Why video views shouldn't be such a big deal

For the past few years, fueled by YouTube, video views has become an important metric for brand marketers. If you have a TV commercial, “extending” reach via YouTube is an important part of the digital media plan. In many cases it is the only leg making up a digital plan. The metric driving these budgets — the video view counter below the video.

Wait, isn’t CPV cheaper on YouTube than TV? And calculated at 30 seconds? There, budget justified. Digital done.

Video views are so important that Facebook too has introduced the video ad unit and is pushing it aggressively to marketers. After all, targeting options on Facebook are so much better and a video view cheaper. So what if a view is calculated at 3 seconds.

I have a fundamental question — what does a video view really mean? You may argue that is as pertinent a question for TV advertising too, and you’re probably correct. My argument is simple — attention span and viewing time on digital screens is much shorter than on TV, but unlike TV which is a “lean back” medium, digital is “lean forward”. So a user on digital behaves very differently and a 30 seconder on digital is just too long for someone to pay attention to a brand message, especially one running at high frequency (YouTube pre-rolls almost always run on high frequency). He is probably too distracted by something else to hit the “skip” button! And any media planner with half a brain will tell you that YouTube CPV is often lower when bought on CPM rather than on bid based CPV’s.

I am probably shooting myself in the foot here, but shouldn’t the only metric to measure be reach? We know video ads don’t work for conversion or ROI based goals (which if they really were awesome and people were engaged enough to watch 30 seconds, should not be the case). We know YouTube has high frequency, while Facebook measures a view too early. Why not just focus on reach as a metric then? And use shorter form videos suited to the internet?

I am not against videos or video ads. I know they can be more powerful than visuals and more engaging than standard banners. I also recognise that they are the only way to reach an internet first audience who is a sporadic TV viewer. What I ask for is aligning the objective of awareness with the result of reach, not CPV based views.

The question I ask is — should video views be as important as we’ve made it out to be? Because I don't think so.

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