One element of adver­tising success is delivering the right content to the right audience, in the right context. AdReaction Video helps marketers under­stand how to do this.

There’s nothing new about the phrase “the right time, the right consumer, the right place”. Digital has made it more current and more possible – but also more challenging.

In parti­cular, using online behavioral data to gauge interest and intent, when deter­mining the right time to advertise, has often obscured the need for a smarter approach. (See our recent article, Bringing Brand Data to Program­matic)

Millward Brown’s AdReaction Video1 study helps highlight how the right context, the right content and the right person can best be applied to video adver­tising in a multis­creen world.

The right person

We know category interest and brand dispo­sition will affect response to adver­tising. Millward Brown’s Brand Lift Insights and Cross­Media studies show that people who have a strong pre-dispo­sition to a brand will react differ­ently to adver­tising than those who are less pre-disposed.

We also know that a higher brand dispo­sition may shorten a consumer’s decision-making time for purchases. If we could identify these consumers more easily, we would know that the frequency of the adver­tising could well be lower, and the messages we need to convey would be different.

In an ideal world, brand relati­onship would help define our target audiences and develop our campaign content. The reality is less than ideal but our AdReaction Video study shows that targeting that appears to be based on category interest and brand dispo­sition is welcomed by the consumer. It also shows that targeting based on web browsing history, video viewing history, online search history; online shopping history, demographic profile (age, gender, etc.) and social media profile are less favorably received.

Targeting needs to imply that you under­stand someone. If it starts to feel like spying or stalking, people become unhappy.

Deter­mining who you want to reach is just the first part of the commu­ni­cation equation. Choice of media channel is driven by consi­de­ra­tions of reach, cost efficiency, addressa­bility and increa­singly by time spent consuming media channels.

Should share of spend align with share of time spent? We know from AdReaction Video that multis­creeners spend as much time watching online video (and parti­cu­larly mobile video) as they do watching TV.

Smart­phones are now the primary device for younger multis­creeners, who also watch a lot of TV and online video on other devices. Older audiences still favor Live TV over On Demand TV and digital devices.

Before marketers start redis­tri­buting spend away from TV, they should account for factors such as the ratio of content to adver­tising in each channel as well as the state of the media landscape in terms of the concentration/fragmentation of vehicles/publications/channels. Most import­antly they should consider the levels of recep­tivity to video adver­tising for each screen.

Recep­tivity for key screens

The variety of screens that consumers now have gives brands more options when choosing the right time, place, mood, social setting and surrounding context.

The bottom line from the AdReaction Video study is that no form of video adver­tising is well-liked. When people are consuming video content we see a consistent mind set across screens. People are looking to be enter­tained or informed, irrespective of the device being used. Video adver­tising generally inter­rupts that enter­tainment or infor­mation gathering. However, video ad recep­tivity is higher (really, less negative) for TV than for digital screens. Many people claim they don’t like digital video ads. The gap between digital and TV recep­tivity has closed over the years, but people still prefer TV ads.

This tells us that online video parti­cu­larly needs to earn the right for attention. According to a recent study2, the number of people using ad blocking software grew globally by 41% in the second quarter of 2015, year-on-year. It’s estimated that $21.8 billion in ad revenue will be blocked this year.

The AdReaction Video Study shows that respondents are more receptive to adver­tising when they feel they have more control over exposure to ads. Recep­tivity to skippable pre roll and click-to-play video formats is much higher (viewed more positively than TV ads) than to non-skippable video formats (opinions are much more negative than TV and other digital ads). Interes­tingly, people are far more forgiving about the lack of control over live TV ads because they’re used to the low levels of ad control, and accepting of it.

There is also evidence that social viewing increases recep­tivity to video adver­tising, while binge watching shows a decrease in recep­tivity.

The right content

In deter­mining the right content for your video adver­tising, it’s worth remem­bering that skippable formats are a creative challenge. Brands should aim for early impact to prevent skipping, and to ensure that even when an ad is skipped it has made an impact. Viewing can drop by half after the first few seconds of a skippable ad. If the brand isn’t seen in the first few seconds, you’ve lost half your audience. We also learned that using humor is the best way to prevent ad skipping.

With click-to-play formats, it’s important to use an intri­guing image and catchy headline to draw viewers in.

Creative tactics can also blend with the selection of media format or content type. For example, ads that offer rewards are generally preferred. Native content can also help by presenting infor­mation in a format similar to the publisher’s content. On smaller mobile screens, the stream itself is the entire user experience (static display adver­tising is used much less often now).

In the future, native may be an important format on mobile but it’s important this approach isn’t abused by publishers or adver­tisers. It’s critical for both media companies and brands to clearly identify native adver­tising spots by using terms like “sponsored”, “promoted” and “adver­torial”.

AdReaction Video also shows us that people are more receptive to non-adver­tising, branded videos. This type of content is usually infor­mation based and intended to be “valued” in the sense that it is useful, helpful, interesting, educa­tional, and often highly targeted to a specific audience.

Tutorial videos, which have more niche appeal, and review videos are also very popular. Review videos are usually presented by independent voices, and although they may require giving up some control over content they are well received.

Key Takeaways

  • Show you under­stand your target, but don’t stalk them. Targeting that appears to be based on interest and dispo­sition is accep­table but targeting based on viewing history and profile is not.
  • Recognize low digital adver­tising recep­tivity by taking a new approach to content. Use skippable ad formats, embrace branded content, and go native.
  • Adapt adver­tising to more receptive formats for digital platforms. Use skippable formats; shorter ads are more likely to be fully viewed on digital platforms and vertical video orien­tation is increa­singly being deployed on mobile screens.


  1. What is AdReaction Video? – Survey research was conducted in 42 countries among 13,000+ 16-45 year old Multis­creen Users. Parallel copy testing research (TV vs online vs mobile) was conducted for 20 ads in 8 countries.
  2. The Cost of Ad Blocking – PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report.

By: John Svendsen, Global Brand Director, Media, Millward Brown,