Commentary

Online Video Commercials: The Advent of the 10-second Spot

Mookie Tenembaum is the founder of United Virtualities, a provider of Internet advertising technologies and marketer of the Shoshkeles ad platform. Throughout the history of Internet advertising, publishers and technology providers have been like Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. As if someone or something would arrive to provide a raison d'etre to justify our magnificent obsession.

It seems that we tend to overlook the in which the Internet has fundamentally changed the way that we communicate with one another, research everything from our kids' school work to new cars and access news and entertainment simply because advertisers have not embraced us as quickly, or richly as we think we deserve. We look at nearly every new development as the "big thing" that will finally open up the floodgates of ad dollars.

The fact is each new technology (even if it fails to deliver on its pre-launch hype) makes a contribution toward refining how effective the Internet can be as an ad medium. Look at how the early iterations of push and behavioral targeting have been re-invented and now are fantastically more successful than when first introduced.

Coming away from AdTech, San Francisco, one might be led to believe that streaming video commercials are the next "big thing." As broadband gradually replaces dial-up, it becomes possible for online users to receive video commercials with sound and motion quality equal to television. Has Godot finally arrived?

The answer is an unequivocal-maybe.

One of the mistakes we have made in the past is to assume that content from traditional media could be re-purposed for the Web. That might have worked for recipes and baseball scores, but it didn't for news stories (which are now shorter and full of hotlinks). Magazine ad pages didn't translate to the Web successfully and neither will 30-second TV spots. Here is why.

TiVo and Replay TV not withstanding, TV spots are made knowing that the audience is essentially passive and in many cases, downright inert. The audience hardly even picks up the phone and dials an 800 number anymore (unless it is to vote off a singer or a comic). There is no interaction with the ad, so it tends to be loud and convey a brand "feeling," rather than a product attribute. By the third or fourth exposure, you might start to remember the product name. I can't say that this approach doesn't work because as the just-ending upfront demonstrates, advertisers still have faith that the 30-second spot moves product off shelves.

But online, consumers are anything but passive. They are actively engaged in the medium and have the power to stop a video spot in a heartbeat. The idea that users idly "surf" the 'Net is a myth of bygone days. People go to the Internet with a purpose and infrequently go beyond their bookmarked sites. While this engagement with the medium means people are paying attention (and are poised to take advantage of the Internet's unique interactivity), it also means they are somewhat impatient. I don't think they will sit still for 30 seconds of sight sound and motion.

I am not alone in this view. Recently, Avenue A New York President Jim Warner told the Tacoda User Group meeting that just because re-purposing 30-second TV spots was easy to do, they do not begin to leverage the Web's interactivity. He too, envisions shorter online video. Belo Interactive has already garnered success with 15-second online streaming video spots.

In my view, 10 seconds is about right. It is enough time to engage the viewer then hand them off to a static Website or e-commerce shop, or the chance to play a longer video of their choosing. Everything in our lives has been time compressed and we have developed a shorter attention span. Just behind us is the MTV generation which can multi-task and will probably only see commercials in the context of five others things they are doing at the same moment. To that and still younger generations, 30 seconds of anything (unless they really like it) is an eternity.

I predict a whole new industry will grow up around the creation of 10-second Internet streaming video commercials. In fact, Red Creek Productions has already begun development of 10-second online video spots. Just like the 30-second spot replaced the 60-second spot, the 10-second spot is coming. But since it will be able to deliver a very short brand message, it will have to be inexorably linked to the interactivity of the Web in order to provide users who really want to engage, the additional information they want. The creative approach will have to be unlike anything on TV now, and there will have to a seamless transition to other Web resources.

Implemented effectively 10-second spots will pull in-market buyers to a place where retailers, dealers or even manufacturers know they have a hot prospect and can shorten the buying cycle.

This is one case where less will be more. Mookie Tenembaum is the founder of United Virtualities, a provider of Internet advertising technologies and marketer of the Shoshkeles ad platform.

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