Video Ads

Programmatic Advertising

Thomas Zukowski by Thomas Zukowski | June 18, 2018

We’d definitely be beating a dead horse by stating that video ads are big, but… video ads are BIG. According to recode, ad spending on mobile video will reach $18 billion this year, having grown 49% since 2016. Time spent with digital media on mobile devices has long surpassed desktop, and the gap is continually widening.

Naturally, the rise in mobile video viewership has led to increased use of video to reach consumers. So, what should mobile app marketers know about mobile video ads?

The Current Video Ad Landscape

The 2017 “Mobile Video Advertising Insights” report by InMobi revealed over 50% YoY growth in mobile video adoption by advertisers and publishers. It’s no surprise, given that video ads allow for better storytelling and increased interactivity over static images. Video ads also deliver higher user engagement and better CVRs and install rates when compared to Banner Ads. InMobi found video ads performed 7.6x better CVR over banner, 2x better CVR over interstitial, and 1.5x better CVR over native ads.

It’s rare that a single video will translate well across broadcast, YouTube pre-roll, social media feeds, and in-app advertising. On television, audiences expect a high standard of quality. Video ads need to be customized to the channels they are served on to get the best performance possible.

Within social media feeds, candid or handheld videos fit naturally into your newsfeed. Conversely, a 5-second vertical video covered in Snapchat geofilters will feel odd within any app outside of Snapchat. Similarly, a highly-produced TV commercial will feel like an interruption. The key to most successful programmatic in-app videos is to directly feature the actual user experience.

Video Ad Format Considerations

There is no one-size fits all option for video. Once you’ve identified something successful, you’ll need to convert it into several formats to optimize impact. That being said, mobile users hold their phones vertically 94% of the time, suggesting they are not switching to horizontal to watch videos. In 2015, Snapchat reported completion rates for vertical video ads were up to 9 times higher than horizontal video ads in the app.

When deciding length, remember that 15-second ads are usually non-skippable, while 30-second ads are skippable. Thus, 15-second ads tend to perform better, despite being shorter. However, in both cases, cut to the chase as quickly as possible. Mobile viewers are not lean-back consumers like television viewers are. This new type of viewer is lean-forward, always ready to swipe to the next screen.

In order to access all available inventory, supply your DSP with vertical and horizontal formats, both 15-seconds or less and 30-seconds or less. For example, at Liftoff, our machine learning platform can test any combination of runtimes and aspect ratios concurrently in order to find the highest performing ads for a given audience.

Best Practices With Video Ads

You don’t need a full scale Hollywood production team to create an impactful mobile video ad. Viewers tend to react favorably to the most literal representation of your product – the app interface.

Don’t worry too much about text overlay, flashy effects, or even audio. The most important practice is to take viewers on a journey through the key features of your app and let the product speak for itself. For shopping apps, that could mean a quick scan through a feed of products. For gaming, it’s the actual gameplay that will attract curious eyes. As audiences become increasingly cautious of targeted advertising, depicting your app with honesty will speak volumes.

Here are some additional best practices to consider:

  • Create unique ads for mobile and tablet devices. The UI featured in the video should be reflective of the device on which it’s served.
  • It’s important to test ad units that are 15-seconds or less, and 30-seconds or less. The biggest difference being that 30-second videos are skippable after 5 seconds. Knowing that audiences are locked in for 5 seconds, you must get to the point quickly.
  • Be mindful of scale when developing an overall concept. Videos that require talent or highly detailed effects are difficult to produce and iterate vs simple app walkthroughs. Do heavy testing on the less expensive ads and iterate quickly. Then take the winning ads to scale by producing more expensive versions of your creatives.

At Liftoff, we are in constant pursuit of the most impactful in-app video ads for each of our clients, but A/B testing video is no cakewalk. Consider this: at 24fps (frames-per-second), a 15-second video is comprised of 360 static images, plus audio. That leaves a lot of variables to test! One could spend years testing minor alterations to a high-impact video such as background music, scene order, and end card fonts (believe me, we have!).

By then, audiences will be tired of viewing the ad no matter how it’s dressed up. Instead, we often pit videos with significant conceptual differences against each other to see what strikes a chord with the target audience. In other words, test with broad strokes vs small details.

And test specific variables as well, such as video length, resolution, and aspect ratio. Optimizing against any one of these variables will help deliver improved performance from our video ads.

Are you ready to boost CVRs with high performing mobile video ads?


Thomas Zukowski is our Advertising Creative Producer Team Lead, with 18+ years experience in digital video testing and production. As a sage digital ad expert, Thomas studied Film & Television Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Prior to Liftoff, Thomas was the Director of Multimedia at Likeable Media, a NYC-based social media marketing agency.