Yahoo Enables Video and Other Rich Media in Search Ads

In further attempts to wrestle search market share from Google’s fist, Yahoo today announced the introduction of rich media capabilities within its search advertising product.

The Rich Ads In Search product, which goes live in the U.S. on Monday, will now allow advertisers to include images, video, and advertiser site search functions directly within search ads. Neither Google nor Microsoft, Yahoo’s major search competitors, currently offer this functionality.

Introducing the product on its blog, Yahoo said it has tested the program with brand advertisers such as Pedigree, Pepsi, and Ensurance, and agencies including Razorfish. The firm claims click-through rates increased by up to 25 percent in those tests.

Oliver Rapson, director of paid search at Steak, believes the initiative will be well received by advertisers. “There is huge potential for brands with a strong visual identity to take advantage of this,” he told ClickZ News. “Videos of celebrity endorsers, location-specific or seasonal adverts, or even viral campaigns could be reused here, for example.”

An Esurance listing, for instance, allows users to click to expand the ad to view a video of one of the auto insurance firm’s signature animated TV spots.

Although Rapson remains skeptical on the ads’ ability to drive conversions, he suggests the format may have specific appeal to brand advertisers. “Whether it improves consumers’ propensity to convert is debatable — either way it reinforces the written creative and adds entertainment to the message thus providing a healthy branding side effect,” he noted.

Figures released by comScore yesterday suggest that Yahoo is beginning to gain search market share in the U.S. Of the 13.5 billion searches conducted in January, 21 percent were conducted through Yahoo sites, up from the 20.5 percent the previous month. Within Europe, however, Yahoo has substantially less market share, and was forced to close its contextual ad business last month as a result of sparse advertiser interest.

Initially, the rich ads product will only be available in the U.S. However, Yahoo is considering expanding the program.