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The Long and Short of Video in Digital Advertising

Debating the length of attentive viewership within the fragmented video advertising ecosystem of 2019 continues to provide a seemingly endless point of view by channel, device, audience, ad type and even the seconds or minutes needed to properly categorize “short-form” and “long-form” video ads.

Unanimous agreement exists, however, regarding the growth trajectory of time spent engaging with video content. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, IP video traffic will increase to 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, up from 73% in 2016.

Media Considerations

Some digital advertising media considerations for brands to remember:

  1. Marketers must differentiate between ads and content. Agencies create long-form content that can be effective organically, but which don’t work well as paid media in digital advertising.

  2. Whether paid or unpaid, success based on video length varies by media channel as well as campaign objective.

  3. There is only limited consensus on optimal video lengths and “research” varies on the subject. But whatever the length or format, there should be a compelling hook within the first several seconds to engage the audience.

Short Video or Skip

OK, so how short is a “short” video? Well, it’s six (6) seconds to be precise. A “Bumper” ad was first introduced by YouTube in May 2016 as a new six-second video format, sold through the AdWords auction on a CPM basis. Bumper ads ran before views, were non-skippable and positioned to digital media planner agencies as an appropriate vehicle for driving incremental reach and frequency, particularly on mobile platforms, where “snackable videos” perform well according to Google Ads.

Data provider, Adroit Digital, conducted a research study in 2014 that queried 2,000 random consumers, ages 18 and older, who own a television, smartphone and personal computer or laptop. The study found the following:

  • 56% of all its survey participants are likely to skip online video ads

  • 46% said a video ad should be no more than 15 seconds in length

  • 18 to 24-yr-old respondents were most likely to skip online video content at the rate of 64%

  • 35 to 44-yr-olds are least likely to skip an online video ad at all

  • Total respondent base indicated a rate of 56% who said they skip online video ads most of the time

Long Video Stories

Conversely, in 2016 Instagram increased their video ad offering to 60-seconds to extend the reach of a brand and allow time to craft a story more fully. In 2018, Instagram launched an Instagram TV (IGTV) app to maximize vertical video on mobile platforms while creating an alternative to YouTube. If uploaded from a desktop computer, videos can be up to 60 minutes in length while phone uploads may be up to 15 minutes long. Again, differentiating “content” from “advertising” will be important to the overall brand engagement expectations.

OOYALA, a company which powers linear and on-demand video for some of the world’s largest companies, collected video consumption data from over 500 clients comparing 2016 with 2018. This chart show why Instagram should open up long-form video.

In 2017, Andrew Waber shared perspective from testing and analysis of video advertising data he conducted regarding Facebook optimal creative length and format. Among his findings for e-commerce advertisers, the 16-20 second length boasted the best conversion rate, but longer video ads weren’t far behind. The 26-35 second lengths lagged the top conversion rate by moderate, but not significant, amounts in aggregate.

Source: Nanigans Insights, How The Duration Of Your Video Ad Impacts Performance

In 2018, Facebook jumped face-first into augmented reality (AR) advertising as well as introducing a Video Creation Kit app. The app allowed advertisers the ability to create and optimize video footage from static assets combined with video footage through a templated approach. In an interview with Marketing Land, Ty Ahmad-Taylor, VP of product marketing and global marketing solutions at Facebook, says the app is seeing video become the preferred medium for product discovery on mobile.

Video is Better Regardless

“People now expect a personalized and visually inspiring experience wherever they shop — whether they’re on their phone or in-store, which is why video will play an increasingly important role in the mobile shopping experience,” says Ahmad-Taylor. To drive home its point, Facebook shared figures from Wyzowl’s 2017 “State of Video Marketing" report that found 79% of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product than read text to further push its video ad efforts.

The most important thing to understand about all of this as a digital media planner is that there is truly no “one size fits all” approach to video. What platform has worked best for you in terms of video? What have you found to be the ideal video length for that platform? Share your comments, we'd love to hear from you.

To learn how a digital media planner and buyer can revolutionize your advertising strategy, contact The Ward Group today.


To continue learning about the changing nature of the video ecosystem, we suggest visiting the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) at The IAB Digital Video Center offers resources such as spending studies, cross-platform video measurement and blockchain for video advertising white papers.

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