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Video Advertising: The Difference Between TV and Digital

BBC Worldwide CMO Jackie Lee-Joe said that it is no longer reasonable to place TV adverts online without adapting their content. With digital video ad spend set to reach over £20 billion by 2020 in the US alone, marketers need to be aware that although the format is largely the same, the demands and expectations of digital audiences are very different from TV audiences.

Despite the numerous claims that TV is a fast-dwindling medium, viewing figures show that in many countries television is very much alive and well. This isn’t to say that particular companies cannot be successful with digital video advertising, but rather that the expectations of each campaign need to be carefully calculated. Furthermore, the reasons for watching online video content are very different to the reasons for watching TV and marketers need to be aware of this when creating digital video ads.

Content Length

There are strict rules which govern how long ad breaks can be which by proxy limits the runtime of any given advert. However, depending on the site there is no limit to how long a digital video advert can be. A video that tells the story of the brand and makes an effort to clearly extol its virtues can be successful – as exemplified by the viral success of Dollar Shave Club’s entertaining video ad. In this way digital video advertising is effective as it allows more time to tell a story which can be amplified for a fraction of the budget of a TV ad.

The average length of a TV ad has traditionally been around 30 seconds, so at over triple that length Dollar Shave Club has looked to reap the benefits of advertising online. An important point to bear in mind though is that the optimal time for a mobile advert is said to be 10-30 seconds. While some ads can be longer, in general ads should stick to these times. The success of pre-roll video ads also shows that short digital video adverts are very effective and can help boost brand awareness.

Viewing Intentions

Nielsen reported that often viewers don’t mind watching online ads as long as they get something in return, be this either exclusive content or products of genuine interest to them. Sites offering exclusive content may attract more sympathetic consumers that are willing to watch adverts. As a result of this, marketers need to consider not just the creation of the ad but additionally its implementation.  

Understanding where to employ the video is also crucial to its success. Forrester noted that emails with videos increased click-through rates by up to 300%, whereas pre-roll videos have a click-through rate of less than 1%. This doesn’t mean any method is better than the other. The overall digital video ad click-through rate is 1.84% which is better than any other form of digital advertising. What is crucial is understanding different demographics and at what stage of the sales funnel to present the video.

Understanding the Platform

Following on from the last point, it is imperative that marketers understand the nuances of the specific platform they want to create their video for. There are subtle differences in the ways that videos are crafted for the prodigious variety of web platforms and apps, not to mention that certain videos will be watched on either desktop, mobile or tablet.

One of these differences is the use of sound in videos. One would assume that sound is an intrinsic part of what sets a video ad apart from a banner ad, but it has been widely reported that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. Therefore marketers must consider whether a video needs subtitles or has to be shot in self-explanatory fashion.

However, not everyone agrees with the rise in silent video ads. Snapchat’s Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan warned clients against buying video ad space that forgoes sound, saying that:

“Basically when you’re buying advertising without sound…you’re not really buying video, you’re buying [a] moving banner.”

Seeking to capitalise on this trend, Kopparberg released a fairly simplistic video on Facebook which seemingly offered little to viewers; however, if viewers were to listen to the audio, it revealed a competition.

As a result this shrewd ploy generated far more engagement than otherwise seen on Kopparberg’s social media sites. This in turn shows that digital video advertising offers huge scope for marketers looking for entertaining means of talking to consumers.

Misstated Metrics

The metrics used to measure the viewing figures of video adverts have been heavily criticised. Mark Ritson of Marketing Week has said that viewing figures fail to compare “apples with apples” when comparing online video ads with TV ads. Many metrics that are presented to clients are misleading as they measure audiences in different ways.

Facebook has been the latest to fall foul of this, as the Wall Street Journal reported that it has been overstating view times on its video ads. To counteract this trend, marketers need to ask for detailed reports when requesting viewing figures on digital video adverts. Several industry groups are already looking to create stricter guidelines by which video adverts are delivered and measured and this will hopefully lead to more clarity within the industry.


Digital video advertising offers an effective means of communicating with consumers that TV cannot offer. However, to harness this marketing tool effectively, marketers must remember that these types of adverts are very different from those seen on TV.

The key issue is that it is very easy to oversimplify digital video advertising and place it as a single medium alongside TV. However, like television, which is also rapidly changing its ad model, digital advertising cannot be condensed into one form and requires careful planning and execution.

What is your experience of using digital video adverts? Did it improve your business? Get in touch via social media to let us know.

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