Video Ads Guided by Consumers

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas behind us, it’s safe to say the stats are in: shoppers were out and in front of their computers. ComScore reports spending was up 21 percent, with $733 million spent on Cyber Monday alone. I speculate that video ads lent a hand in the increased spending by aiding consumers in their prepurchase research.

We already know Internet consumers respond to video advertisements, particularly ones they activate themselves. User-initiated video ads attract attention and keep it. By giving users the power to click on, roll over, or initiate video ads, marketers are progressing beyond the pop-up era where abrupt interruptions overshadowed marketers’ ability to reach consumers.

Video Ad Perks

For marketers, online video ads are an antidote to television ads’ declining effectiveness. Video ads also cut through the online clutter, so marketing dollars can actually work.

For online browsers, user-initiated video ads are a welcome change from annoying, inconsequential ads. Also, studies show Internet users overwhelmingly favor video ads over their static predecessors, particularly when the ads are relevant to a site’s content.

“Frames of Reference” (PDF download), a recent survey conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) confirms this. Given the option, 80 percent of those surveyed chose to watch a video ad, and 52 percent subsequently took action. Actions include visiting the advertiser’s site, searching for additional information, talking about the product with friends, and visiting a store to see the product in person. All in all, video ads resulted in 16 percent of viewers purchasing the advertised product. This is an incredible result with the increased saturation of the online marketing arena.

Video Ad Opportunities

General effectiveness notwithstanding, a current industry concern is the lack of metrics and uniform pricing in video advertising. The problem stems from the difficulty differentiating between users who simply see an ad and those genuinely affected by one.

A bankable option for novice Internet video marketers is to blend video ads’ success with banner ads’ standard formatting. Consumers already go to the Internet for product information (57 percent, compared to 8 percent to cable TV), so advertisers should take advantage of the stockpile of banner space available and join the video advertising arena.

That said, video ads can still go much further. Industry wide, we agree they should be more than recycled TV spots. In-banner ads can ease marketers into the video medium, but we need to go beyond simply placing video on publishers’ sites.

One type of advertisers who should push the envelope for online video ads are those who do late-night infomercials. The online forum combines the two keys of the infomercial’s success: video and a direct response platform. To advance video advertising, marketers could integrate video and click-to-purchase functions, so users can make purchases within the banner. The interactive options are truly endless.

Another option is to take advantage of cookie data to ensure repeat visitors see different video. Returning users could be shown in-depth information or client testimonials to encourage purchase and push them further down the buying funnel. Marketers can also take advantage of localization by tailoring messages, using local sales support and regional store information to further enhance users’ ad interaction.

The potential for marketing video ad success is obviously here, but there are questions as to how to optimize their effectiveness. Over the holidays, I spent time in Europe and found video ads to be much more prevalent than in the U.S. In addition, the ads themselves were more aggressive, sometimes occupying entire Web pages or used as full-screen transition interrupters. Are European consumers less sensitive to overt video marketing, or are their American counterparts simply less interested in video ads? The answer remains to be seen, but I believe marketers will continue experimenting with video advertising’s capabilities. The end goal will be to maximize user experience while providing marketing results.

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