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Digital Video is Effective for Building Brands

Cannes Lions recently hosted three significant figures in effectiveness—Les Binet, Grace Kite, and Tom Roach—to deliver their '3rd age of effectiveness' talks, subsequently reported by WARC, which co-curated the session. The work explores the evolution of 'digital' since its inception as a new media channel in the mid-noughties, highlighting that digital media can now finally build brands over time, rather than solely driving short-term sales.

Digital was hailed as a quantifiable and accountable marketing and media channel capable of measuring everything. The channel gained instant popularity, leading to a shift in spending towards digital channels that continues to the present day. However, as time passed, digital as a channel arguably became a victim of its own measurement capability, with marketers relying solely on attribution to assess digital brand campaigns—a risky game that leads to efficiency over effectiveness.

However, econometric analysis demonstrates that digital advertising now presents an opportunity for greater returns, partly because digital marketing and media practitioners better understand how to utilise it as a channel. The quantifiable capabilities may have driven a performance focus (e.g., efficiencies of PPC, the boom of programmatic advertising, etc.), but the advertising industry is now 'relearning the benefits of long-term work and how digital channels can help build brands' (WARC).

Video is of particular interest, as its longer attention span gives it a role in brand building, while many other digital ads fall below the 2.5s memory threshold required. The session observed that the channel shouldn't be used simply to push out a full-length TV ad. Tailoring ads within a campaign to the platform that carries them offers further opportunities for creativity to maximise the value of video content.

The format of digital video advertising and the diverse ways people consume it pose exciting creative challenges. Viewers choosing to watch premium content (e.g., Broadcaster VOD, premium YouTube channels) accept having to watch full-length video ads to enjoy it, resulting in excellent completion rates for advertising, where traditional TV assets are typically utilised. Increasingly common are video ads that can entice viewers to want to watch more of them, particularly where skippable video requires creative strategies to encourage extended viewing time. Then there is produced branded content that is harder to perfect, but when executed well, can deliver excellent engagement with brands.

It is worthwhile for advertising to creatively align with this trend, as we see increasing evidence of video delivering both short and long-term ROI (alongside social, display, and search).

Our Takeaways:

  • Instead of overused display banners, use video as 'digital display' when planning upper-funnel digital display campaigns.
  • Drive greater effectiveness for digital activity in the upper and mid-funnel stages of the purchase journey, as it is not just a performance channel.
  • Fresh thinking allows digital video advertising to flourish with more bespoke videos designed specifically for digital platforms (e.g., TikTok and other social platforms), generating meaningful 'attention' relative to the channel. Avoid using traditional creative assets across digital campaigns.
  • There's still a role for display banners but consider the wider impact of all digital channels across the stages of the purchase journey. Set appropriate roles, KPIs, and approaches to evaluating creative effectiveness.