Online Video Ads: Think Web, Not TV

Online video advertising is really taking off. As broadband penetration continues to rise and ad-serving technologies become more sophisticated, more advertisers are adopting the format. According to a recent Jupiter Research executive survey, 24 percent of online advertisers plan to use streaming video ads in 2005, nearly three times the percentage that ran them in 2004.

Online video ads allow marketers to capture users’ attention and to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly ad-cluttered online environment. They potentially can have a much greater effect than GIF banners or text ads. Although video formats may cost 5-10 times more to serve than standard banners (and involve a lot more production and implementation work), according to Dynamic Logic’s MarketNorms database they can achieve much greater response rates, both behavioral and emotional, with fewer impressions. Using video also means the same, or similar, advertising creative can be displayed online and on TV. This offers marketers, half of whom use the Web to extend integrated campaigns’ reach or frequency, a greater consistency of brand messaging across channels.

Advertisers looking to adopt online video ad formats must carefully consider how and where they use online video if they wish to maximize its effect. The Internet remains predominantly a lean-forward, information- and communication-focused medium, as opposed to TV’s lean-back, entertainment style. Make decisions on ad placement based on the potential quantity-versus-quality of viewing audiences and the level of interruption-versus-engagement they affect.

There are a number of ways to captivate an online audience with video. Most marketers currently incorporate their audio-visual content into existing embedded ad formats (e.g., banners, skyscrapers, messaging plus units (MPUs)) or over-content formats (e.g., overlays and pop-ups). Though this offers a potentially large audience and best reach, viewers are likely to be less captivated and more annoyed by these disruptive and distracting placements.

Only 9 percent of online consumers interviewed by Jupiter Research said they’d be persuaded to look at an ad with audio or video. Advertisers using this method should seek the most targeted locations for these ads. For example, the “Mean Girls” trailer ad was successfully targeted to teenage girls in Germany through ICQ‘s focused environment.

Video within, or attached to, email may offer less reach than display ads, but with good targeting and successful delivery it can have a higher captivation factor. E-mail has the advantage of viral distribution if the audience perceives it positively.

Streaming or cached video content on a specific destination site offers the best chance of engaging interested consumers in brand messages, but it’s likely to reach a limited audience unless content generates a viral outcome. The Volvo “Life on Board” integrated campaign offered extended video clips of TV ads online. It’s been highly successful in repositioning the car and increasing purchase intent. And the recent Peperami Noodles microsite helped launch a new snack in the U.K. market.

Over time, in-stream ad placements that appear before or after video content such as TV spots will offer advertisers the most potential to target a self-selected, attentive audience in an uncluttered online environment. But these opportunities are limited at present.

Media owners offering music, news, entertainment, or sports content will soon offer in-stream opportunities to advertisers as viewership grows. Marketers must ensure the content is appropriate for the Web. To maximize brand effect and positive viewer perception, advertisers should optimize the quality and composition of their creative for Web delivery.

Whether repurposing or expanding on existing TV executions, or creating unique Web content, advertisers must be aware of video on a PC screen’s strengths and weaknesses. Be conscious of codec (define) and video file size implications on streaming speeds and picture output quality. Bandwidth detection technology should be deployed to optimize the stream for dial-up or broadband connections.

Images and scenes should be kept simple and uncluttered for clarity on smaller screens. Elaborate lighting effects and excessive panning, zooming, and camera movement should be minimized to avoid pixelation or blurring. Avoid transitions, such as long cross fades and dissolves, for clear picture quality. Complex audio, such as ambient noise or above-normal levels, may be difficult to decipher on PC speakers. Text should be placed in spaces outside the video so taglines and calls to action can be clearly read. Finally, short, punchy clips work better online than long, elaborate scenes.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.