When was the last time you opened a social media app? Caught up on your favorite show on a streaming platform? Scrolled through a website page on your desktop or phone? You’re doing at least one of these activities (if not three all of them) right now, right?
Don’t worry, our goal here isn’t to call you out on your daily screen time: it's to point out that all three of these digital engagements provide prime opportunities for advertisers to connect with you via video ads. Whether it’s via CTV (which is dominating this year’s TV upfronts), social video (did you know that US TikTok users spend almost an hour per day on the platform?), or good old display (in 2021, video accounted for more than 50% of display ad spend), video ads are an increasingly popular way to reach audiences.
Of course, most marketers don’t need to be sold on the value of a well-thought-out digital video advertising strategy. Production aside, one of the biggest challenges advertisers face in the realm of video lies with measurement. To employ an effective approach, advertisers must tap into the multiple types of digital video and navigate various platforms, each of which offers different measurement capabilities. As a result, it can be tough to know which metrics to track and tougher still to gain a holistic view of video ad performance.
If you’ve got a bad case of measurement malaise, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at four critical metrics you can use across all types of digital video—video completion rate (VCR), engagement, cost per completed view (CPCV), and viewability—and break down how each one should play into your performance evaluation process.
VCR is the legacy metric for measuring digital video. It's a number that answers the question, “What percentage of my video plays were viewed all the way through?” If your VCR is high, you know that a good number of viewers have consumed your brand story in its entirety. Plus, it’s a good indication that your ad is engaging enough to capture and maintain people's attention.
However, it’s important to note that evaluating success via this metric will look different depending on the inventory source. On CTV, for example, advertisers can expect 90% VCR or above. For 15-second pre-roll ads or ads on a video platform like YouTube, on the other hand, 20-40% is more common. And, the percentage will decrease the longer your ad is.
VCR is a legacy metric for a reason, and a solid choice for evaluating ad performance. However, it’s often not the best metric to use when evaluating social video ads, as social platforms simply don’t optimize towards users completing videos. Think about it: The whole idea of a social video feed is that it’s quick and scrollable, encouraging users to consume as many videos as possible (it’s the dang algorithms that are to blame for those late-night hours lost to TikTok and Instagram Reels, not us!). In this environment, alternative metrics such as engagement may prove to be a better fit.
Engagement quantifies the number of interactions or quality of interactions users have with your digital video ad. On social media, engagement is measured via clicks, likes, comments, or shares.
In a survey of over 500 digital video marketers across the world, engagement was the metric most frequently ranked as “important.” And while it has a place in measuring performance across all types of digital video, it’s particularly impactful in environments like YouTube or social feeds, where there’s more opportunity for interactivity. Due to the scrollable nature of these spaces, advertisers will want to focus less on whether consumers were able to view their entire brand story, and more on whether their content earned viewer’s clicks.
Advertisers will always want to understand the efficiency of their spend, especially during times of economic upheaval. So it makes sense that CPCV, which calculates the cost you’re paying for each completed view of a video, is a metric that advertising leaders want to check in on when evaluating campaign performance.
However, CPCV numbers don’t vary much from video to video, especially within a programmatic initiative. It’s true that ads run in places like Hulu will be more expensive because you’re paying for that premium environment, but even in the context of premium video spaces, your CPCV won’t fluctuate too much. It’s hard to pull relevant insights from numbers that are the same across the board, which is why CPCV works best as a complementary metric: It’s a good number to keep an eye on, but you’ll want to bolster it with other numbers like VCR or engagement to get a more nuanced picture of how your ads are performing.
Like CPCV, viewability is a solid metric to include in your reporting because it provides reassurance about the effectiveness of your spend. Specifically, it reassures advertisers that they are paying for impressions where at least half of an ad’s pixels are viewable: The IAB defines a viewable impression as one where at least 50% of the ad’s pixels are visible in a browser window for one continuous second or longer. In this way, it’s an important part of a holistic digital video measurement approach.
But like Nina Simone and Wilco, Viewability can be a bit misunderstood. See, your viewability percentage represents the number of viewable impressions out of the total number of measurable impressions. If you’re thinking, “But aren’t all impressions measurable?”, well, we’re glad you asked! There are, in fact, some cases where an impression pixel isn’t deemed measurable—for example, if a pixel isn’t firing properly, then the ads associated with that pixel won’t end up being measured.
What does this all mean for you? Essentially, it just means that your viewability percentage is actually the percentage of viewable impressions within the percentage of measurable impressions, as opposed to overall. This by no means compromises the value of the viewability metric—it's just something to be aware of when pulling insights from your reporting.
Now that we’ve covered the value of four key digital video measurement metrics, it’s important to remember that the key to effective digital video measurement lies not just in the knowledge of when to prioritize certain metrics, but in the ability to pull data and assess performance holistically, across multiple digital video types and platforms.
For this, marketers often seek out tools like an automated, holistic reporting dashboard, which not only makes it possible to assess the effectiveness of your ads using the same metrics across multiple platforms and video types, but it saves them from the tedious, error-prone time suck that is manual reporting—not to mention the inherent discrepancies that tend to pop up whenever you’re relying upon multiple analytics sources (which are regularly as high as 20% when pulling from third-parties). Platforms with built-in holistic reporting capabilities can consolidate data across many channels and platforms, giving marketers a bird’s eye view of digital video advertising performance across common metrics such as VCR, engagement, CPCV, and viewability.
There you have it: Once you understand the uses of VCR, engagement, CPCV, and viewability across types of digital video, it’s a whole lot easier to assess which metrics to prioritize in specific cases. And with holistic analytics dashboards, marketers can improve the quality of their data and have more time to strategize around how to best leverage this powerful channel.
Of all the digital advertising channels, video just might be the most complex—and measurement isn’t the only aspect to master! Check out our guide to learn everything advertisers need to know about making the most of this rapidly changing, highly engaging medium.