How do social video ads perform in comparison with TV ads?

For many brands nowadays, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, play a considerable role in their advertising strategies. According to recent figures obtained from the bi-annual CMO Survey, an average firm spends about 12% of its total marketing budget on social media. In addition, with marketeers predicting this figure to approximately double in the next five years, social media marketing isn’t a phenomenon that is expected to vanish anytime soon.


More browsing than watching

The rising prominence of social media in advertising isn’t too surprising given consumers’ changing media usage. For example, the share of daily Facebook users is higher than that of TV users (50% versus 39%, respectively), and the average consumer spends more time browsing social media each day than watching TV (about a 15 minute difference). As such, social media compares favourably to a traditionally dominant medium such as TV, by offering high potential reach – and by being audiovisual in nature as well.

Because of this, advertisers increasingly complement their TV advertising efforts by placing video advertisements on social media platforms as well. In some instances, these videos are even the exact same ones as those broadcasted on TV. However, this raises the question: will social media video advertisements also be similarly effective as TV ads in improving consumers’ brand knowledge and attitudes?


The effectiveness of social video advertisements

To gain more insight into this question, we put it to the test. In cooperation with the University of Groningen, we set up an internal study across three countries (Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom), which was aimed to assess how consumers engage with social video advertisements – along with how these ads affect brand and message recall. Through an online survey, we presented a set of mobile websites to each of the 5,000+ respondents (with some being mockup social media feeds with one out of ±100 possible video ads incorporated), which could then be browsed through at the respondent’s convenience. We tracked the time each video was kept ‘in focus’ by the respondent. After having browsed through each website, we asked them which brands and messages they remembered seeing.


Less than 2 seconds

So, what interesting results did we find?

  • The average consumer pays attention for less than two (i.c. 1.8) seconds to a typical social video ad
  • Even for the best-performing ads, the average consumer’s attention span never exceeds 5 seconds
  • Willingness to watch an ad is 3x lower for social media compared to TV
  • 7% watches a social media ad in its entirety, versus 65% for TV
  • Unaided brand recall (after seeing the ads) is 13% for social, versus 48% for TV
  • Aided brand recall (after seeing the ads) is 40% for social, versus 71% for TV

seconds is the time consumers
spend watching a typical social video ad


Standing out immediately

The lower scores of social video advertisements (compared to TV commercials) with respect to recall are perhaps not too surprising, given that consumers also lose attention way more quickly when watching these videos – remember the less-than-2-seconds average viewing time! This not only makes it important for marketeers to make their social video advertisements stand out immediately, but also to include a clear brand cue as soon as possible. Our study reveals that such a practice indeed produces (significant) positive results: we find that among advertisements of which the first brand cue appears within the 2-second mark (i.e. before consumers generally scroll further along the feed), unaided brand recall levels are 1.4 times as high as those for advertisements of which the first brand cue only appears after two seconds.


A great competitor. Or is it?

To conclude, our study reveals that, while social video advertising has become a great competitor to TV advertising in terms of potential reach, it can’t command the same attention-grabbing (and moreover: attention-holding) power and impact on the brand’s prominence in the consumer’s mind. However, the potential benefits of targeting social video advertisements to a specific audience are undeniable, and the variation between the different advertisements that were tested in our study reveals that with the right creative execution and branding, social video advertisements can also be very successful in shifting consumers’ knowledge of, and attitudes towards, a brand.

To make sure your social video ad will be successful, DVJ Insights offers a pre-testing method that is specifically tailored towards the specifics of the social media format. We test video ads within a realistic environment in order to measure their true ‘stopping power’, impact on memory and creative quality. By comparing the results with a robust, country-specific benchmark, we help advertisers in measuring the potential impact of their social video advertisements and highlight key areas for optimisation.


Contact us for more information about our copy-test.