Creating Our Own Clutter: Everyone Loves Video Advertising

I’ve got a dirty little secret. Want to know the biggest reason why advertisers chase video advertising inventory? It’s because it’s the only way most audiences will actually pay attention to their ads. After becoming frustrated for years by plummeting clickthrough rates on display advertising, video seems to be the long sought-after answer to the online ad performance conundrum.

A hypothesis of why this has become such a problem: the state of online advertising, specifically display advertising, has been worsened by publishers’ commoditization of rich media advertising inventory.

By ‘commoditization’ I don’t necessarily mean of the inventory. We need standardization when it comes to CPMs (define) and ad sizes. What I do mean is when publishers sell rich media to advertisers, what many are doing are selling two or three rich media positions on a page. They’re eschewing consistency, effectiveness, and impact in favor of selling more inventory to more advertisers. In doing so, they force advertisers to look even harder at their falling clickthroughs and interaction rates, making that the only potential measure of success.

What publishers need to do more of (and what brand advertisers need to ask for) is sell premium inventory as premium inventory. Content area/section homepages, entry pages, and other high-profile, high-traffic destinations should be sold to advertisers as integrated placements, not as a percentage of available inventory.

Sales of display advertising by in-house sales teams focused on brand advertisers typically achieve a different goal than the ROI-geared remnant sales strategy employed by large-scale ad networks. In-house teams provide greater flexibility when creating these opportunities and can create rich media opportunities for brand advertisers that employ an entire page (or large chunks of it) as a canvas for creativity.

According to a 2005 Pointroll study, 42 percent of online ad creators’ main goal was branding. Other goals include site traffic (25 percent); immediate purchase and data capture tied at 18 percent.

Branding can’t consistently be effective when you’re competing not only with content, but also with other advertisers’ rich media.

In my experience, the most effective rich media executions effectively ‘take over’ the page. They needn’t cover content or float over anything. They need to make cohesive use of all available inventory. One rich media ad may have video, another on the page may call attention to it. It requires implicit coordination between creatives and media planners — and publishers and sales planners — to understand advertisers’ goals. While this may contribute to decreased clickthrough rates, it will also contribute to a potential increase in interaction rates.

If branding is the main goal of a growing percentage of display advertising, publishers have to get with the program and integrate that program into their offerings. With a rush to video on, we can’t forget rich media’s role in our campaigns.

As rich media becomes the new standard ad, and as consumers grow more discerning about the kinds of advertising they pay attention to (á la DVD skipping through commercials), it’s advertisers’ responsibility to deploy rich media advertising strategies that not only surround, but integrate with the content they’ve identified as ideal for their brands.

If they don’t, rich media will simply become another culprit that adds to the clutter that’s led to general consumer ennui. That harms the effectiveness of all our campaigns.


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