Video Killed the Pre-Roll Star

I recently reminisced about an industry panel I participated in 10 years ago. Our panel explored how brands could utilize “paid search” (what we now call SEM) to drive brand awareness, clicks, and conversion. At the time, search was still an evolving concept and the model was not clearly defined. It was so early in the evolution of SEM that the Google reps literally thanked me for revealing to the audience that Dell (I oversaw the Dell consumer online marketing group at the time) was allocating 15 to 20 percent of its enormous online budget to SEM. This percentage of spend was truly groundbreaking at the time, but we had discovered that SEM delivered clicks at one-third the price of other online vehicles and had conversion rates two times that of display, email, affiliates, and other channels.

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

As we all know, SEM exploded, Google IPO’d, and soon most online advertisers were devoting 60 to 70 percent of their budgets to SEM because it proved the most effective and measurable conversion tool. That remains true today, but in 2003, search was still finding its footing as a quantifiable, reliable marketing channel.

Fast-forward a decade. This year I was on a panel discussing how brands can best connect with audiences using online video. I believe online video is poised to become the next breakthrough medium. But right now, according to Kantar Media, only about 24 percent of national brands are using online video to market to consumers.

Video: The Next Frontier

Just as SEM was establishing itself as a quantifiable, reliable marketing channel 10 years ago, video is distinguishing itself as the way for brands to tell stories, connect on an emotional level, and inspire audience engagement. The key difference is that while SEM excelled at bottom-of-the-funnel conversion, the new digital video environment can deliver from the top (awareness) to the bottom (conversion) and beyond (conversation).

Today, digital video is becoming a linchpin to effective audience engagement and activation. When done correctly, video can connect with consumers on an emotional level, drive engagement, and inspire action. After a decade of repurposing TV spots to run as online pre-roll, marketers and agencies are using online video as a conversation starter, rather than a one-way monologue. In addition, top publishers are delivering innovative ad units that transition standard IAB units into multimedia Swiss Army Knives.

How to Best Connect With Users

With today’s online and emerging mobile tools, brands can evolve video assets from a one-way push mechanism (TV) to a two-way conversation starter. When done correctly, video can connect with consumers on an emotional level, and drive engagement and action. Brands that are producing innovative, engaging online video include:

  • Pepsi Max’s “Test Drive” with Jeff Gordon with over 35 million views.
  • The infamous Old Spice campaign with 110 million views and 107 percent product sales increase month-over-month.
  • Fox’s “Parental Guidance” story with an average user engagement of 2:45.

Moving beyond these new uses of traditional online media are brands like American Express, which used a “behind the scenes” video to promote the AmEx Unstaged Vampire Weekend concert, and Lowe’s, which launched the “Lowe’s Fix in Six” home improvement tips utilizing Vine. Each offers video that extends the brand’s personality and engages users in unexpected ways, minus any clear call-to-action…something you could not afford to do in traditional media.

These levels of engagement would cost millions with a traditional TV buy, and you are never going to get nearly three minutes of engagement with a TV spot.

But you do not need to be a global brand with Super Bowl budgets to leverage online video; several agencies like Poptent and Victors & Spoils deliver crowdsourced creative solutions to clients large and small at a fraction of the traditional agency model. Even better, the client receives completed spots (not storyboards) for less than the cost of agency concepting.

With the onset of native advertising, content marketing/marketing content, brand storytelling, and engagement ads, the limitations inherent to the early days of digital video – pre-rolls – have been eliminated and replaced with expansive, diverse, and targeted video that can inspire, engage, and create dialogue with audiences.

Now armed with the right tools – for producing and delivering digital video – marketers can fine-tune not only the messages but also the channels they deliver them through. As marketers, we can track the metrics and entertain and engage audiences at the same time.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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