Hunting for the Ideal Online Video Ad Format

With expanding budgets and growing audiences, marketers have endless opportunities to take advantage of online video advertising. Online video viewership has steadily increased. If the current industry projections materialize, mammoth advertising budgets will move online in 2008. Pew Internet and American Life Project reported this month that 48 percent of Internet users have visited video-sharing Web sites. The report also states that daily traffic to such sites nearly doubled over last year.

Over the past few years, advertisers have mistakenly assumed there’s one right way to use streaming video online. Everyone’s hunting for the ideal way to transform marketing messages into video formats to reach consumers. As the adage goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s definitely more than one ideal way for advertisers to use in-stream video.

Improvements for Today

Pre-roll and post-roll and in-stream! Oh my! Ads placed at the beginning (pre-roll), at the end (post-roll), or in the middle (in-stream) of online video can all be improved by adding sophisticated layers of user targeting. There are many formatting and targeting options available now, and I believe there are only more to come. While the ideal in-stream model may be waiting to be found, we must advance the current tactics we already have in the mean time. We also need to keep all options open and not concretely define the boundaries of online video advertising prematurely.

But what about the standardization of in-stream advertising formats? you ask. The establishment and acceptance of standard pricing is truly significant, but we should look into using the creative we already have to produce stellar linear TV ads and infuse them into our format, taking full advantage of our medium while giving users something engaging, targeted, and original.

To make meaningful strides with in-stream video advertising, we should start where other marketing media leave off and integrate Web technology into their established models. By looking at other types of successful advertising, we can avoid pitfalls and learn from the mistakes of marketers before us. Of course, we must be careful that we’re not simply recycling TV ads. Online video ads need to be created specifically for the Internet, but we can learn from example, too.

Significant technological advancements have been made to enhance video advertising’s effectiveness. As an industry, we’re not using them to their fullest extent yet. Incorporating behavioral targeting techniques, as an example, could be extremely valuable in increasing video ads’ efficiency. Because every user has different preferences and browsing habits, marketers would be remiss not to marry user targeting with video advertising. By deploying all available technology, marketers can boost campaign numbers and pave the way for future innovations.

Improvements for Tomorrow

Undoubtedly, one aspect of the Internet that enables online marketing to be effective is its ability to remain relevant. To be applicable in a dynamic world, in-stream video advertising needs to stay current. To do so, advertisers must trace Web content beyond titles, tags, and descriptions so video ads can be contextually relevant. Then advertisers can proactively seek out target consumers. Increasing relevancy also presents a real opportunity to enhance user relationships. Calls to action could range from incorporating video ads into searches to adding ads to personalized home pages.

We also need to ensure that our advertisements complement a site’s content. By and large, users are more receptive to an ad when its message coincides with a site’s text. Online Publishers Association of America’s (OPA’s) recent report found that 56 percent of online users prefer advertisements that relate to their search topic and Web page content.

Proactive marketing also enables us to tailor campaigns based on user feedback. This information could help determine the (user-specific) optimal video ad length. Do Internet browsers prefer user-initiated, long-format video or shorter, host-initiated clips? Based on user preferences, we can modify our advertising messages to appease our audiences.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure which is the ideal video advertising format, but I’m not alone. We have the ability to use a combination of targeting, relevant content, and creativity to present users with multidimensional ad impressions. Let’s embrace our audiences and create applicable video ads, develop different versions for each format, and use all available technology to make certain we reach our target consumers. Most important, we should stop wasting precious time and money advertising to uninterested users.

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