Behavioral Targeting and Video Ads

Primetime is during work hours on the Web. Yet as broadband’s entry price continues to decrease, significantly more users have broadband at home. So it’s unsurprising a recent Nielsen//NetRatings study reports over half of all Internet users have broadband connectivity at home. Broadband users spend more time online, and over half of online sales transactions occur on a broadband connection.

Some 14.2 billion video streams were requested in 2004, 81 percent more than in 2003. As broadband becomes ubiquitous with the at-home experience, its primary effect will be felt through video content, which will inevitably extend to online video ads.

Publishers and advertisers know video content and video ads are growing in importance. At issue is who has ultimate control over the ads. Consumers have some level of control when it comes to desired content, but, so far, it doesn’t really extend to video ads online. This seems a little odd. At a time when agencies and publishers harp on advertising relevance as a major factor for successful online ad campaigns, how come online video ads aren’t part of the discussion?

Advertisers are taking steps to create video ads tailored specially for the Web. The ad for the new movie “The Pacificer” is one example. It’s a great first step, but it doesn’t address relevance. The ad does things other video ads don’t, primarily to interact with users in specific ways based on how users engage with it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t address whether the ad is served to relevant users in the first place.

Many sites now employ prerolls (define) as a way to monetize their video ad units. An online video preroll is delivered before the consumer can watch the desired video content. The big three portals, MSN in particular, are probably the biggest conveyors of such technology.

Though the ability to monetize video ad units online is great, it’s usually at the expense of delivering ads that have little relevance for end users. Video ads create minimal brand effect. They once created wonderful awareness and response. With the number of video streams increasing on a daily basis, results will become more muted.

Like search, video ads, prerolls in particular, should be delivered when there’s some relevance to consumers. Behavioral relevance is a great way to do this. If sites are willing to give ultimate control of video content to users, why shouldn’t this extend to video ads, too? Video ads are like any other online ads: they can be delivered based on relevance to the consumer and can help publishers avoid TV’s channel-surfing and TiVo-zapping of ads.

It is all about relevance. Yet based on what we’ve seen so far, I’m not sure we understand this about video ads — yet.

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