Ad Recall on Youtube

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The above ad is for the video game Battlefield 3 (BF3). It was run heavily leading up to its November 2011 release. The spot made multiple appearances during male-focused TV broadcasts such as sports, but it also made just as many rounds on the web.

One of those places it appeared was on the web's most popular video site, Youtube. They bought up the whole website for, what seemed like, the entire month of October to promote this video game.

The thing about Youtube, however, is it allows viewers to skip their ads after five seconds. I've noticed this isn't the case for some ads now, as more and more ads seem to make you sit through the 15 or 30 seconds it's running. However, a year ago you could skip virtually any ad at any time, this BF3 spot included.

In viewing these ads, I noticed that Electronic Arts (EA), the publishers and promoters of Battlefield 3, found a way around the ad skip. The first 5 seconds of the ad (the part viewers can't skip) consisted only of a very intense animation of the game's cover, backed up with a very intense audio. The segment of the above video from 1:00-1:05 is the exact five second intro they would use. For most Youtube viewers this is the only five seconds of the ad they would ever see before skipping it. These five seconds did exactly what an ad is supposed to do: get the advertiser's message out.

As an advertising major, I pay close attention to these kinds of things, especially when it comes to digital as the book on how to advertise on digital is still being written (and whoever writes it gets rich). As far as ads on the fourth biggest website in the world goes, BF3 is the only one I've seen make use of those first five crucial seconds. The rest just run whatever 30 second spots they've made up for TV, and none get their message out before the first five seconds are up.

What I would like to do is devise a research experiment to answer the research question: How effective is EA's 5-second intro strategy on brand recall? In the interest of keeping things somewhat brief, I'm not going to go too far into specifics with regards to pre/post-testing and how to analyze the results, but I will go over the basic outline of the study.

My hypothesis is that there is a positive correlation between ad recall and the 5-second intro strategy. I believe that viewers exposed to the intro are much more likely to be able to recall an ad than viewers who are not.

I would develop a series of ads for a series of products that participants would be tested on for recall. Each ad would also have a 5-second intro developed for it. I would then gather five groups of about 20 participants each, and label them A, B, C, D, and E.

Group A would be pre-tested on their knowledge of the selected products. I would then instruct them to spend one hour browsing Youtube videos. I would ensure Group A is only exposed to ads that employ the 5-second intro strategy and allow the participants the option of skipping them. They would then be post-tested on the same products to measure recall.

Group B would be pre-tested as well, and then set loose on Youtube for the same amount of time. This group would only be exposed to ads without the 5-second intro strategy, and would be allowed to skip them. They would then be post-tested.

Group C would not be pre-tested in order to ensure the pre-test isn't influencing the results of the research. They would get the 5-second intros like Group A, and then be post-tested.

Group D would skip the pre-test too, then get ads without the intros like Group B. They would then be post-tested.

Group E would be the control group. They would only be post-tested, and not be pre-tested or exposed to any variables.

It's important to keep in mind that anyone who buys a video ad on Youtube also gets a banner ad next to the video. This study is meant only to measure the effects of the 5-second intro strategy. As a result, this banner ad would be removed so as not to influence the results of the study.

The rest of the site would have to be dumbed down as well. The comments section would be removed, and the recommended videos section would recommend the same video for all participants, regardless of what video they just watched. All this to ensure no other variables can manipulate the results.

In-depth questionnaires/surveys would be developed for the pre/post-tests and they would collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The data would then be appropriately coded and examined to either validate or reject my hypothesis.

I'm very confident that my hypothesis would be supported, and the ad industry would hail me as a hero for recognizing such an ingenious ad strategy. I would go down in history with ad greats like Dan Bernbach and Ridley Scott, and forever be showered in riches... only to wake up from what surely would have been such a very good dream.

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