• Visual Effects Drive Online Video Ad Engagement: Study

    Since online video burst on the scene, there has been a demarcation between "premium" content and everything else. A common definition is that "premium" content comes from well-known brands (e.g. studios, TV networks, etc.) while everything else doesn't. But a more subtle distinction often can be found in premium content's higher production values - improved lighting and sound quality and the use of visual special effects (VFX). VFX can range from the small (animating objects) to the big (whole scenes treated with specialized looks). VFX gives content something extra, ranging from a real "wow" factor to a more subtle polish that makes it innately more appealing.

    Just as premium content providers have long understood the value of VFX, so too have advertisers, particularly for expensive, high-profile TV ads. Now, with the migration of audiences to online video, and the interest of brands in increasing their spending in this medium, VFX can similarly improve the effectiveness and ROI of online video ads. That's the conclusion of a new research study from GenArts, a leading VFX provider. While my usual caveats about sponsored research apply, the study demonstrates multiple ways that VFX-enhanced ads increase key ad metrics.

    In the research, a group of 518 individuals, age 18-54, evenly split between men and women, were randomly shown two different ads targeted to males, from footwear maker Puma. One ad was treated with VFX and one wasn't. They were then asked 20 questions about likeability and preference, engagement and purchase intent.  No surprise, the VFX-enhanced ad was deemed more appealing, more unique and more likely to be viewed again, with 90% citing the effects as the key differentiator.

    Men were particularly drawn to the VFX ad, with 14% finding it significantly more appealing. They were 9% less likely to abandon the ad and 13% more likely to consider purchasing the advertised footwear. Importantly, there were negative consequences from viewing the ad that didn't have VFX too, as men were 11% more likely to definitely not consider the brand compared with the VFX ad. Follow-on action was also more motivated by VFX; viewers of the non-VFX ad were 13% less likely to download an available coupon. While the study doesn't say this, my sense is that men who watch sports, which are VFX-heavy, have likely come to expect effects in all the video they view.

    The conclusion of all this is that if online video advertisers want their spending to be as effective as possible, the addition of VFX has a real impact. Recognizing that many online video advertisers and online-only creators don't have large budgets, GenArts introduced Sapphire Edge, a less expensive, scaled-down version of its Sapphire software for industry pros.
    As online video matures, no doubt the prevalence of visual effects will increase as well.