Smart Marketers Test on Digital Video Before Taking on TV


As marketers, we’ve been hammered about the virtues of digital for as long as digital has been around. If you feel the urge to roll your eyes when you hear about the latest digital marketing channel, you’re in good company. But marketers should resist the urge to be skeptical, since online viewing habits are maturing and settling into some pretty clear behaviors.

With the iPhone turning 10 this year and companies such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat taking up increasing amounts of customers’ attention online, it’s becoming clearer that what people like to do online looks a lot like what people like to do offline: watch video. It’s becoming the dominant medium that viewers consume online; indeed, they spend more time consuming video than they spend on Facebook.

Digital video is sexy for a reason. When you add the growth and staying power that digital video seems assured to keep, it now makes more sense than ever to test your next TV creative online before testing it on TV. TV audiences for short-form DRTV are at least as untargeted as similar digital audiences when buying ads on a run-of-station basis, and with digital, marketers can target and focus media buys to a very tight degree.

In the last 18 months, internet users, leading digital platforms, and advertising tech have all made huge advancements in video, creating a virtuous circle that has served and built the market while expanding opportunities for advertisers. Watching online video has become so commonplace across favorite apps and sites that one can argue that the audiences are converging.

As far as relevance goes, a frustration shared among many TV marketers is that many digital avenues—landing pages, blog posts, etc.—just don’t have the marketing punch that a good TV spot does, so comparing effectiveness across channels can be difficult. Many brilliant DRTV marketers can’t seem to make channels outside of TV work, but the nature of digital video makes it most like TV in terms of how the marketing message is communicated and consumed, making its appeal tough to argue.

Operationally, digital executions are extremely time- and cost-effective compared to traditional TV advertising operations. Modern ad-serving technology is converging on similar, very simple user interfaces such as Google AdWords, with centralized planning, buying, reporting, and trafficking freeing up more time to test, analyze, and tweak. Scaling up or expanding to new markets is often just a matter of copy-and-paste, which takes just minutes to execute.

Another reason digital video is great for testing TV creative is that you can measure the difference in spots’ incremental response among a wide general audience and targeted behavioral groups, the logic being that if an untargeted, general audience prefers offer A over offer B, what does your target audience—for instance, married, female fitness buffs aged 34 to 55—prefer? If the target market also prefers offer A, you can have high confidence in the relative strength of your offer, which can be further honed and tested over time. TV just can’t give you that kind of certainty or those response metrics.

About metrics: If you haven’t been actively marketing in digital video in the past 18 months, you might not even recognize the wealth of data and statistics now available. Marketers have dozens of metrics beyond straight response to help evaluate how well their digital video marketing messages are received. Statistics like the “view through” rate (the percentage of video views completed) plus conversion tracking offer marketers much more insight into what parts of the message are resonating most, and can help inform further messaging, online or otherwise. With new metrics, you can keep refining and moving toward the messages that have traction. Disseminate those insights to other channels, offline and elsewhere.

If anyone is poised to make the most out of digital video, it’s DRTV marketers. They’ve long since mastered the art of selling and branding on TV, and now have the opportunity to use digital video testing to greatly inform offline campaigns. Many clients are starting to test ideas in digital before building any TV creative, and scripting a more polished TV production after harvesting those digital insights. With a little exposure and practice, DRTV marketers will find themselves right at home in digital video.