Have Video Ads Arrived? Part 1

Just over four years ago, I sat in my first meeting regarding creating an online video ad. The agency we met with wanted to repurpose an existing 30-second spot that received good response during its broadcast run. It was now hoping to drop that commercial into a banner and run it as an online ad.

We did a little figuring and concluded the video, although shrunken to a window smaller than 60 pixels tall and reduced to 12 frames per second, would still include about 3 megabytes of data — a staggering number compared to publishers’ maximum total 14K data size for ads at the time.

The project never went forward, but it did start me thinking about such an ad’s value. My initial thought was one of added value. What could this ad offer consumers in the online environment it couldn’t offer in its broadcast incarnation?

The quick answer seemed to be less than nothing. Not only would the ad’s quality be greatly diminished in a heavily compressed, shrunken format, but it would also require the consumer in many cases to toggle on the audio to hear the ad and to focus on the ad space long enough to watch 30 seconds of video. At the time, one of the less marketable aspects of ad banners was they could generally be ignored by anyone. Add to that the nature of running a passive ad format in an interactive environment, and you have further mismatches.

In a nutshell, it seemed running video-based broadcast commercials online would end up a nonstarter for some time to come.

Things have changed.

For starters, video compression technology has improved dramatically. Once-humongous files can now be pared down to acceptable sizes. Data-streaming technologies offer a way to bring data into the page as needed without requiring a preload. Add to that an increase in broadband reach and increased sophistication in the types of content offered online. It seems the timing for video-based ads is perfect.

But do these ad formats bring added value to the table? I decided to explore what’s out there and how it’s targeting both advertisers’ and consumers’ needs. Results have been very positive.

EyeWonder

I first took a look at what old friends at Atlanta-based EyeWonder have been up to. According to Jason Scheidt, director of marketing, EyeWonder has been actively creating new video ad formats over the past few years.

Scheidt says EyeWonder is dedicated to a Java-based player, its platform of choice for years, due to the large installed base. Unlike Flash or other technologies that require periodic downloads, Java has better control over the chasm between the most current technology available and the technology consumers already have installed.

For EyeWonder, which has always served the video content it provides, a venture into online advertising is a natural progression. Although it’s now competing against other rich and streaming media ad vendors, Scheidt says the company feels confident it’s able to offer the best-quality video product while meeting direct marketers’ needs. EyeWonder is also exploring new ad formats that seem to borrow heavily from the broadcast world, such as providing pre-roll or in-stream ad insertion. It’s started a program to sell video window ad space on high traffic sites.

Eyeblaster

The recent launch of the VideoClip Module harkens Eyeblaster‘s entrance into the streaming video ad arena. According to Corey Kronengold, Eyeblaster’s corporate communications manager, the VideoClip Module uses either Flash or Windows Media Format as the basis for the video playback. It also includes a Flash layer that sits over the video and allows direct interaction with the video content. This approach allows consumers to mouse over a video ad to pause it and receive additional offers, video content to serve as a menu of options, and consumers to follow paths of specific interest. Think branding rather than direct response.

Eyeblaster’s new video streams can cache up to 2.2 megabytes of video data and Flash interactivity into the ad space. The new ad formats allow pre-roll where specific ad content can be served into set video format windows. Eyeblaster’s product also offers a flexible frequency cap and can allow ads to be dynamically slotted based on media buy and demographic criteria.

Klipmart

Also active in this space is Klipmart. The company’s new twist to direct marketing added-value is offing streaming video ad formats that offer a greater branding and interactive experience. Though the video ads Klipmart runs are generally repurposed broadcast spots, its team has built extensive interactive frameworks around the ads. These allow consumers to explore the brand further, enter sweepstakes, and take quizzes that are thematically linked to the spot. Because the majority of Klipmart’s advertisers are media companies, the format also lends itself to allowing consumers to enter email addresses so they can be reminded of broadcasts or program release dates.

According to Charles Ruderman, Klipmart’s sales and marketing VP, the company’s philosophy is to take the best of TV advertising and marry it with the Web’s technology. Klipmart’s technological approach is platform agnostic; it supports both Java and Flash formats, depending on publisher needs. The real focus is on providing quality service that effectively measures return on investment.

I’m out of space, so next column will explore a few more vendors currently occupying this space. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Join us at ClickZ’s upcoming AdForum and at Search Engine Strategies.

Nominate your favorite product or campaign from July 7 through close of business July 14.

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