Google Experiments With What Kind Of Video Works Best On Mobile

The project used three different cuts of a funky Mtn Dew Kickstart spot to find out which had the most impact.

With the advent of multi-platform video viewing has come the question: does the traditional TV spot narrative translate to mobile? That is, should brands be using a different kind of video format for different platforms? And how would you measure such a thing?


Google has taken a stab at answering those questions with the latest project from its Art, Copy & Code initiative called Unskippable Labs. The project saw Google team with BBDO New York to use Google’s ad and video data to better understand what content works best with mobile audiences. Turns out, simply using shorter versions of existing ads isn’t necessarily the best or only option. In fact, for many, longer, less traditionally structured ads may be the way to go.

Using YouTube TrueView–which allows people to skip ads—Google tested three different cuts of Mountain Dew Kickstart’s popular “Come Alive” spot to understand what type of ad people found most worth watching. They also utilized Google’s Brand Lift to get ad recall and brand awareness metrics, to see which cut of the spot had more impact with mobile audiences.

The original 30-second ad was used as the experiment’s control in our experiment. In it three guys sitting around a basement until they open a Mountain Dew Kickstart, then the music kicks in and they start dancing, and suddenly everything around them—from the fish tank ornament diver to the dog—starts dancing too. Version two, dubbed “Big Punch,” starts with a product shot and a countdown, signaling that something is about to happen, then viewers are dropped into the middle of the dancing action and the story unfolds from there. And the third cut, “Pure Fun,” starts in the middle of the dancing action, with no music, nor any idea of what’s happening, then the music kicks in and we see the dancing dog and furniture.

View-through rates for all three ads were about the same on desktop, but on mobile “Pure Fun,” with no traditional storyline or structure and the longest running time at more than 90 seconds, was viewed at a 26% higher rate than the other cuts on mobile.

In a piece on Think with Google the company said, “Our speculation is that people were intrigued by the mystery of what they saw. They were more interested in seeing where the story went than in skipping ahead. Even though we started with a successful ad, we got an even stronger response by putting a different sort of story out there.”

Ad Recall for “Pure Fun” was significantly lower—more than 54% less than the other two cuts on mobile–but the brand awareness lift for all three versions was about even. Unskippable Labs found that people who saw “Pure Fun” didn’t remember seeing a Mountain Dew Kickstart ad but they did remember the brand just as well as the other versions. It also showed that there is more to adapting for digital than making sure your brand is seen before people can skip it–”The Big Punch” did no better than “The Original” or “Pure Fun” at lifting the brand. Leading the researchers to say that putting the brand first is not the easy answer.


Art, Copy & Code creative director Ben Jones says the biggest surprise to him was the difference in response to the cuts on mobile versus desktop, both in terms of view-through and brand lift. “The fact that the brand lift for [‘Pure Fun’] was significantly higher on mobile than desktop showed me that there are new opportunities for brands in mobile–that what people want may be richer, longer and more interesting than we expected. As a creative, that’s great news.”

In terms of storytelling format, Jones says that perhaps the most important lesson is that there is plenty of opportunity in mobile for more varied stories. “Everything doesn’t need to be cut down from a :60 second TV spot, maybe the TV spot acts as an invitation to something deeper instead,” says Jones. “You can run the same spot in mobile, but maybe there’s a chance to make something better, break some new ground that we don’t quite understand yet. As the world becomes more mobile, I think that’s a space where brands will want to continue to explore.”

John Osborn, president and CEO of Mountain Dew agency BBDO New York says his biggest lesson is that this research is just the beginning. “Take nothing for granted,” says Osborn. “We’re learning a lot, but there’s a lot more we can learn in terms of what really resonates and what really engages most effectively through mobile, which is really the macro trend here.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.