Linear TV vs. On-Line Video Advertising — Which is More Effective?

April 5, 2010

Did You Know That:

  • On-line video ad spending grew +41% in 2009 — even during a down advertising year?
  • 72% of all internet users in the U.S. viewed on-line video last year?
  • More U.S. consumers watch video on the web than watch recorded TV on DVR’s?

All of this adds up to something very interesting: On-Line Video advertising is growing like a weed. Which raises another question: how does On-Line Video advertising work versus Linear TV advertising? 

On-Line Video Ads -- How Do They Compare to Linear TV Ads ?

My colleague David Kaplan of Nielsen IAG (disclosure: I work for Nielsen) partnered with Beth Uyenco, Global Research Director from Microsoft, to compare the effectiveness of Linear TV advertising and On-Line Video advertising in a recent presentation to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). 

Research Approach — What Was Measured

Kaplan and Uyenco used Nielsen IAG’s U.S. on-line panel to measure TV and web video advertising data from November 2007 to May 2009, across 238 brands, 412 products, and 951 advertising executions.  For each ad, they measured the same effectiveness metrics: general recall, brand recall, message recall and likeability. Key measurement metrics were identical across the two mediums. 

On-Line Video Advertising -- Why Is It More Effective ?

Key Learnings — Linear TV vs. On-Line Video

1.  On-Line Video Outperformed Linear TV — Remember that this was an “apples-to-apples” comparison which compared the exact same creative execution across the two mediums. On-Line Video scored higher than Linear TV ads, on average, for: 

  • General Recall:        65% vs. 46%
  • Brand Recall:           50% vs. 28%
  • Message Recall:      39% vs. 21%
  • Likeability:               26% vs. 14%

2.  The On-Line Video Advantage was Largest Among 13-24 year olds — Among younger consumers, On-Line Video outperformed Linear TV advertising by greater than 2 to 1. On-Line Video’s advantage cut across all age groups, but was smallest among  50+ year olds. 

3.  Re-purposed TV Ads Outperformed Web Original and Flash Animation Ads — This was one of the most interesting learnings of the study. Even when controlling for prior TV ad exposure, a re-purposed TV ad shown on web video performed better than ads created specifically for the web. What does this say about Marketers understanding of digital creative ? 

4.  Linear TV + Web Video Ads are More Effective Than Linear TV Alone — Consumers exposed to ads in both mediums had higher general recall, brand recall, message recall and likeability than consumers exposed to TV alone. Once again, the data clearly shows the advantage of a cross-platform, integrated marketing approach. 

Why Is On-Line Video More Effective ?

There are a number of reasons which could explain On-Line Video ad superiority: 

  • Higher Program Engagement — As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, Why Your Brand Should Understand TV Program Engagement, research shows that the more engaged consumers are in a program, the more likely they are to remember the ads in the program. Nielsen IAG research shows that on-line video program engagement is +13% higher than the broadcast TV primetime norm. So, this higher engagement naturally drives higher ad recall.
  • Inability to Skip Advertising — If you’ve watched any On-Line Video, you know that you can’t easily skip the ads. I think the impact of DVR ad skipping on ads is over-rated, but the lack of DVR like ad skipping has to benefit On-Line Video ads.
  • Reduced Ad Clutter — On-Line Video has about 1/2 the ads per hour than regular network TV. Various research studies over the years have shown that there is a small, but significant, impact of clutter on advertising effectiveness.
  • Presence of Companion Ads — On-Line Video ads are more likely to have companion ads in the same program. The presence of companion ads increases ad effectiveness versus a single exposure alone. However, even when they controlled for a single ad exposure, On-Line Video still significantly outperformed Linear TV.

Now, before you think about running out and building your next campaign around On-Line Video, consider this: the average consumer spends only2% of the time viewing web video as they do TV. The practical implication of this is that most brands can’t deliver a high reach media plan with web video alone. 

But the facts remain: On-Line Video ads are more effective than Linear TV ads, especially among 13-24 year olds. As well, On-Line Video ads work synergistically with TV, and perhaps best of all, TV ads can be re-purposed on-line and actually score better than creative that’s been created specifically for the on-line medium. 

Can It Last ?

Some of the factors contributing to On-Line Video’s advantage, such as higher program engagement scores, are unlikely to change anytime soon. But others, like reduced ad clutter, will probably erode over time. Content providers are not making much money with their content on-line, and some are experimenting with more ads per hour. So, any advantage due to less clutter is likely to be short-lived. 

Nonetheless, with it’s higher performance versus Linear TV and spectacular growth rates, I think it’s only a matter of time On-Line Video ads become a signficant part of every smart CMO’s marketing mix. 

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