To Stream or Not to Stream?

With increasingly more clients interested in broadcast-style elements for online advertising, it’s important to examine how current methodologies deliver creative and corresponding success rates against goals.

The initial question is whether to stream creative on demand or use a delivery platform that “politely downloads” the creative element in the background and awaits a user action to trigger message display. To create a comparison, I’ll look at performance of an online ad delivered via Klipmart versus initial response data gathered by the new Unicast Video Commercial.

The Klipmart Way

Klipmart offers marketers the ability to embed TV creative in fixed-position ad units. As the technology is Java-based, it doesn’t depend on use or presence of a multimedia player. The technology streams your spot over all connection speeds and automatically plays when an end user accesses a Web page.

What’s compelling is this approach allows advertisers to “push” TV-like creative every time there’s a page impression. You can therefore reach a very wide base given the product’s independence from user-installed player software.

From an impact perspective, it’s great to deliver sight, sound, and motion within an ad unit. But therein lies the limitation. Users are accustomed to seeing TV creative on large-format screens. Though a Klipmart ad displayed inside a big-box ad unit looks nice on the page, there’s a minimizing effect when the spot is restricted to such small real estate.

Looking at success rates across a number of campaigns, 12 percent of users exposed to the ad click to play the TV spot. Of that number, nearly half view the whole spot. (Wouldn’t we all love to know how many people actually watch a spot versus get up to make a sandwich!)

Unicast Video Commercial

Unicast caused quite a stir with initial testing of its newest product, which delivers near-full-screen TV spots of up to 2MBs. The spot is delivered between page views, interstitial-style. The user can skip the spot and move to the desired site content. Creative is delivered via a proprietary compression technique that delivers the ad in less than a minute following site session initiation. Once the spot plays, an interactive Flash-based ad can be displayed.

Beta test response rates show a little over 20 percent of users view the entire spot. Average viewing time was 16 seconds. This was from the initial rollout on 11 sites. Unicast plans to expand to over 2,500.

The Best Approach?

It’s too early to tell which approach will be embraced by end users. One hallway debate we’re having at the agency is how long it will be before users complain about the surfing interruption caused by Unicast’s format. Will people associate it with pop-ups or accept that TV commercials are now online? Much more testing is needed.

We’re even debating what the ideal length of an online spot is. Fifteen seconds? Twenty? Or will users readily view a 30-second spot? I’m making an early prediction: Users will best tolerate something between 12 and 18 seconds. What’s your guess?

What’s Good About Both

Regardless of delivery system, one can easily make the case that online TV delivery is a low-cost alternative to broadcast, cable, or satellite delivery. Compare TV CPM levels to online media, and you’ll know what I mean.

I see the following scenarios:

  • A business-to-business (B2B) marketer wants the impact of broadcast creative to tell its story but can’t afford the tremendous waste of a full broadcast schedule. So it purchases a few key targeted broadcast placements, then heavily augments that schedule with vertical online site placements. Nothing like hitting key business decision makers during that coveted 9 am to 5 pm timeframe.
  • A major marketer develops a fantastic suite of five TV commercials but doesn’t have the dollars to adequately support equal rotation. Instead it allocates some spend to the Web and throws the underplayed spots into online rotation for extra exposure.
  • A marketer load-balances a campaign that features 60-second ads on broadcast and augments the weight with 30-second ads online.

What to Do Now

Test both formats on your next campaign. Gauge success on the relative benefits. If your client makes a major announcement, perhaps going with Unicast’s full-screen impact is the best bet. If you want to augment a current TV buy or extend the creative messaging of a campaign, Klipmart’s approach would work just fine.

Either way, early numbers indicate video-style elements deliver impact in online advertising. It will be interesting to see which approach works in the long term with users.

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