Columbia Sportswear Takes A Data-Driven Shot At 360-Degree Video

TerrainLike many companies, outdoor lifestyle brand Columbia Sportswear was no stranger to using 15- and 30-second YouTube videos as a complement to TV.

Because consumers weren’t necessarily going to YouTube for “conversion-based” content like product reviews, Columbia experimented with 360-degree video to make its content more immersive.

Columbia sent its production crew out with US Olympic skiers Hannah Kearny and Keaton McCargo to chart their journey on the Chilean slopes.

“We’re trying to use YouTube as a really consistent delivery platform for engaging content that drives value, not noise,” said Daniel Green, manager of digital and social marketing for Columbia Sportswear. “I don’t want to be in a position where the technology dictates the story. I think the narrative needs to dictate the technology.”

Columbia wanted to gauge whether newer formats such as YouTube 360 video drove more engagement with consumers, so it ran a test comparing two in-stream versions of a 60-second spot – one standard TrueView video ad and one 360-degree spherical format.

Both included the same call-to-action to view more in the lower left corner of the video player so Columbia could track user engagement with the ad.

Some of the results were surprising: Columbia found view-through and retention rates for the 360-degree video ad were lower on both desktop and mobile, which indicated consumers didn’t always want to interact with this format. 

The 360-degree video ads, however, had a higher click-through rate, suggesting that once consumers saw the initial video, they continued to the extended cut.

Columbia also found that the spherical video ads invited more interaction, with consumers taking advantage of the video’s 360-degree properties by tilting the screen for a full view of the slopes.

They also shared in an unexpected way.

“Looking at the data, we found a lot of folks who encountered the 360-degree video ad shared it, but didn’t watch it all the way through,” Green said. “We saw third-party messaging apps (like WhatsApp and iOS messenger) drive more views of the long-form content than the actual targeted ads themselves.”

As a result, the full-length 360-degree videos earned a 46% higher view count than the standard full-length video because users were copying and pasting URLs to share with friends on third-party platforms.

Overall, earned actions, such as “subscribes” and views on other videos, were 41% higher than the standard video ads.

Although the novelty of the channel is certainly a contributing factor to this engagement, Columbia recognizes that not every video ad will be suitable for the 360-degree treatment.

Green sees 360-degree video as a precursor to VR marketing tests, meaning the tech is finally moving from the CES environ to actual ad budgets. But there’s one caveat.

“If we’re not thoughtful about the distribution and delivery of this immersive content and who the recipient is, they may not be prepared for it or even want to see it,” Green said. “Overall, we’re happy with the results here. We saw more follow-on action, engagement and activity from the 360 segment than we did from the flat.”

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