CNN.com Tests Longer Video Ads in Live Streams

  |  January 23, 2009   |  Comments

Starbucks and Cisco purchased in-stream ads of up to a minute in CNN's live coverage of Tuesday's inauguration.

CNN.com inserted video ads of up to a minute in length in its live stream of Tuesday's inaugural festivities.

"This is the first time we experimented with placing in-stream commercials into the live feed," said Joe Dugan, CNN.com's SVP of digital advertising sales. "Previously we did pre-rolls limited to 15 seconds and intro billboards."

Ads for Starbucks and Cisco played during the day with a :60 spot by Starbucks debuting after President Obama completed his inaugural address. Called "Are You In?", the animated spot from BBDO offered free coffee to anyone who performed five hours of community service.

"The campaign lended itself perfectly to coverage that ran through the news sites. The tone and excitement around the inauguration was the bridge," said Lisa Passe, a Starbucks spokesperson. "The call to service content was exactly what we wanted to be aligned with. It was so relevant and timely."

The Starbucks ad ran four more times later in the day, while the Cisco :30s ran 15 times throughout the day, beginning at 8:30 am, Dugan said. "We set a certain number of ads per hour. The Starbucks :60 after the speech was sold specific [to that slot] and we had a series of :30s throughout the day where breaks were natural in the coverage."

He said Cisco ran pre-existing TV ads, while the Starbucks ad was new.

Inauguration Day was the best opportunity for a news site to launch a new advertising endeavor because of the robust traffic. CNN.com set a daily streaming record, generating more than 182 million page views and serving more than 36.7 million total video streams, according to Ominture SiteCatalyst. It served more than 1.3 million live streams during its peak, immediately prior to President Obama's address.

"We looked at the inauguration as a big event that has good scale, so it was a good opportunity to experiment with the new execution and expose as many people as possible," Dugan said.

Experiment is the best word to describe the execution, since CNN.com is unsure whether it will continue to use it. "We're looking at the balance of the user's experience with ad opportunities," Dugan said. "It hasn't been said that this is what we're going to do; we're still evaluating it."

When asked about CPMs charged on Tuesday, Dugan wouldn't provide numbers but said, "It's something we look to get a premium on. It was a unique execution."

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