Six Reasons Web Video Needs to be in Your Marketing Strategy

Jack Black, the digital prophet. At this year’s Oscars ceremony, he rushed the stage during Neil Patrick Harris’ ode to cinema to lament the change in video.

“In a world where our brains are becoming machines, the only screens we’re watching are the screens in our jeans. Screens in our jeans! Screens in our jeans! The only screens we’re watching are the screens in our jeans!“

What a poet.

But Jack Black is right on. Digital video viewing on mobile devices isn’t going away.

A recent article from eMarketer showed that mobile devices are most used to view video content ten minutes or shorter, especially in the 1 to 6 minute length range. YouTube also shares that mobile devices make up half of views.

Graph showing the share of time spent watching digital video worldwide, by video length and device

The main takeaway is that digital video is growing, on smaller screens, with more prevalence even though it is still only a small portion of overall digital marketing spends. (Good news: in just two years time spends on digital video ads are projected to be over $9 billion).

Why does this rise in digital video matter and what should we do about it?

The first step is to recognize that web video is vastly different from video in other formats, say TV.

People are in a totally different mindset when they are streaming video on YouTube or Vimeo than they are when watching The Bachelor or Monday Night Football during prime time. But for the most part, we are treating the ads the same.

Let me put it this way. You’ve seen people try to take a shortcut and auto post their Facebook statuses to their Twitter account. The character limits, timeline, how it is used, and even the user base are all different. The same message on two very different platforms just doesn’t work!

Those viewing ads on a traditional medium like broadcast TV can (usually) not skip them unless viewing the content on a DVR-type device. On the other hand, video ads online are sometimes skippable depending on the publisher.

Viewers are also usually watching it on a different device. Not only are more users watching videos on their smartphones, they’re also watching more ads. Smartphones lead the pack with the most ads viewed for videos less than twenty minutes. With the average video online being a little over four minutes in length, it’s safe to argue that if someone is watching your video (and video ad) online, they are most likely watching it on a mobile device.

Graph showing US digital video ad view share, by device and content length

This quote from Forbes sums it up beautifully:

“These new digital programs also provide opportunities for agencies to deliver premium ad content meant for the Web to an audience most comfortable on the Web.”

— Erika Trautman CEO of Rapt Media

And one more quote for good measure.

“Thirty-second ads were created for a different medium and are not a good service for digital consumers. Video pre-rolls would be super-effective if they would last five to seven seconds."

— Ran Harnevo AOL’s head of video

So we can all agree that online video is different. But why should you advertise using it?

Here are five reasons web-specific video needs to be in your strategy:

User data

When you run a pre-roll or rich media ad, you can tell you how many views you received, what percentage of the video was watched, which gender and age groups were more likely to click the ad, and which websites it appeared on. You can tell how many times the average person saw the video and how many unique views it received–this is all rich and valuable data.

This data can help you make decisions. For example, if you notice that the majority of viewers only make it through 25 percent of the ad, you can focus on ensuring that you front load the video to keep people watching in your next campaign.


One of the things that makes us so excited about digital video is the ability to personalize it. Say you own a chain of 1,000 restaurants all across the United States and you want to advertise the nearest location to users in each area. Great, so just make 1,000 different videos and you are set! (Kidding! Who has time for that?)

Digital video allows personalization in many different areas, including showing different locations to users based on their own location. That takes an ad from being annoying to being helpful.

This ad by Chili’s is a great example of the type of personalization available.

Chili's ad with personalization of maps and directions to the nearest Chili's location
Map of Chili's nearest location

This ad, based on your location, shows the address of your nearest Chili’s and if you click “Map + Directions” sends you to a Google Map routing you from your current location to your destination. So cool.

It should be noted that this was an example, and does not reflect my nearest Chili’s. I love me some Bottomless Chips & Salsa but probably wouldn’t drive to New York to satisfy this craving.


Gone are the days where users would give you their undivided attention. A 2013 study by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information reported that humans now have an attention span of eight seconds. So if you have made it to this point in the article without checking your phone, email, or skipping to the next song on your Spotify playlist, color me impressed!

If we are all destined to bounce to a new task or thought every eight seconds, what’s the point of trying to capture their attention? Well, the truth is that it’s not enough to capture their attention. You need to engage them, and interactive ads do this quite effectively. With interactive ads, you aren’t asking them to play a passive role in the video experience. You’re asking them to take an action, select a video, click a button, or several.

If you watched the “Type R” video from Honda earlier this year, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The two minute and 55 second video defies the average attention span by asking users to switch between stories in the video by physically typing “R” throughout the video.

Another phenomenal example is this ad from British Airways, which allows you to select activities you are interested in and then finds destinations and airfares that may be of interest. Cool, interactive, and helpful.


Video servers like Google have an incredible amount of information about its users based on their browsing data and geographic area. Using this data, we can target the video ads we want to share to the exact audience we want.

Want to target women in Minnesota who are interested in DIY projects and are parents? Done.


Video can work beautifully as a part of a greater online campaign. Retargeting capabilities allow you to show banners to those who did or did not view your video. You can even have users be in a “video path.” It’s possible to have a video target users who finished the first video and another to users who finished the first two videos. This allows you to further your messaging or highlight different benefits in each new video ad so users don’t continue to hear the same thing over and over.


In the end, we want users to take an action. If not immediately by clicking through to a website, then later on when they need our products or services. And brand recall with digital video ads is phenomenal. A 2013 study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that users remembered the brand from a TV ad 19% of the time and 45% from an online video ad.

To summarize, online video is growing because it’s targeted, interactive, personalized, and provides excellent reporting and recall. But in order to take advantage of it, the ads you are running need to be web-specific.