Video ads for direct response: What’s the best length?

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Video advertising creative is perhaps the most painstaking for advertisers to deal with during the planning and production stages. While there’s no magic formula to creating the “best” video ad, direct response-focused advertisers are inherently test-oriented, and they will eventually find creative that works well with their target audiences to achieve their larger objective.

One thing we can learn from looking at aggregate advertiser data is that the best-performing video ads for a given vertical generally fall within a narrow duration and typically share a few commonalities.

As a note, the findings outlined in this column reflect data analyzed as part of my work at Nanigans. Specifically, the sample consists of Facebook video advertising activity originating from 10 of the highest-spending gaming and e-commerce video advertisers. Ads studied were those run by the sampled advertisers at any point from September 1, 2016, through February 28, 2017.

Let’s first focus on the gaming vertical, where you find collectively the largest spenders on video advertising within the direct response ecosystem.

What’s the best video ad length?

Video ad length for these advertisers is most frequently 11 to 20 seconds long, with 62 percent of all studied gaming video ad creative within this 10-second range. An additional 10 percent of video creative for gaming advertisers comes in at 31 to 35 seconds long.

While the above graph outlines how gaming advertisers structure the length of the creative, marketers care most about conversion rates. In the case of gaming, this relates to installs. To quantify this metric by video length, aggregated click-to-install conversion rates were calculated for each length of video, and then weighted by total spend for that video length across the studied advertisers.

The result pointed to some interesting findings. Despite 16- to 20-second videos being the most popular length for gaming advertisers by more than 150 percent, conversion rates were only moderately higher than 21- to 25-second, or 31- to 35-second ads.

Of course, these insights are correlative, not causative. Just making a poor-performing 14-second gaming ad a 20-second ad isn’t likely to increase your conversion rate by itself. However, in the course of the analysis, there were a few similar characteristics of the best-performing video gaming ads.

  • Focus creative on the game’s ‘greatest hits’ — Ads that simply showed game play in a continuous fashion, or as a kind of tutorial, weren’t as well received. Focusing on a series of exciting, colorful or dramatic sequences tended to be associated with increased conversion rates.
  • Minimal in-ad CTAs — Ads relying on the CTAs present within the Facebook ad unit itself tended to perform better.
  • In-market creative testing and segmentation — Better identify what creative resonates with different target user segments.

Unlike their gaming counterparts, the length of e-commerce video ads tends to be much more widely distributed and comparatively weights more toward longer lengths. The 16- to 20-second range is still popular, but only accounts for 20 percent of e-commerce video creative.

Meanwhile, 42 percent of ad creative in this group was between 21 and 35 seconds in length. This may be due to more complex value propositions in convincing someone to purchase or subscribe to a service, as compared to simply downloading a game.

For e-commerce advertisers, the 16- to 20-second length boasted the best conversion rate, but longer video ads weren’t far behind. Twenty-six- to 35-second lengths lagged behind the top conversion rate by moderate, but not significant, amounts in aggregate.

Video advertising best practices

With a wider variance in target markets and value propositions, the differences between ads were larger within e-commerce as compared to gaming. Regardless, there were a few qualitative aspects to the best-performing creative that were represented across a few advertisers in the sample.

  • Unique visuals — Some of the best-performing creative for e-commerce advertisers had a unique look and feel. This included a static image with a video playing within or some dramatically sped-up product usage.
  • Consider testing silent versions — A number of advertisers experimented with the same creative with and without sound, and the silent editions tended to perform better.
  • Experiential rather than descriptive — Videos visualizing the experience of using the product were generally well-received from a conversion standpoint.

These data points should help shape the direction of your video creative, particularly as you look to test against different audience segments. Just as with any ad type, be sure to test a few variations on length and format, as the effectiveness is likely to differ across your various user segments.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Andrew Waber is the Manager of Market Insights and Media Relations for advertising automation software provider Nanigans. In his current role, Andrew manages the data analysis, editorial direction, and strategy for the Nanigans Market Insights research program. Prior to his time at Nanigans, Andrew served as the Market Analyst and lead author of reports for Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika online ad network. Andrew’s commentary on online trends has been quoted by the New York Times, Re/Code, and The Guardian, among other outlets.


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