Online Video Ads Are a Good Bet in a Recession

With the economic forecast getting gloomier by the day and with no quick fix in sight, the word “recession” seems to be popping up almost as frequently as “Britney Spears” is googled. (OK, may be not that much). Although I can’t muster up the courage to view my retirement portfolio, I have reflected on what a recession could mean for online video and digital advertising as a whole. While the prospect of major marketing budget cuts is depressing overall, the outlook for digital and online video is looking quite positive.

Here are three reasons online video advertising will come out ahead during an economic downturn.

No Longer Experimental

Past economic crises often led CMOs to cut back on experimental advertising, and they rely on the skills and responsibilities they’ve traditionally relied upon. They often fear that taking dollars out of traditional media (like television) means abandoning the brand and that they can do those customer-centric things next year.

Recent research and the smartest CMOs and marketing leaders prove this old mindset is deteriorating. Or as Keith Bobier, senior director of marketing at Unilever, put it: “We are not pulling in the reigns at all…there is nothing experimental about this for us.”

With online video’s proven track record as a successful brand-building medium that has increasingly effective and measureable results, I more than agree with Bobier. In fact, during financial struggles, aren’t the customer-centric things exactly what brands and their customers need most?

Possible, Affordable Optimization

If you’re a marketing executive given the option to either make two new TV spots for the year that hopefully will be viewed by the TiVo-happy eyeballs you are promised or create several video brand content experiences throughout the year that can guarantee measurable, detailed, optimized results and build engagement with your customer, which option would you choose?

The answer is obvious. You get less for more when it comes to TV spots. And if your commercial isn’t funny or informational or slick enough to catch attention or stand out from the others, your brand-building hopes for the year are dead. There is no optimization in TV. At least none that’s affordable.

With online video advertising, not only is optimization possible and affordable, but new companies like Visible Measures have made optimization strategies easier than ever. With tools like True Reach and Video Engagement, one can now get detailed information about how a person is engaging with a video, as well as what content is most sharable.

More important, with smarter online production solutions, brands can now take immediate action from these results by either improving the existing videos they’ve already created or optimizing the placement of the content their audience find most compelling.

With the threat of recession looming, a test-and-learn mentality will not only make for better creative but will also leave marketers with enough budget to respond to what an audience really needs and wants. And that’s far more important than just messaging at them with an interruptive television spot.

Less Buying, More Conversation

While there may be a lot less money to spend when money is tight, that doesn’t necessarily mean people will spend less time engaging with your brand. In fact, frugal spending often means longer hours researching products and discussing those products with trusted friends and family. And with research and conversations now happening predominately online, brands more than ever have the opportunity to join these discussions and help customers make smart purchasing decisions. Moreover, marketers are in a position where they can create online video content that is useful, informative, and, above all, contextually relevant to audiences they are trying to reach.

In fact, perhaps the riskiest action marketers can take in a downturn economy would be to fall back into comfortable traditional media strategies. Not only is embracing the full potential of digital media and online video advertising more cost effective, but it also leads to deeper customer engagement. Having real conversations with customers is one investment brands can’t afford to lose.

Christine is away this week. This column originally ran on Oct 7, 2008.

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