What type of pre-roll beauty ad are women most likely to keep watching, even when they can skip? Surprisingly, a study by Google with L'Oreal Paris found a conventional 30-second high-production TV-style ad got by far the best audience retention compared with a YouTube beauty blogger tutorial or a low-production L'Oreal ad using a more "relatable"-looking model speaking straight to the camera in the fashion of low-budget tutorials.
Another surprise: Even though women of all ages were more likely to keep watching the TV-style ad, younger viewers ages 18-24 were twice as likely to recall the low-budget L'Oreal tutorial than the TV ad when asked about it later, while women 35-45 were far more likely to recall the TV-style ad.
Overall, the "Glam" TV ad (shown above) had an 82% higher view-through rate than the L'Oreal-produced, low-production-value "Tell" tutorial (shown below), and also considerably higher than a tutorial from YouTube personality "Miss Maven," a.k.a. Teni Panosian (shown at bottom). Google defines "view through" as viewing past the 30-second point. The "Glam" ad had a five-times better brand favorability score lift for the older viewers than for the younger ones, even though both generations tended to watch them at about the same rate.
Google declined to release the absolute viewership or other rates for the L'Oreal ads or its broader benchmarks.
All the ads were for La Palette Nude, a "no-makeup look" makeup L'Oreal Paris launched last year. The study was from Google's Unskippable Labs, which is testing what makes people keep watching its TrueView pre-roll ads, and what works creatively for advertisers.
"The thing that struck me the most was the gap between the media behavior and performance, particularly for younger viewers -- the idea that the one they watched was not the one they responded to," said Google Creative Director Ben Jones. "This is the most sophisticated media audience in the history of time. The fact that they watched it and then chose to forget it is, I think, interesting for advertisers in general."
"We know our consumers respond to a story that is innovative, beautifully shot and attention-getting," said Kristen Comings, VP-integrated consumer communications for L'Oréal Paris in an email statement. "This partnership reiterated that when we understand our consumers' specific viewing habits, we can strategically create the most dynamic pieces of content to engage with them in the most effective way."
The high-budget TV ad and the low-budget tutorial both had the same content, but presented differently and by different people. The former used a model and typical beauty ad styling. The latter used a more direct, intimate, straight-to-the-camera narration by "an everyday person," as Google describes it. The low-budget ad also beat the TV-style ad on click-through rates for women of all ages.
The ads were shown on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, with no significant differences by platform, Mr. Jones said.
"The TV commercial was aimed at an older audience, and the older audience responded incredibly well," Mr. Jones said. "But L'Oreal wanted to also make sure they reached a younger audience," which he said may mean using at least two types of video ads.
Perhaps realistically -- or cynically -- one question is whether advertisers wouldn't be better off getting people to watch a little less, specifically under 30 seconds, after which they have to pay Google under the terms of TrueView.
"We see advertisers not exploring length enough," Mr. Jones said. "We have other research showing there is basically a linear relationship between length and brand effectiveness. Can you tell a story faster? Yes. Can you do it in a way that people will click away? Yes. But we don't think that's the most effective way to tell a story."
A brand study on ad effectiveness based on video length is next for Unskippable Labs, which will also use the L'Oreal Paris study to develop a kit advertisers can use to test their own ads, with an eye toward ultimately creating a larger multibrand study.