James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

You worked all fall on a series of pre-roll videos, painstakingly matching them to current YouTube content, and launched the campaign with great optimism … only to watch viewers with their fingers over the SKIP button counting down until they can obliterate all your hard work.

You’re in good company. Not only is YouTube the second-largest search engine (after Google), marketers continue to increase their spend on the channel with a 25-percent bump expected in 2019, and with good reason: 74 percent of Americans over the age of 13 watch streaming or online video weekly, digesting more than a billion hours per day – more than Facebook video and Netflix combined. And these viewers understand that your ads keep their content free. In one study, 78 percent said they agree that paid ads are an acceptable exchange for free video content, but 65 percent said they automatically skip the ads at the first opportunity, watching on average 5.5 seconds of a 15-second ad and 7.4 seconds of a 30-second ad.

So while viewers understand the value exchange, you still have to keep their attention – and in most cases, you only have 5 seconds. Start by making the most of the time you have.

  • Choose the right audience. YouTube offers a long list of targeting methods to let you select viewers most likely to interact with your ads. You can choose from demographic groups (age, gender, income), viewer interests, select topics, or by using keywords. All these can help you narrow down the potential audience. You can also target based on user search history, such as anybody who searched for farm insurance, tillage sweeps, or a certain crop-protection product, or by identifying viewers who searched for your company or even a competitor. By overlaying these criteria it’s possible to pinpoint the viewers you want to reach. But you still have to get their attention.
  • Make your ads more relevant. Once you have your target audience identified, tailor your ads to piggyback on the content they’re searching. A recent study of digital viewers found that 56 percent of viewers sit through ads if they’re related to the content they’re already watching, for instance an ad with a coupon for a tool they’ll need to complete the task in the “how-to” video they’re watching. Don’t simply try to insert your brand message into the story – try making your message a part of the story.
  • Get to the point quickly. Remember, you have 5 seconds to capture their attention, and if you don’t succeed you should at least make sure company name and unique selling proposition are listed in the first few seconds. This is especially important if you’re trying to capture younger viewers, who are most likely to skip ads as soon as they’re able.
  • Consider using humor. Emotionally engaging ads are the least likely to be skipped, and funny ads tend to perform better when measured by time-viewed and lift in brand awareness and product recall.
  • Use shorter ads. Nobody wants to sit through a 12-minute history of your company, no matter how compelling you think the story may be. Again, most viewers aren’t going to give you more than 5 seconds. So why not choose 6-second bumper placements? Not only are they cheaper – you can purchase bumpers for as low as $3 CPM – because they’re so short they can’t be skipped. It’s a good way to get mass awareness at a fairly low cost. And because the videos are shorter you can likely create more, offering a variety of messages to the same audience.
  • Make the ads unskippable. Up until last year only a select few in YouTube’s channel partner program could choose non-skippable ad buys. Now that the moratorium has been lifted to allow any channel to benefit from these options, you have a new weapon in your arsenal, but choose it strategically. Unskippable ads are only available as a 6-second bumper (see above) or a 15-second unit. The initial cost is obviously higher because YouTube charges you only for the viewers who watch your ads, and since the viewers literally can’t skip them, this means everyone. The 15-second ad also gives you access to higher-valued channels and primetime slots, again with higher costs. For these reasons it’s probably not a good fit for any but the largest agricultural companies.

Video isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, one study projects that video will account for 80 percent of all web traffic this year, up from 67 percent in 2014, so it’s imperative that you spend your video dollars wisely to get the most impact available from each video unit. If you’re interested in adding some of these tips to your media plan, or want to discuss other ways to incorporate videos more effectively, I’d love to have a discussion.