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Video ad engagement increases alongside decreasing ad loads, reports FreeWheel in a new study [download page]. Based on facial recognition research fielded among almost 3,000 viewers aged 18-49, FreeWheel determined that both content and ads get an engagement lift when combined with each other, and that the highest engagement levels are among those who are exposed to the fewest amount of ads.

To arrive at its conclusions, FreeWheel segmented the participants into groups that saw a varying amount of ads alongside premium entertainment clips. Those that saw a single ad with their 4 clips showed higher levels of engagement and emotional response than those watching multiple ads with their clips.

However, viewers themselves were split in terms of their ad load preferences. Regardless of how many ads they saw, viewers expected to see roughly 3 ads for every 4 clips. Yet asked if they would prefer a single longer ad to intermittent shorter ones, roughly half (50.2%) of those who saw 4 ads would choose a longer pre-roll, and a similar proportion (48.8%) of those who saw a single ad felt the same way.

This suggests that video viewers would like choice over how they receive ads. These are important considerations given that the video industry believes that the ad experience is its greatest challenge. Ad loads figure prominently in this discussion: in fact, recent survey results from FreeWheel indicate that video advertisers believe that the best thing that can be done to improve the ad experience is to enable dynamic ad loads based on content consumption.

The results from FreeWheel’s latest study are also interesting in light of a previous survey from Hub Entertainment Research. In the context of what online TV viewers believed would help them pay more attention to an ad, the survey found that ad load is a critical factor, but that having just one ad per break emerged as having a far greater impact than repeated ads in the show.

Notably, longer ads don’t seem to negatively impact attitudes towards brands: FreeWheel did not detect any negative sentiment towards seeing a 30-second ad rather than a 15-second one. Indeed, research from Ace Metrix has shown that most “breakthrough” video ads (combining likability and attention) are longer ads, at least 60 seconds in length.

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