Online Video Ads: The Three Best-Practice Rules

When I first addressed online video advertising last year, there wasn’t really much to report. A few independent firms were making waves (more accurately, ripples) by offering streaming video for email and online banners. The majority of publishers, including the primary players, weren’t yet ready to push products of their own. Aside from the occasional movie trailer, online video was hardly on media buyers’ collective radar.

My, what a year can do. Today, the online video buzz can be heard far and wide. Nearly all the major rich media companies, from Eyeblaster and Unicast to PointRoll, are heavily promoting their online video ad formats, many of which launched this year. Microsoft has jumped on board with MSN Video, its streaming video service launched in January, and major advertisers such as Pfizer have publicly declared their commitment.

With so many video advertising options to choose from and so much fresh interest within the advertising community, it’s little wonder Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) reports online video ad spending will increase fivefold to reach $657 million by 2009.

The question is no longer whether video advertising as an industry will succeed. Rather, it’s what can advertisers do to benefit from the format’s availability.

As has been demonstrated time and again, advertisers have a weakness for flashy new ad formats, particularly on the Web. When the secondary objective of most every online campaign is to carve out a space amid the clutter, it’s only natural we’re drawn to ad units that promise to generate considerable attention. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm often leads to premature use of new formats and a disregard for best practices. We’ve seen the effects this can have with pop-ups and email.

If advertisers aren’t careful, video could succumb to the same fate.

How, then, can media buyers successfully utilize video advertising as the industry grows and evolves? Chris Young, CEO of video advertising pioneer Klipmart (about to celebrate its fifth year in the business), names three keys to success: contextualized creative, auto-play functionality, and customized ad content.

Contextualized Creative

Just what is “contextualized creative”? It has nothing to do with behavioral targeting, but the objective — to deliver relevant information — is the same. Consider a video ad Klipmart created for John Kerry just prior to the election. The banner, which ran on CNN.com, allowed users to view two different video montages of campaign trail clips and speech footage that addressed several key campaign issues. The footage was timely and highly relevant. It allowed Kerry to deliver a collection of equally important messages via a medium far more conducive to conveying emotion than any other online format.

Auto-Play

According to Young, 95 percent of Klipmart’s video ads play automatically, requiring no user initiation. Though this approach may sound unorthodox in the user-control-oriented Internet world, Young says it’s essential to ensure ads are viewed. His research shows only 5-15 percent of Internet users will voluntarily initiate an ad containing video footage. If media buyers are hesitant, he reassures them by noting that 42 percent of consumers watch at least 22 seconds of Klimpart’s auto-play, 30-second ads.

For more conservative advertisers who prefer to at least allow users to activate sound, Klipmart recommends a flashing or blinking sound button to nudge viewers on. “Designers are becoming smarter with this type of call to action,” he says, noting 50 percent of the company’s ads don’t automatically deliver sound.

Customized Content

Customizing ad content is always important, particularly when an ad includes a video feature and affords the ability to go beyond the banner norm. Klipmart encourages clients to consider the capabilities of video ads and determine how they can be used to heighten effectiveness and excitement. In a campaign the company created for a top videogame publisher, ads featured video of actual game footage. The campaign highlighted game action and the primary characters.

Young says online video is about “marrying the best of TV with the interactive and measurement capabilities of the Internet.” These days, it seems the format is being leveraged further. There’s little advertisers can’t do with the new breed of online video ads, especially if they remain true to the best practices.

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