Primetime Online

Online video consumption continues to increase, making television programming more time independent. We’re transitioning from viewers having to choose between programs airing at the same time to them having access to their shows on demand. This shift was initiated by DVRs and extended through location-independent solutions like the Slingbox, and the Internet is continuing to facilitate viewers being able to watch what they want, when they want.

Originally, time-shifting wasn’t warmly welcomed by the marketing community because the community felt it would dilute ad effectiveness. However, we have an opportunity to evolve with online video and refine our targeting and creative strategies to serve increasingly relevant ads.

For example, a family of five is watching a program on their living room TV. The commercials aired during the show are generic and appeal to a common denominator, not resonating with anyone in particular. Next week, each family member goes online independently to watch an episode of the same program. Odds are they won’t see the same in-page advertisements because they’ve exhibited different online behavior. Given this, should they all see the same in-stream video ads that are generated to appeal to a wide audience?

When users shift to viewing video online, marketers could serve tailored video ads framed around a user’s demographic, psychographic, behavioral data, or all three. Although we’re at the beginning of exploring these targeting tactics with video, it’s important to note that the ability to properly track users already exists, but few sites are equipped to allow advertisers to target audiences segments in a narrow, personal fashion.

Why Is Targeting Needed?

Online viewership is extremely fragmented, so effective means of targeting are crucial. As with other ad forms, users are more apt to respond when a message is tailored to their needs and goals.

Video ads shouldn’t be any different. Marketers must take notice of how users respond to, and access, their video messages, and adapt as consumers’ online habits change. Targeting video ads can also help advertisers learn more about their consumers.

Because online video content is available across so many platforms, users essentially segment themselves further based on where they view video clips. For example, a user watching a program on Hulu could have different traits and online habits than someone watching the same program on YouTube — all of which can be accounted for in a marketing campaign.

Online vs. Offline

In most offline cases, tailoring ads is at least partially based on conjecture. Marketers use available data to make educated inferences about who is watching, reading, or listening to their messages and tailor their messages accordingly. We assume that readers of a home-focused magazine would be interested in the launch of a new housecleaning product. Without evidence to the contrary, that’s all we have to go on.

While online advertising is far from perfect, there’s more opportunity to know what users are doing on different online destinations to confirm assumptions or change media buys as necessary. This ability to merge datasets from multiple sources gives marketers a deep understanding of their audience and helps them target ads effectively.


While 9 times out of 10, we can assume that the viewer watching SportsCenter online will have different demographics than the one watching HGTV, this might not always be true. Persona groups don’t always act in accordance with their demographic or psychographic groups.

Behavioral targeting is the best technique for catering ads to those who don’t fit neatly into one segment. Though I normally advocate for proactive marketing practices, the reactive nature of behavioral targeting allows advertisers to take a cue from their consumers about which ads are relevant to them.

Creating video ads isn’t cheap, especially if done well. To make it worthwhile, targeting must be done and tracked. Yes, companies are just getting familiar with placing or upgrading their Flash banners into video ads, but it’s already time to think about the next steps if we want to get results and justify the long-term implementation of video ads in the online marketing mix.

To learn more about behavioral targeting, check out ClickZ’s Behavioral Marketing, which publishes weekly.

Meet Andreas at ClickZ Specifics: Online Video Advertising on July 22, at Millennium Broadway in New York City.

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