RIP The Video Completion Rate Metric
Yes, I said it. It's finally time to publicly state that the video completion rate (or VCR) metric is no longer useful. Sure, for many years since the metric was first introduced, agencies and marketers alike have relied on the VCR standard as a way to assure brands and clients that they have, in fact, proved that a set of eyeballs were engaged and we had their attention for the duration of a video. It seemed logical. The metric would weed out accidental clicks to video links and players. It would also weed out casual viewers who only watched the first 10 or 15 seconds of a video and moved on. But that was about as much assurance that the platforms had delivered our messages to a large number of eyeballs, as we were going to receive.
Fast forward to today. The cracks in that model are all too apparent. Let's start with the very recent example of Facebook being forced to pay a settlement of $40 million, because of allegedly miscalculating video metrics. Of course, as these things typically go, Facebook admitted no wrongdoing, agreed to pay the relatively paltry settlement, and maintains the suit is "without merit." But the complaint alleged that "average viewership metrics were not inflated by only 60%-80%; they were inflated by some 150 to 900%." Houston, I think we might have an industry problem.
Believe it or not, that's not even the worst of it.
Put in the simplest of terms, video completion rate does not equal results and success. Not even close. Let me offer an example in order to paint a common scenario that I hear about, over and over. One network marketing executive expressed to me that their external agency only provides efficiency-based metrics in their reports, such as VCR and CPI (cost per install), which the cable network simply doesn't really care about anymore. Why? Quite simple - digital is already inherently efficient. Instead, cable and TV providers want to see how their campaigns are actually driving viewership.
Unfortunately, agencies are still drinking the proverbial industry Kool-Aid, because the majority of them still push that metric on their clients. I'm not certain whether they actually believe in it or it's just that they implicitly understand that they have no access or insight into real ratings data that they can work with and optimize toward. So, inevitably what happens is, they spin VCR as a valuable measurement tool, and have been for many years now. However, VCR is not a measure of ratings and views, in the same way networks think about them. Another network executive recently told me point-blank, "the metrics our agency reports back to us are BS and have nothing to do with tune-in." Chilling.
I heard from another TV marketing executive who said one of the biggest complaints from TV brands about their agencies is they focus on top and middle funnel metrics such as VCR because it is simply all that they can control. Sure, CPI qualifies as more of a bottom of funnel metric, but in order for networks & content providers to optimize, they need to be shown solid metrics for real engagement & audience attention - not simply efficiency metrics like VCR and CPI.
In recent years, much ink has been spilled about TV being 'lean back' and digital being 'lean forward.' With huge swaths of video consumption continually moving toward digital and everything becoming more 'lean forward,' one might think that this makes VCR more relevant. Actually, quite the opposite. While true that everything is becoming more 'lean forward,' all that VCR really tells you is, the consumer watched the video to the end (or they let it run and walked away to do something else). It does not measure how many people clicked a link on the video or trailer, taking them to a particular MVPD's show, nor does it in any way bridge the chasm between the two.
One truth about consumers in the digital age - they will always gravitate toward the path of least resistance. No one is going to leave a video and separately navigate on their own to an MVPD to watch the show you just enticed them to watch. Agencies working with networks, MVPDs, movie studios, streaming services and content providers simply must begin to find a way to track marketing campaign's success in moving consumers along the pathways toward increased viewership.
This guest article was written by Kevin Hill, Founder/CEO of VuPulse, a post-click marketing platform. He has 20 years of experience as a marketing and entertainment industry executive, including companies such as Polaroid Fotobar and Comcast NBCUniversal.