more content if they interacted with the ad. Later that summer, it also launched its new advertising API, allowing third parties to directly connect and trade ads programmatically. 2016 saw Instagram release its major new feature, “Stories“, whereby any account, personal or business, can post daily videos to their followers. It took a while for brands to get used to the feature, but now that Stories has become a seamless part of the Instagram experience we expect 2017 to see publishers not only continue to push Video and Carousel ads, but also to venture further into Stories to try to reach new customers via more innovative video content.
With great fanfare, Snap (formerly Snapchat) launched its “Discover” feature back in the summer of 2015 (you can check out ADTEKR’s coverage here). Big brands are continuing to use this interactive video feature, and Snap is very good at telling publishers how to use its ten-second SnapAds. These can be targeted by content-type; for example, a brand selling sporting equipment can run their SnapAds on sport-related channels (like Sky Sports). Snap continues to dominate in the millennial market and, after its apparent 350% increase in videos-watched-per-day in 2016, will no doubt continue to grow its user base this year.
Promoted videos on Twitter, according to the platform itself, drive the “highest recall and emotional connection” of any of their ad types (though this seems a rather grandiose and unsubstantiated claim). Twitter offers auto-play videos – the bane of many a user’s experience – whereby video ads automatically start playing (without audio) when a user scrolls past, and they charge once a user has viewed 2 seconds of the video in at least 50% of the viewing area. Interestingly, Twitter informs brands that over 90% of their video content is viewed on mobile, making it all the more important that the content is optimised for mobile viewing.
As we venture into 2017, video ads will continue their rapid rise across the social advertising spectrum. Facebook and YouTube have already expanded into the live-streaming space (something Periscope has already been doing, most successfully via Twitter); and Snap and Instagram are aggressively promoting their own video offerings. Between these varied options, brands now have the ability to target specific audiences with tailored video content like never before. As confidence in online video advertising grows, we can expect to see yet more innovative video delivery methods – and new opportunities for advertisers.