Video marketers: Hit viewers with highs and lows

A recent study from three university professors examined which tactics worked best for engaging viewers during online video ads.

The report, to be published in the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing Research, used automated facial recognition detection and eye tracking technology to see if a formula existed for the most effective user engagement.

For the study, 58 adults viewed a series of 28 online video ads from popular companies such as Budweiser, Nivea, Dell and Tide. Eye and facial movements were measured in 250 millisecond intervals, which tracked the intensity of participants' reactions, as well as ad skipping behavior.

What researchers found was that the most effective way local internet marketers can grab consumers' attention is with an uneven flow of surprise and joy.

"We found that surprise improved attention concentration more than joy did, and joy improved viewer retention more than surprise did, revealing the dual routes to ad effectiveness that these two related, but distinct, emotions play," said study authors Thales Teixeira of Harvard University, Michel Wedel of the University of Maryland and Rik Peters of Tilburg University.

There should be an alternating pattern of emotion delivery rather than sustained content, as "the sequence of highs and lows reduces the likelihood that consumers will click away from the advertisement."

According to the report's abstract, joy was "asymmetric," with higher gains for increases than losses for decreases - knowledge which can help internet marketers develop "emotion trajectories" for more effective results.

In addition to surprise and joy, the Reciprocal Consulting blog pointed to the need for storytelling techniques in ads, calling them "the most effective video marketing you can get." A story can be funny, sad, or a combination of both - but it must be engaging above all else. It should also be appropriate for the brand, the product it's trying to sell and the company's personality.

Going back to users' ad skipping behavior, REEL SEO points to a recent comScore study that found 53 percent of consumers said they zoned out during "pre-roll" ads, and 47 percent opened a new browser to do something else while the ad was running.

The news source feels that a primary reason for the lack of engagement is because content is being viewed over a PC. Mobile ads have far higher ad completion rates,  presumably because there's less room to open a new tab, so it can be inferred that a happy medium between the two - tablets - could act as a better option for engagement.