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What is Completion Rate and How To Measure It?

What is Completion Rate?

Video ad metrics give you valuable data that’s crucial for evaluating and refining your advertising strategies. One important metric is completion rate.

As the name implies, the completion rate lets you know what percentage of your video your target audiences watch. From that number, you can also gauge how many of your intended viewers watched significant portions of your video ad or viewed it in full.

What Affects Completion Rate?

Consumer research from 2016 identified two factors that can deliver higher ad completion rates:

  • Type of content to which an ad is attached
  • Type of device on which an ad is viewed

Type of Content

Ads attached to long-form video content outperformed those attached to shorter materials. While short- and mid-form video registered completion rates of 71% and 80% respectively, the long-form video delivered a significant improvement with a 95% completion rate for accompanying ads. Live video also delivered a comparable rate of 94% for video ads.

This suggests that viewers are far likelier to watch ads if these are served alongside higher-quality content, “unmissable” streams (e.g., of live sports events), or content that encourages audience participation (as many online live streams tend to do). New platforms like Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope, Instagram’s live streaming, and so on, also become more viable options for advertisers, expanding the selection of possible channels for ad distribution.

Type of Device

Over-the-top (OTT) devices offer the best completion rates for video ads compared to other viewing platforms in 2016. Video ads registered completion rates of 93-95% when served on over-the-top devices. That’s a big difference versus mobile ads, which saw completion rates of only 64% to 78%. Larger screens sat squarely in the middle at 85% for tablets and 84% for desktops, putting them at a significant 10% behind OTT devices.

This indicates that the growing OTT device market presents rich opportunities for new advertising initiatives, with high potential returns for advertisers and publishers alike. At the same time, however, advertisers seeking to reach a primarily mobile audience will want to refine their strategies to mitigate the lower receptiveness signaled by the completion rates on mobile devices.

Does Completion Rate Matter?

Market research shows that brand recall is significantly higher in audiences that watch a video ad in its entirety. If viewers keep your ad on for its duration, that indicates good resonance with them. A high enough percentage of such viewers — or of viewers that get through more of your ad’s running length — lets you know that you’re connecting well with your target audiences.

The completion rate isn’t the only factor that matters, but it is one of the basic indicators of a successful advertising campaign.

Going Beyond Completion Rate

Completion rate doesn’t quite measure important aspects of viewers’ responses, however, like engagement and interest in your ad content. Recent studies from Facebook imply that viewers of ads can see them through without necessarily being receptive to the messages that advertisers are trying to get across. In fact, a study released by ORC International last 2016 shows that 90% of viewers are likely to skip an ad if given the option, suggesting that viewers may finish ads only out of obligation or lack of an out.

Simply put, then, the completion rate can be deceptive. While crafting video ads for high completion rates can be one way of ensuring that audiences like them as much as intended, it’s worth reiterating that completion rate is not the only metric you should keep an eye on.