Where online video advertising is concerned, interactivity has been an objective of buyers and planners for quite some time. Some have achieved it by creating original applications that engage the user. Others have focused on the video content itself, leveraging existing material and tacking on an interactive layer.
Both approaches have been facilitated by such rich media companies as United Virtualities (UV), Avant Interactive, and Klipmart, all of which introduced "clickable video" solutions in recent years. As you may expect, these formats allow Internet users to click on various aspects of a video to pull up additional information and link to external sites. The result is brand-building video content that fulfills one highly coveted marketing goal: engaging consumers to incite an immediate response.
When clickable video began to garner media attention last year, many of us were excited about its possibilities. As time went on, media interest waned, and active examples of its use were rarely seen. Given the ongoing interest in rich media, this technology should by now be as prevalent as online video itself. So where is it, and who, if anyone, uses it?
I spoke with representatives from UV, Avant, and Klipmart to get an update on clickable video. All came to the same conclusion: clickable video is the future of online video. It's just taking time to catch on.
"The whole idea of the Internet is that it is a dialogue, not a monologue," says Mookie Tenembaum, founder of UV, which launched its clickable video solution, Shoshmosis, early last year. "A video that is not clickable is a monologue."
According to Tenembaum, clickable video is already prevalent, but not in North America. Since last year, his company has tightened its focus on international markets, where, he says, "anything with innovation has a higher value" to advertisers. Shoshmosis is currently most popular in China, where companies such as IBM and Audi employ it to engage consumers with their products. It's also used in Europe and Mexico.
UV continues to offer the product in North America, but Tenembaum hasn't seen the same level of interest from U.S. advertisers yet. "The U.S. is pretty conservative in its decisions," he says, citing the adoption of floating ads. They were invented around 1999 but didn't become mainstream until three years later.
Still, Tenembaum is hopeful advertisers on our side of the pond will become increasingly experimental. When asked who could benefit most from the clickable video format, he points to auto manufacturers and advertisers interested in product-placement-type promotions. Shoshmosis allows the former to highlight product features and the latter to highlight the products themselves within a real-world context.
Since gaining acclaim with its Honda campaign last year, Avant continues to receive requests about its interactive video application v-click, launched in 2003. Among those parties interested are television programs and networks, which have endless amounts of video footage to utilize online and leverage to create interactive games.
"Using the technology in a gaming scenario will keep the user on the site longer and enable the publisher to serve more advertising, driving revenue," says Dan Bates, Avant's president. He notes a recent campaign created for NBC's daytime show "Passions," in which Internet users must locate clickable symbols to reveal bonus material and hints to the plot line's mysteries.
Like Tenembaum, Bates believes clickable video use will expand as advertisers look for new ways to engage viewers on the Web. "The Internet... has led us down the path of interactivity, and now the video that we watch can also be as interactive as the Web pages we read," he says. "Full-motion video coupled with Internet-like user control will be the future of online advertising and content enjoyment."
Klipmart, which launched The Sweet-Spot clickable video format last year, has also seen interest concentrated among entertainment advertisers and videogame clients. "But ultimately I see it being a large part of the online video advertising scene," says Chris Wilson, the company's director of marketing.
Wilson offers another theory for why clickable video isn't widely utilized. "The main reason it hasn't taken off so far is that video content isn't necessarily always conducive to integrating clickable links," he says. "This either means advertisers would need to create unique video just for this purpose (which Klipmart recommends), or they'd have to already have video assets that would work for this feature."
As our industry increasingly allocates more ad dollars to online creative, Wilson believes the use of technology like Sweet-Spot will be bolstered. "There are lots of great applications in terms of shopping, [such as] clicking on outfits in videos," he says. "We're progressing towards the point where there will be more Web-specific video content."
As media buyers who answer to our clients, we're often hesitant to propose advertising solutions that aren't yet widely established. But this approach can result in a missed opportunity to wow our advertisers and differentiate them from their competition. Why wait until clickable video goes mainstream? Its popularity is already long overdue.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
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