That’s the Ticker…to Video Content

Media buyers whose clients rely heavily on online video had been waiting the better part of this year for the announcement that finally came last week: AOL has officially launched video ticker ads. The ads, developed in conjunction with Gannett-owned PointRoll and incorporating the rich media company’s TickerBoy technology, are now being served to AOL users across the AOL Network of premium video content.

To say the ads are revolutionary would be an overstatement. AOL and PointRoll aren’t the first to make video content clickable and, thus, interactive. Similar technology has existed for years; interactive video ads, however, have remained underutilized.

This is because of a combination of factors that include antiquated perceptions about video’s purpose online and a lack of unique online video ads. Some believed video was meant to be one-sided, a monologue rather than a dialogue. And more marketers than I can count weren’t convinced that the benefits of creating video expressly for use online outweighed the elevated cost.

To some extent, these issues still exist. But here is a new video format that, aside from allowing for user interactivity and providing an alternative to pre- and post-roll ads, is associated with one of the most prominent networks of Web properties. That’s enough to entice clients, ease any marketer concerns that might exist, and provoke a prompt exploration of the unit.

If you aren’t familiar with how ticker ads work, picture a unit that offers the best of both banners and in-player video. When a site’s video has been playing for 10 seconds, a banner appears, either within the video player or adjacent to it. If rolled over or clicked, the banner expands to deliver the advertiser’s message and pauses the associated video content. The message most often takes the form of streaming video but can also include Flash, text, still photos, and additional interactive features, like sweepstakes and downloads.

When the ticker ad appears, the user has 15 seconds to take action or the ad disappears, leaving a branded text link (that relaunches the ticker ad when clicked) — and leaving the consumer no worse for wear. When a user interacts with the ad, he need only close it to immediately resume playing the video content he came to see. He doesn’t miss a thing to see the ad, and the ad is delivered entirely on his terms. To see the ticker ad format in action, check out this.

In support of the new video format and its value, PointRoll points to a September online video survey conducted by TNS Research and AOL/Google. According to the study, 78 percent of Internet users believe online video ads provide as good of an opportunity to learn about an advertiser as TV, if not more so. Sixty-four percent said they have taken action after seeing a video ad.

To media buyers who well know the value of online video advertising, the more enticing argument relates to the unit’s form and function. Think back to the advent of expandable banners and how they enhanced display advertising by promoting voluntary interaction and increasing the ad space available to marketers. Ticker ads deliver a similar result; they simultaneously improve the consumer’s and the marketer’s online video user experience.

These new ads put control in Internet users’ hands. That means frustrations are reduced, and any actions taken are likely to be more qualified. I expect that as we experiment with these new ads, we’ll find they were worth the wait. Video advertising that’s at once respectful of consumers, purposefully interactive, and widely available to media buyers? Now that’s the ticker.

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