Why Video Completion Rates Don't Matter As We Move Into The Era Of Native Outstream Video

on The Future of Advertising, Native Video

Let’s say that you could somehow block the doors of an Apple store and only let people in if they read a flier with a coupon for a mom and pop restaurant. How many people do you think would take the time to read it before entering?

Now consider the humble pre-roll ad you have to sit through before watching the video you want to watch. Completion rates for these ads really mean: “how motivated are viewers to sit through a commercial to watch content?

In most cases the answer is, "not very motivated." 2016 research from ORC International showed people are not completing them at all, with 90% of people claiming to skip pre-roll ads.

Think of your own behavior when you come across a pre-roll ad: do you mute it, skip it or go do something else for 30 seconds, while waiting for the video of a giant chicken you really want to see?

Facebook's research suggests that passive viewers of TV spots are likely occupying the same frame of mind as pre-roll viewers, which means they’re not engaged with the content or receptive to its messages.

Now think about the customers you’re trying to reach: do you want people begrudgingly sitting through your spot, or annoyed you’re keeping them from seeing that giant chicken for 30 seconds? Certainly they want to see the chicken, and they might even be interested in your ad, but you’re taxing them for wanting to see it, instead of giving them your own content when they’re most receptive to it.


It’s the engaged and interested viewers that mean the most.

Forced completions aren’t the metric to measure that. What you really want are the people who want to see your video, because your media is well-targeted, your content is great and you’ve piqued a viewer’s curiosity. This is where native outstream video comes into its own.

When it comes to native and non-native outstream video, users are self-selecting to watch content they are interested in, not forced to. When planners are comparing pre-roll completion rates to native and non-native outstream completion rates, they’re doing themselves a disservice. It’s like comparing people willing to stop and read a brand flier outside of an Apple store to be able to enter it and those willing to just stop and read.

Cost per view is a better metric for native and non-native outstream video. We know that given a choice, viewing time falls off a cliff from the start. Which is why the MRC says a video must stay in view for two consecutive seconds in order to count as a viewable impression; they realize no video lasts just two seconds, but that’s enough time to know that a video has come into view.

Give your audience an interesting headline that sparks their interest and gets them to pay attention to your video. Even if they just read your headline, you can create a positive brand association from that alone. According to Sharethrough research, 20 percent of millennials read headlines exclusively, never even clicking into the content itself.

It seems elementary to note that all brands want are targeted consumers actively engaging with their video content. It’s time though, for more people to recognize that video completion rates aren’t always the best way to measure this ideal.

David Simutis

Senior Product Marketing Manager @ Sharethrough. Fan of Jindos, Steelers, indie music, craft beer, neuroscience.