It's hard to remember life before online video. Obviously it wasn't always as omnipresent as it is today, when U.S. Internet users watch somewhere around 38 billion online videos each month and video ad views total more than 11 billion. Videos were once few and far between, and even after YouTube and its ilk came onto the scene it took marketers some time to effectively harness the technology for advertising. Video ads were out there, yes…but did they work?
The funny thing about online video is that even with years of advertising under our belts we're still wondering whether we're "doing it right." It isn't hard to find reports claiming that marketers are missing the mark. Some swear by pre- and post-roll ads, while others have had great success with native video ads - branded video content that plays as pure entertainment.
Now, two new developments stand to influence the way brand marketers use and measure online video ads, and both could be game-changers. The first is Nielsen's announcement that, come September, it will begin to measure online viewing as part of its TV-ratings service. The company will track viewing on sites like Hulu and platforms like iTunes to provide networks and advertisers with a better sense of how well-liked and watched shows really are. Given the growing popularity among consumers of watching TV shows online, this could result in more marketers moving their ad dollars from traditional commercials to online video ads.
Then we have the Digital Video Rising Stars competition, the winners of which the IAB announced last week. Following in the footsteps of its Rising Stars Display Ad Units competition, which produced half a dozen new banner ad units, the video competition is intended to "propel interactive digital video ad buys at the same scale and scope as typical online display buys."
The winning formats came from such video innovators as Microsoft Advertising, Yahoo, Tremor Video, CBS Interactive, and Jivox (the latter two companies worked together to create an in-stream video ad with multiple story scenarios for viewers to choose from). "The IAB Digital Video Rising Stars are designed to provide a richer canvas for creating interactive brand experiences at scale," says Diaz Nesamoney, CEO of Jivox. "By simplifying and standardizing the technological aspect of ad creation, brands can focus on the creative and deepening the connection between consumers, no matter what screen they are engaging on."
If history is any indication, it could be a while before the new IAB-approved video units are adopted en masse. In the meantime, though, consumers are still actively engaging with video ads. Video audiences are shrewd, expectations high. As we wait for the next generation of video advertising to dig in its heels, here's what you can do to engage your target audience online.
Launch a Video Contest
An online video contest serves several purposes for brands: it encourages interaction, generates repeat site visits, and boosts interest in the brand among new users. Smithsonian Magazine and its related TV channel are the latest brands to engage in a video-themed competition. Known for "telling America's stories," Smithsonian has invited consumers to submit original documentary videos exploring their world.
The short videos (no longer than 10 minutes) will be judged by a panel of Smithsonian editors and film professionals, and consumers will have an opportunity to view the finalists and vote online for the Viewers' Choice winner. The winning videos will be featured in a video series called "Smithsonian in Motion" - which consumers following the competition will be apt to watch.
Surprise and Delight
Most of the video ads on the Advertising Age reoccurring Viral Video Chart are TV spots taken online. Look at the web-only entries, though, and you'll find that they often incorporate a comical premise and an ending that's completely unexpected. These are the pillars of viral video success - the things that, though "going viral" can't be planned, are most likely to result in a hit.
Recently Samsung climbed the charts with an online video ad designed to promote its Ecobubble cold water washing machine. By featuring the aforementioned elements it managed to generate more than 2.6 million online views. The ad used humor and the element of surprise to demonstrate the defining characteristics of the washing machine in a charming way: by showing a bear using energy-efficient cold water to clean its brown coat. It's branded video entertainment at its best.
The video ad industry is about to change, and in a radical way. Where marketing with online video is concerned, this is really only the beginning.
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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.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT