A Meeting of Minds in the Video Space

While video is a large component of online advertising, the interactive arms of many agencies still feel like stepchildren when it comes to budgets and collaboration. At ClickZ’s Online Advertising Video Forum last Friday, discussion on the the channel’s maturity ranged from agency experiences to metrics and video publisher applications.

While many marketers have ventured into video on the Web, the medium is still in an early stage, according to some industry insiders. This is a period of trial and error.

James Kim, VP of strategy at Organic, calls it a time of “fail fast-forward.” “Fail when it’s cheap and easy to do so, and fail when it’s still below the radar.”

Early “failures” for Organic, among other agencies, are discoveries such as creative or other existing assets can’t simply be ported over from other channels to sites such as YouTube. “Posting to video sharing sites wasn’t a good way to go,” said Kim. It’s important to try a few strategies and get results back to the client to make necessary adjustments to a campaign, he stressed.

That’s not to say social sites such as YouTube don’t work in terms of strategy. Kim cited success with a Dodge campaign tied to the auto show where the brand’s site linked out to user-generated content submitted on YouTube, Flickr, blogs and other sites.

Well thought out campaigns often have degrees of interactivity that leave the consumer to decide how deep to go. “You’ve got to anticipate multiple levels of engagement,” Kim said. “About letting the user go deeper and further, let the consumer choose options to look at and appeal to a variety of mindsets.”

In other campaigns, video is just video. While online is a lean-forward medium, some opt for the simple approach. “Pull back a little bit and think about this, be OK with the fact that people will lean back and watch,” said Gary Stein director of strategy at Freestyle Interactive. “You have to be OK with pure, streaming video just happening.”

Prior experience can open the door to new campaigns, as was the case with Ian Schafer CEO and founder of Deep Focus. After working with Google to create a campaign using Google Maps for HBO’s “The Sopranos, the search giant commissioned the agency to create its “Have a Green Summer” campaign, with video tied to the Google Map interface.

The map-based campaign is hardly standard for the agency, which just rolled out a campaign for HBO’s “Entourage” in which the infamous talent agent Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, has a sit-down interview with site visitors, subservient chicken-style.

While some campaigns have large enough budgets to bring in a recognized actor like Piven to film on green screen, and to broker a deal with Akamai to handle streaming, not all clients throw budget at video.

Tribal DDB Executive Creative Director Dorian Sweet discussed a recent campaign for Philips that stretched budget on a $500,000 project. Shaveeverywhere.com, built to promote Philips’ Bodygroom shaver, used an unknown actor and a simple white background to minimize the load-time and jitteriness of streaming video.

The site launched with 350 million visitors in the first four days with no advertising or promotion. According to Sweet, the shaver sold out at Target and became top seller in its category at Amazon.com. While the client may view the campaign as a success, Sweet said, “If we spent double, we could have done so much better. We’re still dealing with the redheaded step child for budgets.”

Sometimes, a single client will assign wide-ranging budgets for different projects. For its Nike account, R/GA has developed Web sites and video-rich campaigns that run the gamut from working with a handful of video and static assets to build a Web site, to filming a glitzy music video with talent.

A recent site built for Nike Basketball was create with just a few assets, including one image to center the campaign and five or six still images, according to Richard Ting, R/GA executive creative director. In contrast, a site built to support Nike’s music video workout snagged a much larger budget for producing a music video complete with a singer and back-up dancers.

Even with clients like Nike committing to large online video projects, the point at which interactive is brought into a project is often too late to allow for a successful campaign. “With interactive, [we] get treated as the stepchild and don’t get invited to the table early on,” said Ting. He did say the practice is starting to change.

Creatives aren’t the only ones involved in advancing the medium. Publishers like ESPN, BET, Scripps Networks, Heavy.com and Atom Entertainment produce video that creates opportunities for pre-roll ad units, branded content, and other sponsorship situations. “In the past year, we’ve seen even more success as online video has heated up in the market,” said ESPN Broadband and Interactive Television VP and GM Tanya Van Court.

Agencies, marketers and publishers needn’t go it alone. Vendors are working to create new ad units that work to compliment a marketer’s brand and engage consumers.

“We see the Internet become a more legitimate part of the marketing mix,” said Andrew Ellenthal, SVP of global sales at PointRoll. “It’s an exciting time … there’s so much more that can be leveraged using online video.

Creatives are still pushing the boundaries with ad units and microsites, but elements of video ad units are becoming part of the establishment. “There’s stuff that was [new and] cool a couple years ago with video, it’s becoming today’s norm,” observed Ellenthal.

For a campaign to be deemed a success, marketers require some form of measurement. While online arguably provides a more measurable form of reporting than other media, there’s still debate over how to track data, and video is no exception. The IAB recently set broadband video advertising guidelines into play. The effectiveness of the guidelines, as with other methods, is still up for discussion. Many agree a standard must be determined.

“We don’t want to be in a situation we’ve been in the past five years where everyone has their own terminology,” said Ari Paparo, rich media product director at DoubleClick.

Video falls into the rich media category, but some feel it should be considered separately. “When it comes down to it, video is video,” said Julian Zilberbrand, associate director of digital operations for MediaVest Worldwide. “From an advertiser perspective, when I think of rich media I think of banner ads on a page. Video, whether you’re downloading to another device or watching in-stream, that’s video. [We have to] agree on what the best term is to use.”

The IAB standards focus specifically on advertising that runs within video. Nielsen//NetRatings recently announced it will provide metrics which can be used to measure impressions within video.

Not every marketer is willing to rely solely on online video to deliver brand messages, but many are putting the medium through its paces. Dan Goodman, senior partner and managing director at OgilvyInteractive, said about 50 percent of the agency’s clients are doing major online video this year, and at least 5 percent of major clients will shoot interactive video alongside filming for TV. “And in some cases, [they’re] bypassing TV in favor of the Internet,” Goodman added.

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