Ad Skeptics Say 'Not So Fast' to Facebook's Two-Second Videos

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Illustration by Tam Nguyen/Ad Age

Facebook and Oracle Data Cloud last week sought to change some minds in the marketing world with an analysis of how long it takes for a video ad to benefit a brand. The study claimed that even video views of fewer than two-seconds contribute meaningfully to ad campaigns.

The research was part of Facebook's effort to counter the prevailing sentiment among marketers that people tend to skip digital ads as quickly as possible. Why should a brand pay for videos that don't even get seen for two seconds?

But not everyone is buying the research.

"I would be shocked if any brand marketers doesn't laugh Facebook out of the room on this research," says Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, an industry group that is often critical of Facebook and that advocates for digital publishers.

Facebook's view
The study with Oracle concluded that video views shorter than two seconds were worth 60 percent of the value of views longer than two seconds, and the shorter views contributed half the measured sales lift.

The impact varied depending on the campaign, and it was just a first attempt to quantify the value of such short video views. Oracle only looked at 14 campaigns, broke up the video views according to whether they were above or below two seconds, and saw which led to the highest lift in sales for each campaign.

The bottom line was that they said marketers ignoring the potential to accumulate two second views were leaving a significant marketing opportunity on the table. Admittedly, there were many more factors that still needed to be studied, but the idea was that under the right circumstances, with the proper creative execution, two-second videos could be part of a balanced campaign. The advice was for marketers to be creating digital video for max impact within two seconds, and including them in the marketing mix.

Not buying it
"This anecdotal research with handpicked campaigns and creative by Facebook and Oracle leaves a lot to desire," Kint said. "It doesn't even pass the common sense bar when you speak to any brand marketer."

On Monday, Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research issued a note to clients telling them to remain skeptical of the value of shorter view, despite the report.

"While we're not stating that short-form video ads can't work, on our interpretation, it's far from conclusive that they do," Wieser wrote.

Wieser took issue with two points from the study. One, was that it looked at only 14 campaigns, and the group was not randomly chosen. Also, eight of the 14 campaigns showed shorter views impacted sales lift, but six of the campaigns saw no benefit from ads less than two-seconds.

The results were all detailed in Oracle's study released last week. On Tuesday, Oracle reaffirmed its confidence in its study showing "videos viewed for less than two seconds contributed meaningfully to in-store sales lift," said Eric Roza, GM of Oracle Data Cloud.

Roza acknowledged that this was a preliminary study, calling it "phase one" in ongoing research to measure the impact of Facebook video ads. "The key take-away at this point is that short view videos, while less valuable, can contribute meaningfully to achieving campaign objectives," Roza said. "This is particularly important since less than 50 percent of video ads on mobile devices are viewed for greater than two seconds."

"A lot of creative is done where it takes more than two seconds to get the message across," says a data analyst at a media agency, speaking on condition of anonymity. "To say this contributed so much to the value, I think undersells 15- and 30-second ads."

There are concerns in the advertising world that the digital platforms could take the heart out of advertising by reducing brand stories to two-second micro-views, says Joe Marchese, ad sales chief at Fox (and, as such, a rival with Facebook for advertiser affections).

Marchese says he is skeptical of any digital ad advocate promising million of mini-ad views and mysterious bumps in sales without showing where people actually made their purchase decision.

"It's like a warm blanket for brands, the idea you can influence behavior without even telling a story," Marchese said. "But if you think a series of subliminal moments can lead to decisions. It would be impossible to argue the negative."

It's wishful thinking.

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