Fewer than four months after rolling out its between-page video advertising format, Unicast has bolstered the interactive capabilities of the Video Commercial.
Advertisers can now add side-by-side interactivity to their Video Commercial units, a development Unicast says agencies have requested. The resulting version of the format more closely unites robust Flash interactivity with full-screen, broadcast-quality video.
“Normally we’d have a longer time frame between product releases, but we’re hearing from agencies that this is important,” said Allie Savarino, senior vice president at Unicast.
While the unit won’t be available to the market until mid-June, Savarino said approximately a dozen advertisers are now building ads for it. Roughly 60 sites now accept the original Video Commercial, and these will be immediately compatible when the new version comes out.
Despite these clients’ apparent eagerness to boost the interactivity of the video assets they choose to move online, adding such capabilities does not count among most advertisers’ current priorities in the online marketing space, according to JupiterResearch analyst Nate Elliott. (JupiterResearch is a division of this publication’s parent company.)
“It’s nice that Unicast is offering the option for interactivity, but I can’t imagine this is a priority for most Video Commercial advertisers,” Elliott said. “Putting video online is easy — that’s part of the attraction for large offline advertisers. Adding interactivity requires work that a lot of these big advertisers just don’t want to bother with.”
Their addiction to the 30-second spot is one clue advertisers may not be ready to take the kind of steps enabled by Unicast’s new and improved Video Commercial. Unicast said only one 15-second ad has been run since the original unit launched, although the format supports both 15- and 30-second spots.
“It’s still a lot of CMOs who aren’t very comfortable with online thinking, ‘I can run my :30’s on the computer.’ They love their :30’s, they’re often confused by online, and so just dropping video online without touching it is easy,” Elliott said.
But Elliott does believe video interactivity will eventually become de rigeur online, and he says Unicast is wise to prepare for that eventuality. “Interactivity alongside video will make a lot of sense in a year or two,” he said. “So Unicast is all set when that happens.”
Unicast’s Video Commercial enhancements do not allow Internet users to click within an ad’s video content. Rather, they can engage with forms, menus and content that appear adjacent to the Commercial.
In January, Unicast introduced the original Video Commercial in a six-week beta program in which five major advertisers bought 100 million impressions across 15 leading Web sites.
Since then, the online video ad race has heated up along with the weather. Last week, Eyewonder launched a between-page video unit squarely aimed at a creative niche long-dominated by Unicast. Other rich media players are meanwhile planning their own advances on the nascent video advertising segment.
Unicast is also facing industry curiosity about how it plans to react to aQuantive’s planned acquisition of Ad4Ever, a company that provides the technology behind Unicast’s floating ad offering. Savarino said for the moment Unicast will continue to offer floating ads according to its existing agreement with the rich media vendor, though she added this these units represent a shrinking part of the company’s business.