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The Promise of Personalized Video Ads

  |  May 18, 2009   |  Comments

Technologies are emerging that stand to improve online video advertising's effectiveness as a direct-response channel.

The media universe was already on a path to fragmentation before the Web came along. Cable niched television. Magazines grew to cover a tremendous array of interests. The Web has accelerated and intensified this trend, providing an even lower cost way to create and share content globally. The barriers to creation of great content -- including video -- have mostly been torn down.

Then there's distribution. What was amazing about TV as a marketing channel was the massive reach, power of shared experiences, and the raw emotive potential of sight, sound, and motion. The medium was the primary, if not the only, way to get video content viewed by a significant audience. Everyone tuned in and watched the program -- a linear experience that looked pretty much the same whether you were in a Manhattan high-rise or on a Colorado ranch.

Today, of course, video has become a much more personal, interactive experience. On-demand viewing is on the rise (whether DVR, VOD, mobile, or Web-based), and we're finding ways to add interactive content on top of and around the video itself. More recently, we're seeing an explosion of social content and functionality around video that shows no sign of slowing down.

So what do you get when you take video and add on-demand consumption, fragmented and multidevice distribution, interactivity, and social functionality? The answer is still to be determined, but I know this: it's a very different kind of medium -- and out of necessity, a very different way to market brands and products in and around that medium. Those of you who read my columns regularly will recognize this next bit as a recurring theme. I think what it means to marketers is that we need to stop buying attention and start earning attention.

One way to do that is to get so relevant that the message isn't really perceived as advertising. Howard Gossage famously quipped, "People don't read advertising. They read what interests them. Sometimes, it's an ad."

Targeting technologies are getting smarter and are beginning to enable that level of what might be considered personalization. We've been using dynamic banner ads for years; I recall a series of expandable ads we built for Expedia awhile back powered by XML feeds that pulled in the latest deals in different categories. The next evolution of that would have been to begin targeting destinations based on contextual relevance or behavioral history.

Even more interesting is that technologies like this -- that have powered the dynamic Web for what feels like ever -- are making their way to video. I've written about Visible World, and it continues to be a leader in the space. And other companies, like Real Time Content and Qmecom, are also delivering this capability for online video.

The idea is the you can take a piece of video content, like a :30 spot or, better yet, multiple :30 spots, and break it down into smaller clips, apply targeting criteria and business rules, then reassemble them at time of delivery for a narrowly targeted spot.

To really understand the potential of this, let's look at some examples of how the automotive industry might leverage this capability:

  • The easiest adjustment is a dynamic end slate that would pull in the address of the closest dealer, bringing simple geographic relevance.

  • Narrowly target car models featured in the video spot based on contextual relevance. For example, if someone is browsing the buying guide for sedans on Edmunds.com, Toyota's video ad could feature the company's line up of sedans and ignore SUVs and trucks. More specifically, if the user was reading a Camry review, the video ad would be all about the Camry.

  • Broader contextual relevance might also be an interesting play here. For example, car models featured in video spots could be changed based on the type of content being browsed: minivans for parenting sites, sports cars on male-targeted sites.

  • Video's effectiveness as a response channel is often undervalued. With dynamic video, a marketer could test different financing/lease offers at Zip Code or DMA (define) level. The call to action might be to visit a local dealer, which the company has personalized the ad with its information. Success might be measured via foot traffic/lead generation, then offers would be optimized by Zip Code.

  • The direct response concept could be taken a step further by linking to online lead gen or, on TV, to a mobile response mechanism. Online can track down details of creative unit delivered. Mobile can do the same with unique keywords by creative. The program may again be measured via foot traffic/lead gen and optimized accordingly.

  • The marketer might also use anonymous cookie targeting to identify current owners of the brand family. Instead of a promoting a new car, the video ad might feature accessories or services.

  • The ultimate power of this technology is realized when integrated into e-mail and customer-relationship management programs to deliver highly personalized video, providing an overview of a particular model that the consumer expressed interest in, for example. You could even address particular features based on what the consumer has disclosed (interested in green car with high gas mileage but still wants a refined luxury experience and integrated technology like Bluetooth phone support). A detailed and personalized model overview could be produced to address each feature. I just test drove a new car yesterday and would have loved to get a follow up e-mail with that level of personal detail.

For automotive marketers in particular, this kind of technology makes a ton of sense. Some manufacturers are, in fact, already using these technologies and strategies. In some cases, video assets that could be used to assemble these kinds of ads likely already exist, so there is potential that no additional video production needs to be done. It's just a matter of crafting a segmentation strategy and implementing the targeting.

As these technologies continue to advance and marketers wrap their heads around the possibilities through smart experimentation, we'll begin to see "advertising" become less of a bad word in consumers' minds.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeremy Lockhorn

Jeremy Lockhorn leads the emerging media practice (EMP) at Razorfish. The team functions as a think-tank on new technologies and next-generation media, and operates as an extension of current client teams. EMP is focused on driving groundbreaking marketing solutions for clients. Jeremy is a filter, consultant, and catalyst for innovation - helping clients and internal teams to understand, evaluate, and roll out strategic pilot programs while reinventing marketing strategies to leverage the power of emerging media. Jeremy joined the agency in 1997 and is currently based in Seattle, WA. His Twitter handle is @newmediageek.

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