Shortening Ads Isn’t Enough to Maintain Consumer Attention says Connatix’s Kashak

With falling audience attention spans and the growth of short-form content, advertisers have been experimenting with short fifteen or six second ad formats to try and make their advertising more palatable for consumers. This is a good start says Connatix’s CEO David Kashak, but he argues the conversation needs to go beyond just making ads shorter. In this Q&A, Kashak explains which strategies he thinks are most successful for monetising short-form content, and how publishers can boost their video revenue.

On the face of it, content syndication makes perfect sense for creators and publishers, but some struggle to make it work. What advice would you have for both publishers and creators to get the best out of syndication?

Syndication is all about increasing the value of videos. Publishers – who often invest significant dollars in video production – can easily increase their revenue potential by distributing videos to a curated network of sites with similar audiences. In turn, smaller publishers who can’t sustain video production on the level of, say, the New York Times, can now make video an integral part of their website. It’s a win-win across the board. However, you want to think about the overall experience as the video carries through from your site to another.

At the end of the day, success in syndication boils down to one thing: relevancy. Some of the best performing syndication campaigns happen when the publisher and advertiser team up to create “packaged” video content. Both the video and the advertisement are developed in tandem, with the other in mind. The “sponsored content” approach results in a heightened reader experience and increased performance, especially once videos are distributed.

Where the video actually appears is also important for success. You want to make sure your content will appear on relevant and similar sites. We work closely with publishers to develop curated syndication networks that make sense for their video content. These steps help ensure content will be delivered in the right environment.

We’ve seen a variety of brand safety initiatives alongside things like Ads.txt and GDPR aimed at cleaning up the ecosystem. Have you seen more demand for content as a result?

Video was the wild west when it first started, and there were many ways to trick the system. The entire industry has made a concerted attempt to ensure a more honest and transparent marketplace, and we’ve seen many bad actors disappear. The demand for content has certainly risen, but I think the reasons are multifaceted. Readers are consuming video at an incredible rate, and it’s driving demand for the industry to keep pace.

What really excites me is what comes next. Cleaning up the ecosystem was a critical step for us to move into the next era of video experiences. Today’s consumer enjoys a much deeper level of engagement with content than what publishers have been able to provide. With the rapid evolution of social media, consumers have also evolved, and digest content that is immersive, interactive, and introduces a sense of community. Until now, this deeper level of engagement has only been available on social, but there is a world of untapped potential in video. We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible, and the industry is now ready to focus less on the mechanics and more on the experience. Demand will only go up from here.

Is there a surplus of content in circulation do you think? Or is there a need for more perhaps?

The needs of the reader are constantly evolving, which means content demands have evolved as well. While there is plenty of video content to go around, it’s not always optimised for the experience. For example, mobile-first videos are scarce to come by. While the demand is there from the reader, neither publishers nor advertisers have fully taken the plunge. On the publisher side, creating mobile-first videos requires greater budget allocation with uncertain monetisation potential. In turn, advertisers recognise this shortage in supply, and have been hesitant to invest in mobile-first video ads. One is dependent on the other for mobile video to be successful and, in the meantime, there are missed opportunities for reader engagement.

We actually recently launched a product to help solve this challenge, it’s called Stories for Publishers. It essentially allows publishers to create mobile-first video experiences at no upfront cost, offering prime real estate for mobile advertisers. We’re now seeing advertisers specifically request this format from certain publishers, which is an exciting step forward, both for our company and the industry.

Are we monetising short-form content correctly? Are you seeing an increase in shorter ads of 15 or even six seconds long?

Everywhere you look, there’s a changing stat about decreasing consumer attention spans. Readers are quickly growing bored with some of today’s content. In response, advertisers are testing shorter video ads and we’re already seeing an increase in demand for short-form. As mobile-first inventory becomes readily available, we expect it to grow even more. However, for it to be effective, short-form videos need to fold properly into the surrounding content. A quick, six-second ad placed in the middle of a longer video could be awkward and disruptive; pre-roll is often a more natural way to augment the experience.

However, it’s time to expand the conversation beyond just length. If the goal is to maintain and retain consumer attention, we need to ask ourselves, “what will truly drive engagement?” The answer might be a shorter ad, but it also calls other elements into question. What’s the quality of the content? What opportunities are there for the reader to engage? Today’s consumer is accustomed to a more immersive content experience through mediums like Instagram and Snapchat. Here they can have a two-way conversation with the brand and partake in the conversation through interactive elements. As a reader, it’s hard to dial back from there. As we enter the next era of video marketing, retaining consumer attention is about more than length – it’s about the interactivity, depth and quality.

What advice would you give to a publisher seeking to boost their video revenue?

It doesn’t take a lot to make the most of the great content you already have. Find the right partner, make sure they’ve invested in solutions to maintain the integrity of your site throughout the content experience, and focus on the narrative for the reader. Automated video creation formats are a surefire way to monetise current content, even if you have small budgets and zero video content. Interactive video formats are emerging outside of social and can help you strike the right balance between the reader experience and monetisation. When the user is involved in the experience (rather than just watching a piece of content), you inherently create more interest in him or her having the experience again.

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