Agencies and Publishers Differ On Viability of Pre-Roll

When it comes to online video advertising, creative agency executives, publishers, analytics experts and technology vendors can all agree on at least one thing: the channel is still in its earliest, nascent stages and there’s a lot of work to be done. Something they obviously can’t agree on is the fate of pre-roll advertising.

At the ClickZ Specifics Online Video Advertising forum in San Francisco this week, executives gathered to discuss topics ranging from tracking metrics to targeting to creative strategies. While showing eye-popping videos of interactive content allowing users to converse with a Gene Simmons avatar or interview for a job with a virtual Ari Gold (from HBO’s “Entourage”), executives from agencies like Deep Focus, Tribal DDB and Organic stressed the importance of working with content creators and advertisers to create an overall experience.

“We’re qualifying pre-roll as the television advertising model, but everything is going to change. We’re working with companies and advertisers to create a theater show,” said Dorian Sweet, executive creative director for Tribal DDB. “It’s important to display ads custom made for online. Things can be so much more vibrant.”

Ian Shafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, was more direct regarding his annoyance with pre-roll. “In all cases, avoid pre-roll,” he said. “But if you’re going to do it, do it short.”

Site operators, all for experimentation, are not prepared to do away with the format anytime soon however. Publishers like About.com, Scripps Network and MTV Network’s Atom Entertainment said they still have advertisers coming to them looking to repurpose TV ads for the online medium.

“As long as we’re seeing demand for pre-roll, we’ll provide it. And the advertisers are still demanding it,” said Jessica Luterman, director of strategy and development for About.com.

“Everybody wants to live in that future world, but it’s not here yet,” agreed Jeff Meyer, senior vice president interactive ad sales for Scripps Networks. “The research that we’ve done says people don’t mind pre-roll.”

Other topics at the event included the escalating costs of creating interactive video experiences and the lack of standards for online video ads. Rajas Moonka, senior business product manager for Google, reminded audience members that “everybody wants a standard to be [implemented], but the rules are changing every day,” he said. “I think there’s way too much focus on format instead of creative.”

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