On measuring video effectiveness, and teaching dogs to fly


It happened again… In a discussion on effectiveness of video ads, I heard once again a statement like: “sales is the only valid metric for us to measure effectiveness”. This time I have to write about it.

Why your dog won’t fly.

Let’s keep it simple. There are only a couple of ways in which video ads could drive sales directly:

  1. A user watches a video ad, then closes the browser, walks to the store and buys the product (offline conversion)
  2. A user watches a video ad, clicks on the ‘buy now’ button, and buys the product (online conversion)

#1 doesn’t happen often. It used to be marketers’ belief that an attention grabbing TV would make people flock to the stores. Today, “put an attention grabbing ad on TV, and people will flock to the internet” (Greg Satell). If the video ad is digital, people are very likely to do some more research online before buying.

#2 happens very rarely, for example in shoppable hangouts or in other forms of shoppable video ads. However, most video ads don’t have a call to action to purchase the product. Also, video platforms don’t have an always prominent ‘buy now’ button like e-commerce sites.

In other words, video ads generally don’t drive sales directly, they just can’t. Video is increasingly important in the consumer journey, but it is often only the beginning of it. Video platforms are also not built to drive sales. If you are trying to optimize your video ads to see a clear impact on sales, you might as well try to teach your dog to fly.

The bad, the worse, and the ugly.

So your metrics are wrong. Ok, it can’t be that bad, right? In fact, you won’t change the entire culture of your very sales-driven company, just to change ONE metric! And you certainly don’t want to go and tell your boss that sales are not important. Let’s keep quiet and find some work-around…

Good luck.

The bad. Your content strategy will be wrong, in so many ways. For example, you might focus on your product and benefits (including plenty of product shots in the video), in order to reinforce mental availability for your product when the consumer is making a quick choice in the aisle of a supermarket. However, many viewers will find your product and benefit irrelevant, simply because they are not ready to buy (or even considering). And because they have plenty of choice, they will skip your ad, or just close the browser.

The worse. Your media strategy will be wrong. If users don’t watch your ad, video won’t work for you. You’re likely to decrease your investment in video ads and move spend to other media types, which are more effective delivering sales. The equivalent in the offline world would be to spend your entire budget in trade marketing and just hope that people will find your store and walk into it, almost by chance. Obviously, sales will also go down soon…

…and that’s the ugly. Your entire business will suffer. While your competitors are out there building new relationships and deepening connections (with video ads), you will be alienating even your existing customers, attempting to sell something to them at every touch-point. You’ll bleed customers, sales, then employees, … Doesn’t sound great, right?

So what does great measurement look like?

In one sentence, you have to cover every touch-point with the right ‘tools’, and measure their effectiveness based on what each of them is supposed to deliver. For a more comprehensive read on the topic, I recommend this article by Avinash Kaushik, colleague at Google and great thinker on digital.

Let’s look at measurement specifically for video. My recommendation is to start with what you need to know in order to measure effectiveness but also to make smart decisions on how to optimize your content and media strategies. There are 3 questions you need to ask yourself.

1. Am I creating content that people want to see?

Keep in mind that you don’t have an option: on digital, you need to craft content that people want to see. If you don’t, they’ll skip you ads or close the tab, and possibly feel annoyed by your brand. Metrics to track are:

  • View-through-rate (on skippable ads): tells you if people are willing to listen to you
  • Audience retention and/or completion rate: tell you when people stop listening and will allow you to tweak your creative (or run A/B testing pre-campaign)

2. Am I distributing my content effectively?

Creating great content doesn’t mean that people will see it. On YouTube, most videos don’t achieve 1000 views, including some great content. Ensuring your best content is seen is at the core of a digital marketer’s job. Key metrics to track are:

  • Unique reach across devices (and possibly incremental reach to any offline campaigns)
  • Views or watch-time: views is a key digital currency, it tells you how many users have chosen to see your ad (make sure you count opt-in views and not auto-played views, they are two different currencies!). One important note: measure both paid views and earned views, as well as the ratio of total views over paid views (a ratio of 2 is generally the threshold for good content as a rule of thumb)
  • Traffic sources: tell you how many users are landing on your content and from where. It’s important because it will allow you to ‘find’ more users in the right places

3. Am I driving engagement and subscribers?

Video ads are a great way to deepen connections and build a community of loyalists (to understand why, read this previous post). Metrics to watch here are:

  • Subscriber gains/losses (for each video!): tell you what content attracts more subscribers (so you’ll produce more of it!) and indicates your overall ability to turn casual viewers into ‘fans’ of your brand
  • Comments/likes/shares per ‘000 views: indicate the amount of engagement and participation your content is able to achieve (normalized by the number of views)
  • Click-through rate from ads and annotations: indicates your ability to drive follow-on engagement with users and cover successive touch-points

Finally, your golden metrics: measure the impact on your brand.

Every brand has its own strategy and specific objectives, but in general monitoring the impact on key brand metrics is paramount. Brand awareness is obviously important, but for many big brands it’s already very high, so brand consideration and favorability become better indicators of an actual shift in consumers’ preferences.

Build your own scorecard for success!

Obviously these metrics might change depending on your brand and objectives, but hopefully the ones I mentioned will constitute a good starting point to build your own scorecard. The metrics above are summarized graphically here.


A final tip: focus on few metrics and select those that you can use for decision-making and influence directly with clear levers.


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