Media Insights

(Video) Content Is King: Emerging Video Formats That Will Captivate Your Audience

Marketers are ditching static images for video, utilizing new emerging formats following the success of TikTok in 2020 and 2021. Read Ovative’s take on four short video formats that have emerged and which ones you should consider testing. 

The number of TikTok users grew 85.3% to 65.9 million in 2020 and is predicted to grow another 11.8% in 2021.1 Due to TikTok’s explosive growth, many other social media platforms are launching similar video formats in their apps. Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, Snapchat Spotlight, and Facebook Watch are just a few to replicate TikTok’s wildly successful use of short-form videos for social entertainment. Just as these competitors replicate TikTok’s video success, TikTok too is rolling out new features like “Snapchat-style” stories.²  

Brand spend on social network video ads continues to increase as video sells. Nearly half (49%) of TikTok users say they purchased something after seeing it “advertised, promoted, or reviewed on the platform,” according to a new poll by Adweek and Morning Consult. Video advertising drove the most purchases (16.3%), followed by brand posts (13.4%) and sponsored posts (9%).3  

In this article, we will give you Ovative’s take on the top four short video formats that have emerged to challenge TikTok in this space, and when you should consider testing them for your brand. If you want to go back and learn more about testing on TikTok, read our recent post “Should You Be Testing TikTok?”.  


Emerging Short Video Formats 

Long-standing social platforms are quickly replicating TikTok’s engaging video approach, increasing opportunities for advertising placements, but not all are a good match for every brand. Let’s take a look at four emerging formats and when brands might consider testing for each. 

Take Advantage Now: 

Facebook Watch  

FB Watch is comprised of shows, which are made up of episodes – live or recorded – that follow a consistent theme or storyline. In addition to comedy, drama, and news programming, it allows creators to upload their own short- and long-form videos. Facebook in-stream video allows you to deliver video ads to people watching videos on Facebook from familiar publishers and digital-first creators. Your ads can also appear in Facebook Live streams from a select group of approved gaming, entertainment, and sports partners. These ads only appear on mobile devices and only after 60 seconds of the main video content.⁵ To see the benefits of advertising on Facebook Watch, look at Facebooks original series (Stephen vs the Game). The video ad was designed to drive awareness and views, which resulted in a 75% lift in watch hours of the show. The ads drove a 1.8% lift in show awareness among the targeted audience, at 27% lower cost per play and 49% lower CPC.  

Advertising options: 

  • In-Stream Video Ads 
    • In-Stream Auction 
      • Scaled in-stream video solution, offering the flexibility to buy in-stream ad placements through self-serve campaign tools. 
    • In-Stream Reserve 
      • Reservable in-stream ad placements within the top tier of our publisher video through upfront and scatter deals. 
  • Other placements for video ads on Facebook include the Feed, Instant Articles, Marketplace, Stories, Search Results, Video Feeds, as well as throughout Instagram and the Audience Network. 

Tips for success: 

  • Include lots of movement and sound to grab the attention of the audience, enabling you to show unique features of the product and convey your brand story.  
  • Ensure the first 3 seconds compelling to prevent scrolling away from the ad. 

When to test: We recommend testing Facebook Watch if you are able to produce a series of professional-quality video ads and are looking to tap into a specific community of fans.  


Instagram Reels 

Instagram Reels enable mobile users to view engaging content from their favorite creators and interests. With Reels, Instagram users can record 15 to 60-second video clips with music and share them to their Stories, Explore Feed, and the Reels tab on their profiles. Users can reach people they do not follow, while creators can be discovered by anyone. Reels ads are served as interstitial videos in between trending Reels content.6 

Advertising options: 

  • Reels Ad Standalone Campaign 
    • Create native made for Reels creative to capture audience’s attention 
  • Reels with Stories 
    • Extend your existing Stories campaign to Reels  
  • Both options are a full screen, 9×16 looping and skippable video ad. Sound on encouraged, but not required. Available engagement actions include likes, comments and shares. Auction bidding only. 

Tips for success: 

  • Utilize a vertical video (9×16) that is 30-seconds max 
  • Consider a call to action, such as “Shop Now” button, if appropriate  
  • Add overlaid text or open captions, as 92% of users watch video with the sound off1
  • Reach larger audiences by leveraging the right hashtags, bold movement, music, and an organic look  
  • Test and run the ad in its own campaign and optimized with Instagram Stories to gain efficiencies  

When to test: We recommend testing video ads with culture-forward content when your goal is reach and brand awareness. 


Emerging Video Formats We Are Watching:

YouTube Shorts 

YouTube Shorts are most similar to Instagram Reels or TikToks. YouTube Shorts is a way for anyone to connect with a new audience using just a smartphone and the Shorts camera in the YouTube app. YouTube’s Shorts creation tools makes it easy to create short-form videos that are up to 60 seconds long. YouTube also announced a $100M “Shorts Fund” to reward creators and we expect will only increase the content quality and presence of this new format.7 

Why we are watching: YouTube Shorts are still in beta so stay tuned for advertising options in the future. 


Snapchat Spotlight 

The Spotlight feature on Snapchat is a dedicated tab in the Snapchat app for promoting short viral videos from the Snapchat community, replicating TikTok. Anyone can submit a video for Spotlight. Spotlight video don’t have a comments section, and display names are only shown for 18+ users with a public profile.  

Why we are watching: Snapchat Spotlight isn’t yet available for advertisers, so brands should keep an eye on the growth and popularity of Snapchat Spotlight and be prepared to expand their media buy to include Spotlight in the near future.   


Short-Form Video Formats, At a Glance  

  Intro Date  Monthly Platform Users2 
TikTok  09/01/16   732 million (+600 million in China using Douyin)  
Instagram Reel  08/05/20   1.38 billion  
YouTube Shorts  09/20/20   2.29 billion  
Snapchat Spotlight  11/23/20   514 million  
Facebook Watch  8/10/17   2.85 billion  


Client Video Success 

Across our client base we are finding opportunities to test emerging video formats to drive both engagement and business performance, and prove the value of investing in these new formats and content development. Check out a recent win on Ann Taylor using Instagram Reels: 

  • Situation: Ann Taylor wanted to test the new Instagram Reels Ad Product to extend the reach of existing store associate and branded content videos to see if this ad tactic could drive performance and warrant additional media spend. 
  • Approach 
    • Designed a 12-day test with limited budget 
    • Sourced three existing, quality video creatives that utilized video best practices from store associates and brand influencers, helping extend the reach of already produced content 
    • Developed a broad acquisition audience including lookalike audiences and Women 18+ 
  • Results:
    • Decreased CPMs by 89% compared to other acquisition tactics on Facebook 
    • Top performing creative version reached 19x more people using Instagram Reels in the comparable Facebook acquisition campaign that ran during the same time period 
    • The strongest performing creative version was allocated 95% of the budget given its success at resonating with consumers 
    • Lookalike audiences saw the strongest engagement, 350% higher CTR and 5% lower CPM compared to the broader Women 18+ audience 
    • Watch @thegreyedit May Linens Video below8
View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ann Taylor (@anntaylor)

In 2020, U.S. adults spent a total of 54.6 minutes daily on social and 208.1 minutes on video. It is expected that U.S. adults will spend at least twice the amount of time viewing digital video as they do on social networks moving forward. As viewership increases, we expect advertising video options will continue to emerge and evolve. Marketers must be ready to test new video formats and understand what tactics and content works best for their brand to remain relevant and top of mind for their audiences. Want to dive into video, but don’t know where to start? Contact us to help.  

Ovative is a digital-first media and measurement firm seeking to transform the measure of marketing success. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more! 


1| Statista, TikTok US User Growth, April 2021

2| The Verge, TikTok Stories Snapchat Feature, 2021

3| AdWeek, Buying on TikTok, 2021 

4| Ovative Group, Should You Be Testing TikTok, June 2021

5| Facebook Business Help, Facebook In-Stream Video

6| Facebook for Business, Instagram Reelz 

7| Tech Crunch, YouTube 100 Million Shorts Fund, 2021

8| @thegreyedit May Linens Video, Sponsored by Ann Taylor

9| eMarketer, US Adult Digital Time in 2020, 2021

Jalen Wight

Analyst, Paid Media

About the Author

Jalen Wight is an Analyst on the Display and Paid Social team at Ovative.

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