Standard Pre-roll Isn’t Cutting It For Norwegian Publisher VGTV

VGTVZentrickYouTube’s TrueView has trained viewers to count backward from five – and then click “skip.”

It’s a now-ingrained behavior that traditional and even nontraditional publishers like Norway’s VGTV are trying to grapple with. That's because pre-roll engagement rates are the pits – and they often have an unfortunate effect on the engagement rate for whatever content is on the other end.

“We see an average of 25% to 30% falloff as a result of pre-roll,” said Erik Saastad, product manager of VGTV, a division of Schibsted, one of the largest media conglomerates in Europe. “It’s one of our biggest challenges at the moment.”

As the video content arm of a legacy print and online media company, VGTV is an interesting creature, billing itself as a “web-native digital TV network.” Aimed at a younger, millennial audience, VGTV is home to and source for videos from the online edition of VG, one of Norway’s largest news sites, as well as additional video content in the form of entertainment, movies, clips, original TV series and commissioned documentaries.

In a country with a population of just over 5 million, VG gets approximately 700,000 daily video views. Heartened by this success, VGTV launched a linear TV channel last year, although that venture has been far less successful than anticipated.

“We’re used to being No. 1, but on this linear channel we’re almost … last,” Saastad said, noting that he’s not sure how much longer they’ll keep it going.

But digital is VGTV’s sweet spot, and the native network is starting to get experimental. Interactive video is at the top of the list. The average user will watch 84.3% of an interactive pre-roll ad, versus 79.4% for standard pre-roll, according to March data from Innovid.

For the last year or so, VGTV has been working with Belgian interactive video platform Zentrick to spice up its commercial pre-roll with buy-now, social and call-to-action buttons.

Zentrick measures every action taken inside the video, which allows advertisers to track harder ROI metrics, rather than just awareness, said company CEO and co-founder Pieter Mees.

“The key component is understanding your audience [and] offering relevant actions that align with their needs,” Mees said.

Over the course of its yearlong test of the tool, VGTV found viewers spending an average of 18% more time with interactive pre-roll, generating a more than 71% click-through rate, on average.

On Monday, the two announced a continued partnership to add interactivity to VGTV’s editorial content – but it’s a fine line to tread between advertorial and editorial. In Norway, all paid-for content is required to be clearly labeled as an ad. VGTV recently got a little blowback from the mainstream press in Norway when it began including “buy now” links in fashion-related video editorial content.

But Saastad said he feels like the tide is starting to turn.

“People are seeing that it’s hard to pay for content and that we’re going to have to cross the borders a little more,” Saastad said. “We’re trying to push the limits.”

VGTV also developed its own internal video platform which handles ingestion, distribution and measurement. In addition to taking advantage itself, Schibsted licenses the technology to around 30 other publishers across Norway, as well as a large Swedish paper.

“That is why I’m always looking for more tools to put in my tool chest,” said Saastad, noting that VGTV recently rolled out the ability to play Snapchat-inspired vertical video through its platform.

Interactive video through Zentrick is another one of those tools.

In fact, VG was able to use the offer of interactive video as the sweetener to close a yearlong deal with auto brand Peugeot that also included print and interactive display as part of the overall media package.

“We’re still experimenting with editorial,” Saastad said. “But from the commercial side, we’re seeing a lot of opportunity here.”

PeugeotNorge
[Click the image to watch the video.]

 

 

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