And two findings bucked conventional wisdom: People actually reported that 30-second ads online were more effective, and they also enjoyed watching repurposed TV ads as web ads. "The longer storytelling experience creates a more likeable ad," said David Brandt, a managing director at OTX, the research firm that conducted the study.
More debate needed
"We've entered the online-video marketplace and started to put together a framework of best practices and yet our assumption is folks are going to want to get to the video they want to get to so lets only show the 15 seconds," said Carole Walker, marketing services director at Masterfoods USA. "Here we're clearly seeing 15 [seconds] vs. the 30 is still a debate that needs to take place."
The study tested 96 different ad combinations to identify the relative importance and impact of several isolated attributes: length (15 or 30 seconds), placement (pre- or post-roll), companion ads (with or without) and type of ad (original or repurposed from TV).
Placing an ad in the pre-roll position and making sure a companion ad is present proved to be the most important factors aiding awareness. Pre-roll ads have an 11% lift over the average and a companion ad led to a 9% increase in awareness. Repurposed TV ads also indexed 8% higher in awareness. One theory for behind increased brand awareness is that the offline experience and knowledge of the advertising carries over into the online environment.
The impact of likeability
Additionally, likeability of ads proved to be an important driver of brand consideration. While marketers often test ads for various factors, including ad likeability, it's not considered -- at least in online media -- as one of the more important factors.
Ms. Walker said she was surprised at how influential likeability and relevance were on brand consideration.
Jeffrey Graham, senior VP-strategic research at Starcom MediaVest, suggested likeability marks a key difference between online and offline marketing and an effect of the new consumer-controlled world. "Traditional marketing assumes you have the right to interrupt somebody and you have a captive audience," he said. "That's been upended, and both likeability and relevance are now paramount."
He also suggested the 30-second spots scored better in likeability because agencies have more experience in telling a story in 30 seconds. "It's more that the story's just better, than it is that it's longer," he said.
So, what do they watch?
What kinds of videos are people watching online? It's not all silly little virals, the study showed. The most frequently consumed videos are news and current events. One in five online video users watch a TV show or segment once week and, perhaps surprisingly, almost one in 10 watch a full-length movie once a week.
More than half of consumers claim they have "taken action" as a result of seeing a video ad. Those actions could be responding to an ad, looking for more information or making a purchase (16% of those who had seen online video ads fell into this latter category). And on what kind of site the video ad runs matter: Consumers are most likely to act when watching on a media site -- magazine, news, TV or newspaper sites -- vs. portals or user-generated content sites.
The research suggested consumers acknowledge the trade-off of free content for advertising. Affluent consumers viewing online video also tend to be more interested in making online purchases, in some cases more so than making offline purchases.