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Online Video Advertising: Hit or Miss

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Berry suggests that, with video content, it is also important to use online programming techniques to draw the viewers in and keep them watching and therefore make them more likely to accept the video ads along the way. "Web video is really about snacking on video, about watching short-form video," he says. "It’s really important that you put a variety of different [but] related clips in front of the viewer, so when they finish watching one, they stay to watch the next one. That could be because you are telling a story in serial fashion across multiple clips, or it could be that you are tapping an interest that a viewer has in a subject matter area and they are moving across the different clips that are related in some way."

Take Advantage of the Fact That You Are Online
Many companies are simply recycling existing TV ads for online video ads, maybe editing them to make them shorter for an online audience, but Jason Glickman, CEO at Tremor Media, argues that this is not the best use of the online format. He says that we may be seeing reuse of television ads now simply because advertisers do not have sufficient inventory of online video ads to show something different, but he says we are starting to see more ads specifically designed for the web experience and he sees that as a positive move.

"What we are seeing now is publishers creating shorter ads and different types of ad units specifically for the web and particularly for online video, and really, it’s a format that lends itself to the lean-forward [experience] of online versus the lean-back [experience] of watching TV," Glickman says. What he means by that is that the web by its nature is an active experience while TV is passive. He says you can tap into this active experience that users are used to having on the web by building in links or through design by having frames with additional information where users can click to find out more.

Glickman says it only makes sense to take advantage of the fact that you are online.

Hallmeran of eMarketer agrees, but he warns you to be careful of how you link, maybe creating a mini-site related directly to the product or service you are highlighting in the ad, rather than linking to your general site where the content of the ad may no longer be readily apparent to the viewer. "If you have a link, make sure the landing page tracks back properly to what you are doing with video because it becomes far more integral online, what you do with video and what you are doing with other aspects of your marketing." This is because viewers, he believes, don’t separate the video from your website. "If you have a [link] and it’s such a general page [that the viewer can’t find] the thing in the ad, you have undercut the effectiveness of the ad," Hallerman says.

Interactivity also provides a way to gauge viewer interest based on what they click, says Bill Reinstein, CEO at Accela Communications, a company that helps customers develop longer-form video ads for marketing purposes. He says it’s important to build in branching points after short time periods to allow the user to choose where to go next, and this provides valuable data for the ad publishers. "The act of clicking on those links, if you think about it, becomes a pre-qualifying event and also an overall piece of intelligence information that a client would want to know," Reinstein says.

But Jupiter’s Elliott isn’t as convinced that interactivity is required or even desirable. "Interactivity is not necessarily something people are looking for," he says, especially in pre-roll ads. He says, if you are a consumer watching a pre-roll ad, you want to watch the content you came to see, and not go off to another website to look at the advertiser’s content. But he acknowledges that advertisers could play with interactivity in post-roll video when viewers are finished watching the video they came for.

One last aspect of being online you should consider, according to Hallerman, is that online may be a more appropriate venue in which to experiment and take risks, although he is careful to point out that your online video advertising campaign approach depends to some extent on the type and size of your business and your particular audience.

"Once the audience has seen an ad, they just turn off readily even if it’s flashing on the screen. [You want to try] something to get their attention, remembering that with online video, it’s a better place for experimentation than television. Consider being more edgy, because a lot of the audience for video online of any age is more willing to accept it," he says.

Keep it Short for Most Ads
When it comes to online video ads, the general rule is to keep them short and respect the viewer. Hallerman says that advertisers are still trying to figure out what length people expect and will accept. Publishers will try to limit ad length, he predicts, but consumers have to understand there is a clear trade-off that in order to get higher-quality video, they need to sit through ads (just as they have for years on TV and increasingly at the movie theater). Jupiter’s Elliott agrees, saying, "[Ads have been] part of the bargain for the last 100 years."

There is general agreement to keep ads to around 15 seconds for a pre-roll, but you also have to balance the length of the clip against the length of the ad, according to Glickman. "If you put a 30-second ad in front of 40-second content, you are going to piss users off," Glickman says. He says he is actually pushing the 15-second ad as the standard for the in-stream space.

When it comes to rich media—ads that roll over the content—these ads are intrusive by their nature, but Glickman says there are rules you can follow to limit the annoyance. "You need to make sure the user can get away from it by having a clear and functional Close button. All ads should auto track and auto disappear after a period of time," he says. Tremor sets these ads for 5 or 6 seconds, but he suggests a maximum of 10 seconds’ display time before they disappear for these types of ads, explaining that you have to be sensitive to the user experience.

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