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Why time spent is the ultimate predictor of success

Why time spent is the ultimate predictor of success Dylan Rebillot

The best way to judge advertising is often by how well it is remembered. From classic TV campaigns to (not so) recent viral hits from brands like Old Spice, successful ads are often discussed excitedly, with word spreading from person to person.

While we'd all love to believe that creative alone is enough to carry a concept, today's high level of distraction require a multifaceted media approach to make something stand out. The art of brand building is exactly that, an art, and successful campaigns today -- especially online -- often rely on a combination of publicity, the brand's social pedigree, and true media and advertising to spread the message about the masterpiece campaign. These days, to effectively build a brand, we must introduce science to the art.

But all of this buildup is moving toward one goal: The most talked about advertising campaigns today, the ones that build a successful marriage of message and brand, are really succeeding at getting consumers to spend time with the brand in a meaningful way. With this in mind, it's time to focus on a singular metric for measuring success -- time spent.

Think about the buzz surrounding the Old Spice viral video campaign from a few years back, and how many "free" impressions it received. Many people don't realize that there was a very calculated media strategy near the Super Bowl with multiple paid media outlets that got the buzz started. After that, the campaign became wildly successful because the creativity, execution and follow-up were outstanding.

In five years of working on the brand side of digital marketing, I saw several brands across all categories try to replicate Old Spice's success, with much difficulty. Many times, it was because the brand side was focused on a proxy for success, without any clear uniformity from the industry. ROI factored in, but so did traffic driven to brand sites or social media, efficiency in cost of media, and metrics like "how viral were my videos." In the end, the brands that improve brand health metrics are really getting consumers to spend time and engage with the brand in a meaningful way.

Take a step back and consider why certain media touch points are better for branding than others. Search, display, video, and social all have different objectives and strengths. It makes sense to develop a universal metric to show campaign efficacy across all these areas, especially when evaluating brand health.

Social is really about engagement and building a relationship, which could result in lots of time spent. Right now, there's a disproportionate amount of brand dollars going into social, based on the idea that time spent results in engagement. The consideration is whether people really want relationships with brands in social environments, and according to eMarketer, interacting with a brand just barely influences purchase intent.

When optimizing towards engagement, interactive video ads average 58 seconds of earned time spent beyond the standard 30-second pre-roll. This means that advertisers are buying 30 seconds of time and getting 88 seconds of engagement -- almost three times the value of a standard pre-roll ad. When engagement is the success criterion, the advertiser gets more time spent, thus creating a longer branded experience. Of course, understanding the who, where, and when around the additional engagement is extremely important to advertisers. It helps them validate their own assumptions, or better yet, gain additional insights about their audience that informs future marketing and media plans.

Display and search, meanwhile, have brand building potential, but currently lend themselves better to direct response advertising. But when you consider when they fail for brands, it's often because time spent isn't a priority. Search is about driving consumers to another site as quickly as possible. Brand dollars go to search for "brand trust," but search is the furthest thing away from actually building brands. In the end, advertising is an art and the feeling is that time spent leads to better branding.

Time is the priceless commodity we all wish we had more of, so when consumers give it to you, it is precious. So, when looking at all the different mediums for contributing to brand building, consider how much time the consumer is really spending time with your brand. Have they opted-in to that experience, and does the context make sense for the both the consumer and advertiser?

Dylan Rebillot is head of CPG strategy and category development at Tremor Video.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Time concept clock" image via Shutterstock. "Clouds12" image via Lost and Taken.

  Dylan Rebillot began his career handling some of the largest digital marketing campaigns and strategies for Procter & Gamble's Beauty division out of Cincinnati, before joining Tremor Video in New York. At Tremor Video, Dylan has held...

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