Video views

What is a digital advertising video view? And why can no one agree on the standard length of one?

Video views calculator

What is a video view?

Seems like a stupid question but you would be surprised at how the definition of a video view differs from vendor to vendor.

For example, Vendor A may consider a view to be the same as an impression, i.e. as soon as a video ad starts playing they count that as a view. Vendor B may consider a view to be 3” or more (which is the case for many social media platforms), while Vendor C only thinks a video should count as 30” or more as that is how they are charging their client.

To define a video view you must first define the minimum length of a video ad you want the user to watch for you to consider the campaign to be a success. Once you standardize your video view length (for example, it could be you want users to watch 30” of a 45” ad), you are then able to accurately compare and analyze different vendors, lines items or assets, to judge which is the most effective.

If you do not define the minimum length at the beginning, you will not be able to fairly judge the performance if you start comparing vendors who all use completely different definitions of a video view. Remember, each vendor is likely to use a unique methodology when defining video views so make sure you are aware of each before you start analyzing the performance and shifting budgets around. You may find you are misinterpreting the results and not spending your budget as effectively as you could be.

Video view formula

To calculate video views, you need the following metrics:

  1. Impressions delivered
  2. VTR (view-through rate)


Ensure you understand what second-length the VTR refers to. Is it VTR of a full complete? Or it is only a 10” VTR. Once you understand this, the video views that the formula calculates will be in relation to that second length.

Types of video ad formats

Video ads come in many different shapes and sizes, but they can be narrowly defined to either “in-stream” or “out-stream”. Please note when we are talking about video ads, we are primarily referring to ads that are found on websites, on social channels and in apps. VOD (video on demand) can be included in this but they are unique to TV-related services. We would consider these ads in-stream.


In-stream ads are ads that are served within a website’s or app’s existing video player. A classic example of this would be YouTube Trueview’s skippable ads, which are housed within YouTube’s video player. Within in-stream, the primary ad format is “pre-roll”, which is served before the content the user has selected to watch. Ads that play in the middle of content are called “mid-roll” and ads served at the end (far less available) are called “post-roll”. Not all in-stream ads are skippable, so publishers must make the judgment if forcing a user to watch a long ad before content is affecting user experience.


Out-stream ads are ads that are served outside of a website's or app’s video player. An example of this is a video ad that appears between the text of a news article. This has allowed publishers to monetize more parts of their site or app - not just the video content that sits in video players. The positive of this format is that users can simply scroll past or close it if they are not interested, but this means view-through rates (VTR) and video completion rates (VCR) are generally a lot lower than in-stream ads, especially the non-skippable kind.

Vendor definitions of video views

As mentioned earlier, each vendor (in particular social media platforms) will have their own definitions for what they constitute as a video view. Not all are equal, so do not assume that a video view is equal to 30” - it may well be 3” or less if you are taking numbers from Facebook.

Here are some of the most commonly used vendors' definitions of a view:

  • YouTube Trueview (skippable): 30 seconds or to the end of the video (whichever is shorter)
  • Facebook: 3 seconds or more
  • Instagram video: 3 seconds or more
  • Instagram story: upon opening
  • Snapchat story: upon opening
  • Twitter: 3 seconds or more

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