Size does matter: how ad size and screen coverage affect audience attention
Opinion: Steve Weaver says TV viewers are a more active audience than those consuming material on Facebook or Youtube.
This article was sponsored by ThinkTV to let readers know about The Benchmark Series.
In a recent opinion piece in Marketing, Bryan Hall sets out some of the potential benefits for brands afforded by addressable TV advertising.
He made some good points. As recent moves by ThinkTV shareholders demonstrate, the ability to customise which ad is served to a viewer based on their identity adds targeting and the ability to segment audiences at scale to TV’s incumbent advantages.
Hall helpfully named some of those advantages, noting that “a recent Neustar study revealed that TV remains the most effective way to advertise as it provides the most scale and delivers the highest return on ad spend from both a sales and awareness perspective”.
All good so far.
But then Hall went on to repeat a common misconception about passive viewing of TV. He suggested that: “TV networks make money off of ads consumers often watch passively, if at all”.
New research suggests this is wide of the mark – and it’s important that marketers get the full picture here. I would therefore urge Hall, and Marketing readers, to read the results so far from The Benchmark Series.
This study was conducted for ThinkTV by world-renowned, independent marketing science academic Professor Karen Nelson-Field (who has carried out work for Google, Mars and Unilever among others).
Her team spent almost a year assessing video advertising on YouTube, TV and Facebook to work out which generates the most attention, and has the greatest sales impact.
To save time, here’s a video on her leading-edge methodology, which included the use of eye-tracking software, machine-learning and AI.
According to Professor Nelson-Field, attention is made up three things:
- active viewing, which means your gaze is on the screen and the ad,
- passive viewing, where you are looking at the screen but not the ad, and
- avoidance, where you’re not looking at the screen at all.
Professor Nelson-Field’s team found that, in real life, TV commands 58% active viewing, compared to only 31% for YouTube and just 4% for Facebook.
Facebook’s low active viewing seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but in fact makes sense when you consider the focus in your feed is on your friends, not the ads. So, while the majority of Facebook viewing is passive, (in fact 94% of it), it’s active viewing that translates most strongly into sales.
TV’s relaxed, ‘lean-back’ viewing environment is not to be confused with passive ad attention. So too, the ‘lean-forward’ consumption of selective material on Facebook and YouTube should not be interpreted as active ad attention. A platform’s active ad attention is in fact predominantly explained by screen coverage – the proportion of the screen that the video inventory takes up – which varies dramatically by media.
An ad on Facebook averages 10% screen coverage. An ad on Youtube averages 30% screen coverage and on TV – where the ad plays full screen with no scrolling and no clutter – screen coverage for ads is 100%.
So, in simple terms, size matters.
Anything below 100% of the pixels playing on a full-screen means less attention and fewer sales. And a fully rendered ad playing on a full screen has a much greater impact than a fully rendered ad playing on a smaller percentage of the screen.
As Hall’s Neustar report suggests, TV does remain the most effective way to advertise, but not because people are watching passively, rather because they actively attend to the content in front of them, in high-definition, on a large-screen, with the sound on.
Steve Weaver is director of research, insights and education at ThinkTV.
To better understand how Australians engage with advertising across different platforms and devices, check out The Benchmark Series reports.
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