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Online Video Advertising: What Works and What Fails

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This is just an example of Innovid’s approach. On a strategic level, “We agree with IBM’s Yuchun Lee about the new 4Ps of marketing: Permission-based, Persuasion, Personalized, and Presence-based,” says Netter. The goal of the 4Ps approach is to “provide value to consumers and persuade them to engage.” Tools include humor, quizzes, and games to entice consumers to want to learn more about the advertised product/service, he added. “Retailers, movie studios, and car makers can also extend their retail presence and turn any in-stream player into a pop-up store.”
 
Finally, great advertising is as much about what you put in as what you leave out. “For effective interactive advertising, it is key to not overwhelm the viewer with options,” explains Sanderson. “Decide what the goals are, build in the supporting key features strategically. Be clear and concise. Be direct and don’t overwhelm the viewer.”
 

What Fails in Online Video Advertising

 
There are many ways to rob an interactive online video ad of its punch, making it fail.
 
One way is to annoy the consumer with extended forced viewing, poorly designed on-screen tools, and click-through features that don’t strongly reinforce the product, service, or message being promoted. Interactive features that are boring, amateurish, and hard-to-use can also turn viewers off.
 
Another way to go wrong is to create interactive ads that do not work with the range of smartphones, tablets, and computers currently in use. “The biggest challenge that brands face when doing interactive video ads is all the platforms that have to be served,” says David Regan, Brightcove’s senior product manager for Video Cloud. “It’s not just the problem of iOS, Android, and BlackBerry: Some older viewing devices don’t support onscreen interactivity, whereas new ones do,” he notes. “Producers of interactive online video content have to take this fact into account, and prepare multiple versions to deal with it.”
 
A mistake that puzzles Ed Haslam, YuMe’s SVP of marketing, is online video ads whose interactive features push people away from the content they’re viewing. “You don’t see a Procter & Gamble TV commercial telling you to get [up] from your chair and go out and buy soap right now,” Haslam explains. “Yet some interactive online video ads do just that: They try to break you away from the medium you are consuming at that moment, by directing you to other sites that take you away from the content.”
 
Overkill is also a brand assassin; it’s a crime that many advertisers commit. This is because “[b]ad advertising is often built on the mistaken belief that because you can, you should,” says YuMe, which worked with Mini on this ad campaign, discourages interactivity that pushes people away from the content they’re viewing.
 
Advertising 2013 4

YuMe, which worked with Mini on this ad campaign, discourages interactivity that pushes people away from the content they’re viewing. 

 
Tremor’s Sanderson. “In other words, bad ads may try to fit a whole brand’s website into what should be a much more simple advertising experience. Any more than three to five options in an interactive slate is really pushing the limits of what the viewer will respond to effectively.”
 
Remember: “If you get your interactive online video ad wrong, you’re more likely to seriously alienate the consumer than if you just did a crappy display or print ad,” Minnium observes. In other words, a good interactive online video ad may be good for business, but a bad one can be disastrous.
 

A Tool to Be Used Wisely

 
Properly done, interactive online video ads can deliver solid results for sponsors and the online/mobile sites they purchase space on. This is why the IAB is working so hard to create standardized ad formats; it’s why Minnium is so bullish about the potential of this ad medium. “If we do this right, we could see a good 50 percent of all video ad buys incorporating interactivity,” he predicts. “The profit potential for Internet operators is simply huge.”
 

Sidebar: Server-Based Ad Insertion Maximizes ROI

 
The growth of online video viewing -- either interactive or passive -- does not automatically spell success for advertisers. To capitalize effectively on these eyeballs, online video ads need to be targeted to the right viewers. This means not playing commercials for Depends adult diapers to teenagers, a Wiz Khalifa song to Bible Belt fundamentalists, or Longhorn Steakhouse dinner specials to vegans.
 
This is why so many websites take the time to learn about their viewers’ ages, tastes, and preferences in exchange for access. Yet this knowledge is of little use unless it is used to select the right commercials based on this demographic data. This is where server-based ad insertion software comes in. Made by companies such as Elemental Technologies, Inc.; mDialog Corp.; and SeaWell Networks, Inc.; this software targets the right ads to the right audiences, whether for live streaming or video on demand (VOD). Elemental Technologies’ Elemental Live is a processing and encoding solution for video streaming. It works with both live and VOD events, and it can be integrated into existing media installations, as well as new ones. Elemental Live supports Adobe Flash, Apple HLS, and Microsoft Smooth Streaming. To ensure that its insertions marry well with these systems, this software uses player-side ad insertion of cue points for Flash, manifest manipulation for Apple HLS, and metadata tracking to tell clients when ad insertions should be done for Microsoft Smooth Streaming.
 
“TV may increasingly be ‘everywhere’, but in 2013 and beyond it’s going to have to be all about monetizing everywhere,” said Keith Wymbs, vice president of marketing for Elemental Technologies. “Traditional forms of TV advertising are akin to burning money in the street given their inability to precisely target and customize ads. Multiscreen monetization solutions from market leaders makes dynamic ad insertion into live and archived streams easy.”
 
mDialog’s ad insertion product is called SmartStream Platform. Working interactively with major North American media companies, the SmartStream Platform manages, delivers, and measures video advertising across a range of IP-connected devices. It serves technology including iPad, iPhone, Android, GoogleTV, Apple TV, Roku, and Xbox.
 
“The ability to insert and track uniquely addressable advertising across the fragmented landscape of connected devices is the key to advancing TV Everywhere,” said Greg Philpott, founder and CEO of mDialog. “In addition to delivering video ads across connected devices, mDialog’s video management platform solves a massive scale problem -- managing the insertion and measurement of uniquely addressable TV ads in real-time across million of TV Everywhere streams, essentially inserting a unicast TV ad break into a multicast TV stream.”
 
SeaWell Network’s ad insertion platform is known as Spectrum. It controls adaptive bitrate (ABR) viewing sessions on the web and mobile devices, allowing the content to be served to a variety of viewing platforms. It interconnects to subscriber databases and content distribution policy servers, choosing the right ads to insert based on the combination of these two data sources. Spectrum also provides data on which videos are selected and how they are viewed.
 
Whatever the ad insertion platform, making this process work is no small feat: It requires a behind-the-scenes interaction between servers housing the viewer’s demographic data -- as much of it as happens to be available at the time -- the content provider’s server, and the advertising server(s). The server-based ad insertion software acts as referee and manager of this interaction, and it does so on-the-fly. Given how many platforms currently have to be served, plus the advent of newer distribution technologies such as HTML5 and MPEG-DASH, companies that make server-based ad insertion products have their work cut out for them.
 
This article appears in the April/May 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Online Video Advertising Grows Up."

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