Video Ads Surface in Unexpected Places

My plan this week was to write about video advertisements using non-traditional mediums — GPS systems, ATMs, and the like. After digging through my inbox and sifting through feeds, I was surprised to find that a political candidate is behind a recent and noteworthy advertising campaign using an alternative platform.

Politicians are not typically known for their cutting-edge use of media. No matter what your political persuasion, it’s safe to say that this year is the first that candidates are utilizing the digital space well. Throughout this entire campaign season, industry pundits have been keeping tabs on how candidates are tapping into digital mediums. With the finish line nearing, one contender took his campaign into uncharted territory.

A Strategy in Action

The implementation I am referring is Barack Obama campaign’s use of in-game advertising. Politics aside, brands would be wise to take note of how the campaign married more traditional marketing techniques with forums that are still akin to the Wild West.

Obama’s campaign placing advertisements in sports-related Xbox games, targeted the ads to run only on consoles in crucial swing states. The strategy behind this is clear: get those votes. In-game advertising is still maturing. By running such a targeted campaign, Obama’s marketing team is able — in theory — to make the most impact with voters they feel could lean their way. I have no idea if the campaign will elicit the desired results (it is planned to be live through November 3), but I must applaud the strategy.

As marketers (and candidates) get more audacious with their marketing mix, it will be important to keep a firm grasp on the basics. The most notable piece of the Obama camp’s use of in-game ads is the restraint. By not placing ads on every virtual bus and billboard, his team is able to try out new mediums with less risk and obtain better odds that the gamble will pay off.

Video is Everywhere

From elevators to gas pumps and check-out stands to airports, video forums are popping up just about everywhere you turn. I ran across an interesting term that I think explains why alternative video forums are so popular: wait warping. It was coined to express how watching video content while at a gas station or waiting to reach your floor via elevator can make time seem to pass by faster. To me, this speaks to the ability to reach captive audiences.

Non-traditional video forums like in-game, outdoor venues, and mobile can reach consumers when they have nothing else to do but watch your videos. Consumers accept advertisements in certain places, and as marketers, it is our job to develop ways to grab their attention and make an impression.

These alternative avenues give advertisers an immediate edge because they are unexpected; however, it is extremely hard to gauge the success of campaigns using these forums. It is even harder to draw causal links between an ad impression and a conversion. For example, how would a marketer be able to show that the ad a consumer saw at a gas station pump was the reason they made an online purchase? It could be a challenge, but the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau foresees these marketing platforms becoming a part of comprehensive media mixes. Executions like those by Obama’s marketing team show there’s a way to experiment with emerging platforms somewhat conservatively. While there is no uniform, concrete way to gauge ROI (define), advertisers should not be intimidated by new video platforms.

Think, Then Experiment

Video content has the ability to cross over countless mediums, so it is sometimes easy for advertisers to haphazardly post content wherever they can. The glamour of new platforms can lure marketers into communities, channels, and platforms for which they are ill suited. When exploring new territory, advertisers should use a combination of tactics to get the most for their investment. This means that we can get so excited by the appeal of new flashy mediums that we do not take the time to use targeting techniques, conduct user research, or optimize creative.

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