Online Video Advertising: Is It For You?


Unquestionably, online video is catching all the buzz these days. Consider Google’s new video store, Apple’s iTunes venture, Comedy Central’s MotherLoad experiment, and all the talk in the advertising press. It seems tough to get away from. And if you’re a savvy Net marketer (and you probably are, since you’re reading ClickZ), you’re probably asking yourself if you should get in on it.


There’s ample evidence online video (both streaming video viewed through a browser and the expanding market of downloadable portable video) is a compelling medium and is a highly effective way to reach people. According to Matt Pasternak of Klipmart Corporation, online video ads are “up to four times more impactful than other online formats, with the majority of viewers watching over 70 percent of the content.”

Pasternak also claims ads watched online are more effective at boosting brand awareness and purchase intent than the same content on TV. Of course, Pasternak is also head of sales for an online video provider, so you may want to take his findings with a grain of salt. Even so, his opinions seem to echo those of other studies that have been commissioned over the years to look at online video advertising‘s effectiveness.

It’s not surprising video ads of any kind are more effective than static ads from a brand and purchase intent standpoint. It’s just the nature of the medium. TV commercials are effective because they engage us in ways other forms of advertising don’t. Moving it online doesn’t necessarily change that sense of immersion.

But even the most effective ad won’t work if people don’t see it. For a long time, the barrier between people and rich media content (such as video) was bandwidth. That appears to no longer be much of an issue, even on a global scale. The hardware and software hurdles have also (for the most part) been cleared, and people seem primed to download video, even if they have to pay for it. If Apple can sell 1 million videos in the first 20 days of operating the iTunes video store, people are more than ready.

Even so, it’s important not to be blinded by the hype. Early growth is coming from early adopters, and it may be a while before growth truly reaches the mainstream. Though its hard to gauge exactly, looking at such studies as the one from Parks Associates predicting the sale of portable media players shows though growth will happen, it may be fairly slow.

The jury’s also still out on whether consumers will even accept ads in the video they download or view on their portable devices. Recent reports on consumer ad acceptance seem to present fairly contradictory views. There’s just not enough data out there yet to know.

If you’re looking at advertising in online video, take it slow, test, analyze your results with a cynical eye, and figure out what will work best for you. Jumping on the bandwagon too fast can be a problem, particularly if you don’t understand the medium or how people want to view it. Google’s first attempt at an online video store had quite a few hiccups; only after listening to users and doing some soul-searching was Google able to turn it into something that works.

The best thing most of us can do is learn from the past. New technologies always create a lot of hype, and it often takes years for the dust to settle enough for us to understand how to best use new media for what we’re trying to accomplish. If there’s one lesson all the new media we’ve experienced over the past decade or so has taught us it’s that the importance of the basics — reach, frequency, and good creative — doesn’t really change, no matter what the medium. Online video is no different. It’s never about the technology; it’s about what it does and how it’s used.


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