Warc recently published this article by our Research and Insight Director, Andre van Loon, looking at the effectiveness of video content and how individual brands can get a content strategy that truly works.

What video strategy works for a brand depends, ultimately, on the brand, argues Andre van Loon, and looking at what worked for others can, at times, leave us wishing for faster horses rather than cars - to paraphrase Henry Ford.

Shorter videos, longer videos. Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Periscope, forever new YouTube. Immersive 360 content, old-fashioned narratives, highly stylised or rough and ready videos. More than ever before, social is now video’s home: rich in variety, open-ended in possibility and used by challenger and long-established brands alike.

However, does all video content work in the intended way? How much of it actually makes a difference, or is seen in the first place - beyond the ‘skip ad’ button, 3 second scrolling time or swipe?

Here, I’ll look at how to measure video effectiveness; the difference between mass reach and targeting; and how marketers can try to get bang for their video buck.

Measuring video effectiveness
Digital marketing, and video in particular, suffer from an intense focus on rudimentary metrics. Facebook’s recent admissions of faulty average video viewing times dominate the debate. But this is basic awareness: only one step in evaluating what works.

Although important, collecting data around impressions, video views and average completion rates does not give us enough to prove that consumers have remembered, enjoyed, felt persuaded by or done anything different because of a particular video.

Did video views lead to brand or product advocacy? Did they reinforce existing attitudes or behaviours, or create new ones? Did a brand’s videos impact on consumers’ purchase intentions? Did they lead to increased sales?

These questions are not taken seriously enough by the industry. It’s much easier to focus on awareness metrics anyone can download from Facebook Insights or other platforms: proving broader effectiveness takes more time, effort and human intelligence.

In one recent campaign study I worked on, our Research & Insight team looked at how video views led consumers to seek out more branded content, engage with videos (e.g. likes, comments and shares), advocate the brand in question to their friends, talk more about the brand than about competitors, and explicitly state their purchase intentions.

This gave us a holistic view of what actually worked, and happily, our series of videos did more than just an awareness job. Our target audience expressed an interest in the brand, engaged with it in multiple ways on social, and purchase intent rose the longer we ran the videos.

The next step is to correlate our social results with the client’s sales data: the holy grail of effectiveness for many marketers.

Mass reach versus targeting
On this issue, I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. Empirical marketing rules, popularised by writers like Les Binet, Peter Field, Byron Sharp and and Mark Ritson, sound compelling, but fail to account for things we don’t know yet. Looking at what works already, as these writers do, might turn us all into people who want faster horses, rather than a car (to misquote Henry Ford).

A video campaign, like all great marketing, should start with a few core questions. What is the brand issue, and how will the campaign address that? What is the insight into how different people think or feel about a brand – either as they express this in social media, or in other ‘offline’ ways? What campaign creative idea and execution is most likely to drive towards the pre-defined success metrics?

Thinking through these questions should give agencies a better idea about whether to aim for mass reach or targeting. In general, I’m a big fan of the notion that you should talk to as many consumers as possible – tight targeting can lead to great results, but you may have missed out from organic awareness and sharing, which can start to build your brand over the long-term.

We should never forget that target audiences are not static, as people change their attitudes and behaviour, so even a targeted campaign that works once may not work the next time round.

It’s worth following industry discussions, such as P&G pulling back from targeting to aim for mass reach instead: it is hard to disagree with P&G - the largest advertiser in the world - that, when it comes to FMCG brands, mass awareness is still the best starting point. But this doesn’t mean that mass reach will work for all brands in all categories.

Getting bang for your buck
Video may be popular, but we should not forget some things that are as true today as they were decades ago. I love an old quote by copywriter John Caples, reminding us why trying to drive awareness, recall or recognition isn’t necessarily beneficial for a brand:

There’s an easy way to beat that game. Instead of showing a big picture of a car, you show a big picture of Marilyn Monroe and a little picture of the car. If that doesn’t work, you take some clothes off her.

Video views may well shoot through the roof because of a Monroe-style tactic, but what is it doing for your brand?

Getting bang for your buck should start by spelling out what ‘bang’ is. Changed perceptions? Changed behaviour? Greater purchase intent? More sales?

Being focussed on well-defined success metrics, in a video campaign that is based on an insight into social truths about a brand or audience, should start to give marketers more proof that what they invest in works.