Long Form – YouTube’s Hidden Marketing Secret Sauce

Long form video formats have been a large part of my experience and recommendation to clients when developing video for YouTube. Marketers must understand that there is no limit to the length of an ad which can be very appealing for specific products and services that usually require a longer explanation or introduction to something new.

Two words that come to mind when thinking about Long Form. First, a look at your current media plan to see if you have long form opportunities, second a look at your creative for opportunities to participate in this lucrative online video option. The problem I think with most industries is the acceptance of the status quo. It was easy for publishers to move from the :60 & :120 commercial lengths to the :15 and :30 worlds seen across most online publishers. Advertisers mostly said, oh we just have to fit our message into a shorter window of time. While this transition was going on, Google and YouTube took a leap with the TrueView format allowing consumers to skip after 5 seconds and allowing advertisers to not pay until after 30 seconds while also allowing unlimited ad length. I’ll give you a second…. #mindblown


  • Unlimited Ad Length – The holy grail for product introduction and creative testing
  • Paying after 30 seconds – Provides enough time to give the user the option to opt out of the ad, leaving the most engaged audience an advertiser ends up paying for

7 Reasons Why Long Form on YouTube can Have a Positive Impact on Your Brand

  1. Evaluate Metrics very few have access to (completion %, drop off rate, % of video viewed, watch time)
    • Video Metric Evaluation – Birthed under the same umbrella with search and being the second largest search engine accumulating more searches than Bing and Yahoo! combined, YouTube holds a mass amount of analytical capabilities inside the O&O platform as well as AdWords. These data sets and variables allow advertisers to test and evaluate creative against critical metrics far different from display and search. Most important of the parameters explicitly when running ads would be your view rate (views/impressions). View Rate essentially is the cohort that reached 30 seconds and past divided by the amount of people that launched the video and made it possibly to 29 seconds before skipping. View rate one of the many determinants of advertiser video quality is estimated at 20% according to multiple anonymous sources.
    • View Rate – Most important when thinking about your advertising efforts in AdWords video. A core metric to evaluate when testing creative
    • Completion % – Shows a percentage of users who completed the video, ideal for understanding length and conceptualizing drop off points to help optimize the video for maximum watch time
    • % of Video Viewed – Also a key factor in quality score and can be optimized by creating a variety of video lengths. The shorter the video, usually yields a higher % of video viewed.
    • Watch Time – How much time are people spending on your ad or YouTube page. Pages, Users, Accounts, and Campaigns with history can sometimes yield preference, promotability, and discovery
  2. Product Attributes / Reasons to Believe Expansion
    • Your Key Product Attributes – Through marketing efforts, what makes up your product or service is most important regarding putting these RTBs in front of a consumer. There’s no easier, cost effective, profitable, and better place to translate the fundamental reasons to believe in your product than Long Form on Google leveraging the TrueView format. As an advertiser, you must look at your audience and realize that even though they fall into the same bucket of moms who love soccer or dads who love sports that each user consumes and reacts differently. Thus, we are all made up of our experiences we thus experience ads differently. What we have found through substantial research is that applying your reasons to believe in your product or service strategically throughout a long-form spot provides you the best chance to persuade a user to buy your product or increase awareness and trial opportunities.

      • What issue does your brand solve?    
      • Why is your brand better than the competition?   
      • Where can you find, try, and buy the brand?    
      • How does your brand make the consumer better?
  3. User Choice (TrueView Model)
    • No scalable platform provides the amount of user accepted ads than YouTube. Accepted meaning by allowing users the chance to skip. I skip most ads. Most people do. But that is a relevance issue. The TrueView model is the first step in meeting the consumer in the middle and is having a positive impact on both the consumer and advertiser. Thirty seconds is a lifetime for a marketer. The first thirty seconds you may consider the most valuable impression on the web, specifically because you don’t pay for it. Now think about it. What if I told you. You could entertain, educate, or inspire along with a brand introduction, problem illustration, reasons to believe in the product, and qualify the audience before even paying for the user to see the rest of your ad. You would call me crazy. Call me crazy. Welcome to TrueView.
  4. Micro Moments
    • Being at the right place at the right time is essential for marketers today and taking advantage of the second largest search engine (YouTube) is a key opportunity to be there for your target consumers. We are moving from the world where we had to take calculated steps to do everything. Now we have the ability to problem solve in seconds, thus as a marketer, we need to be the first answer to the user’s problem. There’s no better way to introduce a product or solve a problem than a video. Combine this with the second largest search engine that is YouTube, and you get a valuable opportunity for your product or service. How To videos are one of the biggest segment on the platform having the immense impact on consumers each and every day. If you think about your offering today, is there a way to take advantage of this category, your product, and a consumer in need? To test this notion quickly, you can leverage your current search keyword list and apply it to a keyword targeted campaign on YouTube. My suggestion, however, would be to take some time and think about the search experience on YouTube in comparison to Google search, they are different, and your strategy should match the user experience.
  5. Audience Experience (mobile vs. desktop)
    • Platform Experience – Users provide key signs on each device which help paint a picture of user experience. This human research is necessary to the creative decisions, ad length, and overall performance impact on the campaign.
    • Desktop / Laptop – This lean back experience deals with an audience usually looking for a purposeful online experience that will either entertain or educate in most situations. These users are in most cases ready for sound and content that is above 5 min in length. One can expect lower off the platform click-through rates, however, higher engagement to click ratio. Desktop / Laptop usually yield increased earned views when interest develops through an ad. Users are also still more likely to purchase a product although this is shifting. There is still an idea of a safer experience on the desktop/laptop device in addition to it being easier leveraging two hands for typing vs. one on a mobile device. Consumers also have an easier time comparing and contrasting on the desktop device which is important for advertisers to understand when sequential messaging and offering a get it now before it’s too late offer can add the most value or convert at the highest propensity.
    • Mobile – Can be lean back or lean forward. This platform is adaptable but does have its own signature experience. Mobile does usually contribute a higher view rate, completion %, and % of video viewed. The click-through rate is much greater in comparison while the click to conversion rate is a lot less. As, the purchase experience improves on mobile this click to conversion ratio should improve.  Mobile earned views, subscribers, and other social engagement indicators happen less on mobile. However, one must understand that a lot is dependent on the advertiser, creative, offer, and many other variables that all play a role. The mobile device can sometimes be a detriment for long-form as there is only a limited amount of time someone can watch a video holding the device most cases.
  6. Targeting & Optimization (Day / Hour)
    • One of the most underutilized optimizations users can make to their YouTube campaigns is the day of the week and hour of the day. If we continue from the previous “Platform Experience” section, you can start to understand the combination of device experience and bid adjusting your day and hour variables. So if I target 8 am to 5 pm desktop in a metropolitan area, I can assume if I’m targeting business professionals 25-54 that most likely they are in front of a computer at work, and therefore I should engage them in this specific way. Or if I’m targeting moms between the ages of 25-44 from 8pm-11pm, I can assume the kids are asleep, and they are catching up on some late night news, entertain, or trying to solve a problem with education. This daypart understanding can help you build creative, optimize, targeting, but most important reach the most relevant audience with the best ad creating the best opportunity for conversion.
  7. Version Testing / Creative Variable Analysis
    • Last, but should probably be first. There is nothing more important but also more expensive than version testing creative, and that’s primarily due to the editing, casting, and overall production cost necessary. The best campaigns, case studies, and clients are the one’s that make creative variable testing a priority. The more variables tested, the better the performance of your original and more importantly the human engagement reaction leveraged on the platform against a prominent call to actions and qualifying statements can be instrumental to any brand and their strategy. You can test anything from actors, and their demographic makeup to the qualifying statements. Moreover, alternating and understanding the different reasons to believe variables can be the difference between average and excellent performance. Different versions of the creative are also important when evaluating the audience. The response is guaranteed to be different, but the learning that fuels the better performance in future weeks and campaigns is the gold for any campaign. While this can be applied to any campaign regardless of length, creative variable analysis creates the best performance when leveraging long form and TrueView. Multiple lengths of video testing are also something I recommend if the budget is applicable. This point goes back to an earlier reference to % of video viewed and view rate which helps calculate your quality score on AdWords video. These metrics improve on shorter videos but again depends on many variables. The point is the education garnered from testing across multiple versions where you might find CTR and click to conversion ratios that differ based on length.


Value creation through TrueView and long form on the YouTube platform is possible at scale. I encourage testing many variables only because I’ve seen the proof of increased performance through the thousands of campaigns executed on the platform.

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