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Online Video Advertising: What Works and What Fails
2013 looks to be a strong year in online video advertising, with interactivity and targeting as the keys to success. But be careful, because one size does not fit all.
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Interactivity is, perhaps more than anything else, what makes the web different from TV, radio, and print. Yet only 10%–15% of current online video ads are interactive. “The other 85 percent are simply repurposed TV ads, where the viewer is just supposed to sit and watch,” says Tim Avila, VP of product marketing for video ad platform BrightRoll, Inc. “That’s sad, because research proves that viewers exposed to interactive ads have higher product awareness than viewers exposed to non-interactive ads,” he said.
Interacting with online ads motivates consumers to dig deeper into the content and makes them more willing to buy whatever’s being advertised. So, in other words, this means is that 85% of online video ads are not achieving their full potential.
But hope is on the horizon: At the time this article was being written, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) was on the verge of releasing a series of standardized interactive online video ad formats.
“The idea is to provide advertising agencies with the same kind of standardized ad formats that are used for 30-second radio and TV spots,” says Peter Minnium, the IAB’s head of brand initiatives. “This will hopefully make them more comfortable with purchasing interactive online video ads, and allow this format to achieve the growth and dominance it deserves.”
“We want to provide the agencies with turnkey solutions,” echoes Seneca Mudd, the IAB’s director of industry initiatives. “If we make it easier for ad agencies to buy turnkey solutions, chances are that more agencies will do so.”
In proposing these new formats, the IAB is thinking very, very big. “We want interactive online video ads to become the lead horse in the race for brand advertising dollars,” Minnium declares. “That’s what will happen with this medium, if we are doing it right.”

One Size Does Not Fit All

The fact that the IAB is proposing a series of interactive online video ad formats -- sources say the range is between four to six formats -- illustrates a simple reality: When it comes to interactive online video ads, one size does not fit all.
“Interactive video ads can encompass the full screen or appear in a portion of the screen and either pause or preempt the content of the video,” says Peter Koeppel, founder and president of the direct response advertising agency Koeppel Direct. “These types of video ads permit a range of interactions, such as signing up for an offer, requesting a coupon, clicking to obtain more information about a product or service, determining the location of a retailer, or taking you to a shopping cart.”
There are all kinds of ways that interactivity can be married to an online video ad. The application can be as simple as a button that allows viewers to skip the ad after 5 seconds or as complex as the ability to click on aspects of the video itself to drill down to more details. It is also possible to provide Facebook and Twitter links to let the viewer share the video with friends if they so choose, and to steer them to product-related feeds on these and other social media sites.
“A basic premise for looking at interactive video advertising would be to consider that a standard pre-roll as a 1 on an interactive scale of 1–10,” says David Sanderson, senior director of creative strategy at video ad platform Tremor Video. “Taking the concept [of] a standard pre-roll as your base vehicle for the message, you have literally thousands of ways to slice and dice interactive video,” Sanderson explains. “You can add to, augment, apply functions, features, layouts, additional videos, dynamic feeds, social linking mechanisms, weather, movie tickets, retail, shopping, polls, search, downloads, and uploads. And you can do this across all interactive mediums, including instream, mobile, tablet, connected TV and even in-page.”
This is the true beauty of interactive online video advertising: It offers elbow room for advertisers and ad agencies experimenting with new ways to cut through the clutter. The trick to success, as the IAB’s Minnium says, is “doing it right.”

What Works in Online Video Advertising

Choosing the right online video ad format can pay big dividends. For instance, Pittsburgh advertising agency Brunner, Inc. worked with BrightRoll to develop an interactive online video ad campaign for the Cub Cadet RZT zero-turn riding mower.
“The interactive element was aimed at supporting a national ‘test drive’ campaign to get people to experience the quality of our products first hand,” says Candice Puzak, Brunner’s group media director. “Online video has performed well for us but we wanted people to be able to find an event through our ads as well, so we added an interactive overlay over the video pre-roll. When a viewer clicked the overlay, they were able to enter a zip code for a test drive event near them.”
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Cub Cadet saw a 128% increase in click-throughs when it added interactivity to its preroll video ads. 

The result? “We saw a 128% increase in our click through rate from interactive online video versus standard video,” Puzak says. “Moreover, the mobile interactive pre-roll video ads delivered 250 percent above our benchmark.”
Clearly format matters; some forms of interactive online video ads deliver successful results, while others fail miserably.
So what kinds of ad models succeed? “A basic ‘call to action,’ which can be expressed by interacting with the online video ad, is extremely effective,” replies Atul Patel, CEO of OneScreen, Inc., a provider of digital video publishing, content, and advertising products/services. “The smart way to do this is to provide a one-click response button or some other simple way for people to respond,” Patel says. “This approach is far more successful than making complex demands, such as asking the viewer to fill out an online form, because it serves as a stepping stone for transitioning from television advertising -- where the audience isn’t used to interacting at all.”
Successful interactive online video ads build “consumer engagement with a brand,” says Koeppel. “They also allow for interactivity that grows in the player or when the consumer clicks through to a marketer’s landing page or website.”
“In general, keeping the interactivity self-contained within the ad is best,” advises Diaz Nesamoney, president and CEO of Jivox, maker of the Jivox interactive video advertising platform. “Click-through cause a disruptive user experience, and often end the user’s engagement as it takes them out of context.”
Innovid knows a lot about successful interactive online video ads: Its iRoll interactive preroll platform delivers such content to the web/mobile for clients such as the movie Madagascar 3, Nissan, and HTC Corp. In 2012, the company saw demand for its iRoll products grow 400% in 2012. “In some global markets like the UK, we saw 100 percent growth month over month,” says Innovid CEO Zvika Netter.
When asked what makes an interactive online video work, Netter points to Nissan’s Versa iRoll campaign. “From within the iRoll engagement slate, users could view videos that helped them experience the interior of a Nissan Versa, and learn more about the car’s features through a variety of hotspots,” he says. “Once clicked, the hotspots showcased each feature in more detail. The iRoll unit also offered multiple click-through points that took users to the ‘My Versa Road Trip’ website where they could participate in the contest.”
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Innovid saw demand for its iRoll interactive ads, like this one for the HTC One X+ phone, grow 400% in 2012. On the top is the ad before interaction; on the bottom is the expanded version. 

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