Taking the Next Step in Online Video Advertising

It seems like a new fact, figure, or news story pops up every day that further validates online video as the next revolutionary advertising platform. For the most part, marketers know the Internet isn’t just another channel for distributing :30 broadcast spots; it’s a place to start having real conversations.

But realizing the potential of online video advertising is much different than doing something about it. The big dark void that still sits between realizing and doing hasn’t necessarily grown smaller. It’s just been filled with a lot of chatter.

Case in point: the beloved in-stream video and overlay ads. YouTube, Hulu, Joost, Brightcove, and endless other content providers are seeking fast, scalable advertising models. Now, with announcements from companies like FreeWheel, such interruptive models will soon prevail.

The question: where do real conversations fit into these models? Sure, we can now market a car racing show within (or on top of) a video about cars, but what about the interactivity and conversations we keep hearing about?

The online advertising industry needs new online models that drive imagination and diversity rather than convention and standardization. We need easier ways to create experiences people want to seek out, rather than click away from. How do we start to fill that gaping void?

Shifting Dollars Online

It takes but a look at the Super Bowl to see where most marketing money is still going. How can advertisers begin to develop new online models and create truly compelling video content without a hearty budget that competes with the offline model?

Part of the problem (and advertisers are at fault here, too) is that the industry still believes online video is cheap. Just because a YouTuber can use a $150 camcorder to make a pixilated video a million people will watch doesn’t mean every brand can. Or should. While there’s the occasional viral video success story, it’s hardly the norm.

Until agencies stop telling clients “we can do that for $10,000,” and until clients stop asking their agencies to “do that for $10,000,” we’ll never be able to see what real money can do in the online video space. People love beautifully shot and directed footage with superstar talent and amazing special effects. Audiences respond to that quality in any setting.

In addition, the experience is no longer about creating for a single destination, it’s about creating for multiple destination, syndication, and distribution outlets. Producers require the budgets to do it right.

The ideal online production shoot may consist of a chroma key (define) for a live-action avatar creation, a photographer to capture high quality stills, and additional video and audio production to be scripted/shot for contextual placements. That’s all on top of the traditional video shoot needs!

Investing in Alternative Ad Models

In-stream video ads and overlays are a quick, scalable way to monetize online content. That model isn’t going away anytime soon. But what about investing money toward the research and development of models that aren’t centered around entertainment? How about creating scalable models driven by people’s needs?

My last column discussed the brand utility supported entertainment model in which content providers and marketers work upstream to create customized complimentary experiences. One option would be to align this model with the open standard objectives of DataPortability.org. Their mission: to gather “existing open standards into a blueprint for a social, open, remixable Web where your online identity, media, contacts and content can follow you wherever you go.”

For brands and content creators, that means conversation would truly have to be initiated by the user. The user would own the data, and the brand content offering would have to be valuable enough to warrant an exchange. In essence, brand content would be bought with “data currency.”

Why would this be a good model for marketers?

There are brand enthusiasts who participate in campaigns on an ongoing basis. Yet each time they return, these fans must register and sign-up for the full experience. If the brand were to embrace technologies such as OpenID, not only would it provide their fans access to cross-promotional properties around that campaign, it would also provide easy access to all future campaigns. And with future potential of data portability, people could take those experiences with them, introducing content to friends and hopefully igniting passionate new fans.

Could this lead to the most ideal scalable model ever — a tangible word-of-mouth engine?

Online video advertising has a ways to go before it reaches revolutionary status. We need to be willing to take the next steps. That means more money allocated to develop a unique cross-channel storytelling experience, and more research and development toward innovative new models.

Perhaps then online video advertising will have a chance to live up to the potential we all know it has.

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