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Online Video Advertising: Hit or Miss

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One thing is certain: Online video advertising is growing at a rapid rate, and advertisers who aren’t using it could be missing out on a huge opportunity to reach their target market. But advertisers used to more conventional forms of ad delivery will want to be careful about throwing money at a new advertising medium without knowing what works and what doesn’t. Although this may be a nascent advertising medium, experts can still identify effective techniques for this type of advertising and ways to keep eyeballs on your ad and interested in your message. Conversely, there are ways to alienate and aggravate viewers, things you absolutely should avoid.

The rules to some extent may depend on the type of video you are running. Many advertisers are running pre-roll ahead of video content or post-roll after it’s run, while others are running video ads, typically in-stream banner ads whether or not there is other video content on the site. Still others are running longer-form videos for marketing purposes or in a player adjacent to a display ad. Regardless of the type of ad, there are some general rules of thumb you should always follow to keep on the good side of viewers.

You Need to Be Thinking About Online Video Ads
A recent survey of 1,422 online video users called "Frames of Reference," conducted by the Online Publisher’s Association (OPA), found that 80% of online video viewers had watched an online video ad and, of those people, more than half (52%) took some action such as checking out a website, searching for more information, or even going to a brick-and-mortar store to check out a product in person. These numbers show that consumers who watch video online will not only watch online video advertising, but those ads will also influence their behavior.

Nate Elliott, an analyst at Jupiter Research, reports that online video advertising in the United States is expected to total a shade under $500 million in 2007. While this is a significant sum, it is a small share of the overall $17.7 billion online display ad spending Jupiter Research projects for the coming year. Elliott expects online video ad spending to continue to grow and make up a greater and greater share of online ad spending over time. David Hallerman, an analyst at eMarketer, reports similar online video ad numbers, predicting $775 million in total online video ad spending for this year, rising to $2 billion by 2009, but Hallerman also sees a market still trying to find itself.

"People are doing a lot of experimenting because the major outstanding question is, ‘How are we going to deliver online video ads to the audience?’" says Hallerman. But in spite of the insecurity inherent to a new advertising medium, he says that video ads are catching the attention of advertisers and publishers alike. "More and more brand advertisers are looking to the internet. They know that their audience spends more and more time there and watches a fair amount of video and that’s clearly increasing rapidly." Hallerman believes that online ads give you the ability to engage people’s hearts and minds far more than any paid search (even though search ads are a much larger market).

"Figuring out how to deliver those ads is part of what’s going on now, but most certainly advertisers are looking [at online video ads] and publishers want it too because it’s the most expensive form of online advertising and therefore potentially more profitable for them," Hallerman explains.

Make Ads Relevant
Advertisers’ first priority should be to link their video ad to interesting content, says Adam Berry, VP of marketing at internet TV service Brightcove. "You want to have really compelling content that viewers want to watch and you want to make sure the content is vetted and has a context brand-marketers can trust," Berry says. What’s more, the content of the ad should be related to other content on the site or to the video the viewer really wants to watch. Berry says that audience, content, and ads are all inter-related, and you have to keep that in mind as you develop an online video ad campaign. "There is a three-way [connection] between the audience, the content, and the advertiser. The content draws them in. Once you get content right, you bring the audience and the content drives the advertising," he says.

Richard Glosser, executive director of emerging media at CondéNet (the online arm of publisher Condé Nast, whose sites include www.epicurious.com and www.concierge.com) says he always tries to ensure that the video ads on his site are relevant to his audience. "I think for us as CondéNet, we have a particular niche audience," he says, and that makes it even more important to deliver meaningful ads to this audience. He offers viewers who are interested in fashion as an example. These visitors, he says, are looking for a very stylistically produced video. When the ad is interesting or relevant, the consumer is going to accept it more readily and watch it through, he says, because they are seeing something that already interests them.

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