Why Did a Blank, 4-Minute Video Get 100,000 Views?


blank-video-projectIf you go to creative agency Solve’s YouTube channel, you’ll find a video titled “The Blank Video Project.” If you watch it, you won’t see or hear anything. Exactly as promised in the title, it’s a totally blank, four-minute long video. There’s absolutely nothing to it, so how and why was it able to get more than 100,000 views?

Solve’s idea for the experiment was to see if it could make the single-most uncreative video imaginable go viral. So they made a four-minute long video devoid of visuals, sound, title, and description. They added the title, “The Blank Video Project,” after the project had ended. All the video had was a click-through URL to the Minneapolis-based creative agency’s website.

Solve promoted the video as a pre-roll ad to U.S. viewers using YouTube TrueView In-Stream advertising. In other words, they promoted it as one of those ads that plays before you get to watch the latest funny cat video. Viewers could skip it after five seconds, but if they continued watching for at least 30 seconds, Solve was charged for the ad.

For an investment of only $1,400, Solve generated over 100,000 views. Seen another way, that’s 1.4 cents per view. The ad was served 227,819 times total, which means that 46% — nearly half — of viewers watched for at least 30 seconds.

On average, viewers watched about 61%, or two-minutes and twenty-six-seconds, of the video. About 22% actually made it through all four minutes of nothingness. Almost 1% even actually clicked through to Solve’s website.

However, the video didn’t get a single like, or share, nor did it earn any new channel subscribers.

Granted, some users likely had the video open in a separate tab, and didn’t realize an ad was playing or perhaps they simply thought the video was just loading. Others may have been curious to see if anything was going to happen.

Nevertheless, the experiment did prove a point. Video marketing is an exciting new opportunity. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, the value of one minute of video is about 1.8 million words. That’s the equivalent of 3,600 typical web pages. You would have to spend 150 days writing an average of one web page an hour to get that impact.

However, marketers use view counts as a measure of success. What the experiment showed was that view counts are a little bogus. A blank, four-minute video got 100,000 views. That’s not to say that quality content isn’t important. It just means that social shares, comments, new subscribers, and more are far better ways to measure the effect of a video marketing campaign.

“Creative effectiveness has always been difficult to truly measure,” Solve CEO John Colasanti told Adweek. “Many marketers are looking at views as a quick, easy indicator of content power. On its own, it simply doesn’t work as an absolute and critical metric for measuring and comparing creative effectiveness.”


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