Video Content Goes Interactive

Interactivity is highly coveted by online advertisers, but it isn’t always easily incorporated into online campaigns. This can be frustrating. Marketers know encouraging potential customers to interact with their products and services is an essential part of branding and generating sales, yet effectively amalgamating ad formats with this feature can prove extremely challenging.

Over the years, some particularly creative marketers have made popular formats such as online video interactive. Historically, this meant allowing Internet users to influence how and when video ads play (e.g., allowing users to choose the clip or camera angle and replay the ad) and offering links to additional information prior to or following the ad.

Automaker GM recently found a unique way to approach this issue when it launched, in conjunction with Maxim Online, an online application for Pontiac similar to Burger King’s infamous Subservient Chicken tool. Users had the chance to win a Pontiac Solstice by hitting on VH1 VJ Rachel Perry virtually with their best pickup lines.

Yet actually making video content interactive has remained a virtual fantasy. That’s all changing — fast. Within the past six months, two rich media organizations have released technology that allows marketers to utilize online video without giving up interactivity.

First to garner attention was United Virtualities. In January, it launched a streaming video format called Shoshmosis, which includes a clickable Flash layer. Now, Avant Interactive and partner Launch Ideas are shaking things up with what they’re calling simply “clickable video.”

You may have read about its use in a Honda campaign that launched last week and is currently running on the Jumpstart Digital Marketing group of sites, including NADA Guides and Vehix.com.

The associated creative is something to see. On the left, you watch video footage of the new 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid. Click on an aspect of the car, and on the right you’ll see close-ups and detailed information on that feature. URLs are assigned to different aspects of the online video clips, which can run at up to a seamless 30 frames per second.

“It’s more content play than advertising play,” says John deTar, a partner with Launch Ideas (formerly with Unicast and Viewpoint). “The end user isn’t forced to view an ad; instead, the interactive content makes him want to view it.”

According to deTar, the technology has already been used by Coca-Cola, which is running clickable video ads on NASCAR.com. It’s accepted by such publishers as Maxim Online and the family of Jumpstart Digital Marketing sites. “It’s very easy to implement,” deTar says. “It uses Windows Media Player plug-in, [which] most people have.”

As far as pricing is concerned, it all comes down to what site publishers want to charge. DeTar notes clickable video is no more expensive to create and implement than any other streaming video ad solution.

Where automotive manufacturers are concerned, the interactive video technology seems to be worth the investment. Instead of rolling standard footage of the car hugging the pavement on a mountain road and trusting consumers will seek out more information on their own, Honda is able to engage potential customers while educating them on its new model and inciting them to take immediate action.

Given today’s technology, online marketers no longer have an excuse where incorporating interactivity into their online video campaigns is concerned. Over the top creativity is sure to get you noticed, but it certainly isn’t required anymore. Meanwhile, marketers who’ve been waiting for an easy fix to this dilemma can breathe easy. Finally, these two online advertising mainstays have converged.

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