In the UK there’s a problem that affects the National Grid called TV pickup. It’s a surge in demand for electricity caused by the simultaneous boiling of kettles and opening of fridge doors as an advert break comes on the TV.
TV pickup highlights the difference in attention that an entire nation gives content and advertising. The ad might be playing in the background, but our focus is on making a brew or whipping up a tasty snack before our favourite programme comes back on. Advertisers are paying big bucks for an audience that not only isn’t engaged, but isn’t even in the room! And this isn’t something that solely affects TV advertising, it’s an issue for advertisers online too.
TV pickup → Online video pickup
As internet users we’ve learnt to tune out advertising. Think about your online activity, popups are closed without a second glance and banners flicker away in your peripheral vision. Online video advertising can suffer in a similar way. It’s often the case that as soon as a video ad comes on the screen we just open a new tab, it’s the digital equivalent of popping to the kitchen to boil the kettle. We check Facebook, update Twitter, do anything to pass the time until the ad is finished.
This may be a slight exaggeration, if a video ad is interesting and grabs the viewer’s attention immediately they’ll probably stay with it, but there’s no arguing there’s a risk that the ad space you’re paying for is delivering a play rather than a view. You could be paying for someone to do something other than watch your video and there’s no way of knowing.
Engage me, don’t pay for me to do something else
It would seem the first thing to do to limit the risk of the ‘Open new tab’ dilemma that faces advertisers using online video advertising is to make sure content is compelling. Video that hooks the viewer from the first few seconds will invariably get more attention than dull content. As an online user, if we see a video ad that’s relevant, entertaining or powerful, we’re more likely to leave the mouse alone.
Another way to keep your audience’s attention and keep their hands from wandering is to give them a reason to watch your video, provide something that goes beyond the typically passive ad experience. If you can give your viewers a way of engaging with your content, you can also give yourself a way of tracking whether your ad spend is delivering the results you’re after.
Include a natural next step
So you’ve got good content and you’re confident people are going to stick around to watch it. Imagine being able to give your audience a way of engaging with your video, a way of rewarding them for their attention. Think about what someone who is paying attention is thinking about doing next. If your content is focused on telling a story about your brand, why not connect them with your community on facebook? If you’re advertising a product, give them a way of finding out more about it, or even purchasing it.
By creating a connection between your online video and and a particular action, you’re giving your audience a reason to engage with your content. Not only that, you’ve also got a performance metric that enables you to find out how much of your online video spend is going on real, engaged views, rather than just paying for people to put on the kettle. Otherwise you’d might as well just send your money straight to the National Grid…