New Study Analyzes Video Ads and Reveals 3 Findings That Advertisers Need to Consider

When I go to watch the latest video of kittens on YouTube, often I’m sentenced to a thirty second to two minute long ad, telling me to drink Gatorade or get Jay-Z’s newest album. Often, I think nothing of sitting through that ad, after all, YouTube has to keep the lights on somehow. But sometimes, I’ll just refresh the page and hope for no ad, or simply skip it when the option presents itself.

However, for many businesses those precious seconds of your time are what they need to increase revenue. But are these types of video ads effective? Ramesh Sitaraman from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with his research partner S. Shunmuga Krishnan,  sought out the answer to that question by examining how often viewers even finish watching ads.

“Video usage is growing so rapidly,” says Sitaraman, “but making online videos economically sustainable and profitable is a burning question of key importance to the future economics and evolution of the Internet.”

In what is one of the largest-ever scientific studies, Sitaraman and Krishnan analyzed anonymized viewer data linked to more than 257 million ads, in 367 million videos, from over 3,000 publishers that were viewed by 65 million unique viewers around the world over a 15-day period.

Using Akamai’s media analytics platform to sift through the data, Akamai found some interesting things. Here’s some of what they found:

  • Ads that were inserted within videos had an astounding completion rate of 97 percent, as opposed to those added before and after videos which respectively achieved a 74 percent and 45 percent completion rate.
  • Viewers who are repeat visitors to a website are much more likely to complete an ad when compared to one-time visitors.
  • Ads in long form videos, like movies and TV episodes, were more likely to be completed, while those in shorter news clips were often abandoned.

This gives business a lot to think about. While you may have worked hard on that two minute magnum opus to your business’ ingenuity and work ethic, will viewers actually stay around to check it out while waiting for Cutest Kittens Vol.9 to play? While Sitaraman and Krishnan’s study doesn’t provide specifics about what a business should necessarily do, it’s a safe assumption that brevity does more for your video ad than a large budget, and that it’s better to not overstay your welcome.


About Dimitri Jordan

Dimitri Jordan is a student working on a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and a second in Ancient Studies. He is also a freelance writer, often concerned with concepts in technology and media.


    I appreciate the article but was confused by your conclusion: “…that
    brevity does more for your video ad than a large budget, and that it’s
    better to not overstay your welcome.” My conclusion, based on what you wrote, is that while brevity is indeed better (or less is more) it’s more about the PLACEMENT of the commercial within the video, no? If “Ads that were inserted within videos had an astounding completion rate of 97 percent…” doesn’t that mean that people were willing to sit through an ad in the middle of video to get to the rest of the video? This also makes the large assumption that the video is interesting and compelling enough to want to sit through the ad in order to get to the remaining content. So my takeaway from the study is to carefully plan where to insert the ad within content that is compelling enough to leave the viewer wanting more. Sort of like TV when they reveal the Big Winner…right after this break!