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Video Advertising

Research Insight: Video Ads Are Getting Longer

People don’t really hate ads — they hate bad ads. And the market may be reassessing what makes good ads for online video.

MediaRadar has revealed that the online video market was remarkably consistent over the course of the past year, with ad duration remaining almost identical year-over-year.

However, in 2019 there is some evidence that the market is recalibrating from its emphasis on shorter ads.

Video Ads Are Getting Decidedly (But Slowly) Longer

MediaRadar looked at all video ads in January and February of 2018 and the same months in 2019. The study broke video ads down into two cohorts: video ads running YouTube and video ads running everywhere else.

  • The Headline: Video ads are getting decidedly longer — albeit in the least dramatic way possible.
  • The Specifics: 30-second ads increased by 5 percent, while 12-16 second ads remained by far the most popular length.
Online Video Ad Distribution in Seconds 2018 v 2019 Chart

The most remarkable part of MediaRadar’s findings is how steady ad duration is year-over-year. The research is not a story of dramatic, overnight change from 2018 to 2019.

Video ads for online platforms are clearly built for a specific format: they are most concentrated at 6, 15 and 30 seconds. 15 second ads are by far the most common, accounting for around 40 percent of all video ads running online.

You can see the preference for length on each end of the spectrum: there are almost no ads shorter than 5 seconds, and ads in the 30-second range are the second most popular. In the first months of 2019, ads in the 0-5 second range represented just 3 percent of all ads and 1 percent of YouTube ads. In contrast, 26-31 second ads represented a quarter of YouTube ads and nearly the same percentage of all ads running.

Year-over-year, this is a big shift for YouTube. 30-second video ads leapt from 19 percent to 24 percent of total ads on YouTube. This is by far the largest percentage shift for all ad lengths.

Other Findings from MediaRadar

  • 6-second ads had twice the concentration on YouTube than everywhere in Q1 2018 — 20 percent versus 11 percent. The gap has started to narrow in 2019.
  • In the first two months of 2019, 16.5 percent of ads on YouTube were 6 seconds but remained at 11 percent on all other media. Fewer advertisers are running short ads on YouTube.
  • 15-second ads made up 47 percent of ads on YouTube and 40 percent of ads everywhere else. This has remained relatively consistent year-over-year.
  • Although we assessed 6-7 second ads, the overwhelming majority of ads in this range (95 percent) were 6-second ads.

How These Numbers Fit Into Larger Video Ad Trends

Our numbers reveal a clear trend toward longer ads.

While the jury may be out on a concrete set of precipitating variables, one potential explanation for these increasing ad lengths is that consumers are increasingly using online formats for their media. As Internet slowly replaces traditional television with mobile video and OTT, consumers are more tolerant of longer ads ahead of their content – particularly if they are creative.

“For brand marketers, video continues to be the most important story in media, writes Kevin Hunt at The Drum. “Audience behavior is evolving rapidly across generations, and consumers now watch more than eight hours of online content every week.” Consumers tolerated 3 minute commercial breaks for traditional TV, the thinking goes, so why not a 30 second online ad?

The longer length also gives brands more room for experimentation. Rahul Chadha at eMarketer writes that diverting TV dollars to mobile video translates into more flexible formats to experiment with. 6-second ads, non-skippable ads and rewarded video ads all “give viewers more control of their ad experience by trading their attention for something they value.”

If you’re a company advertising on the web, you face stiff competition and a steep learning curve. Grabbing mobile users’ attention isn’t easy, and choosing the right video ad format and length can help you break through the noise.

At the same time, creatives will consistently need to remember the they have a short amount of time to draw viewers in — particularly since most longer ads on YouTube are still skippable after five seconds and non-skippable ads are capped at 20 seconds.