Honda, Saab Poised To Launch Campaigns With Unicast Video Commercial

Two big auto brands--Honda and Saab--are poised to launch campaigns using the Unicast Video Commercial within a matter of days on ESPN.com, About.com, MSN, iVillage, and AccuWeather, according to Unicast. And in a follow-up to a related announcement last month, Unicast has made the second iteration of its Video Commercial format available on a full market basis. "We wanted to be sure we followed through on our commitment to the marketplace," explains Allie Savarino, SVP-Unicast.

Honda plans to run Video Commercials through the end of the year for multiple campaigns across multiple sites; the automaker has run three campaigns employing earlier versions of the format. A Unicast Video Commercial for the Honda Element enables users to register to receive a brochure or emails and view a series of photos through a section adjacent to the video display. Saab will run Unicast ads to reinforce its television campaign featuring the same spot. Representatives from Honda and Saab were not available for comment.

The Video Commercial format is a pre-cached full-page unit that plays 15- to-30-second commercials as users transition from one Web page to the next. Unicast's offering is delivered to a user's PC completely before it can be viewed. Once it is cached, the video ad runs after the user clicks to a new page. The format requires no plug-in player, and is accepted by 75 Web publisher sites.

Unlike the first version of the Video Commercial--which allowed for interactivity via a Flash trailer presented after the video ran--the new Video Commercial allows users to interact with ad components such as registration forms, games, and send-to-a-friend features as the video plays, or after it's complete.

Non-plug-in streaming video formats provided by companies like EyeWonder, Klipmart, and Eyeblaster use Flash or Java technologies; these technologies stream video, at least partially, as it plays. As confirmed by company spokesmen at EyeWonder, Klipmart, and Eyeblaster, the firms' video ad units each allow for interactivity to occur while video plays. Each also offers a variety of ad formats and sizes.

At this point, Unicast has made only the full-page format available--although according to Savarino, the firm has received "lots of requests" from advertisers for additional video commercial formats. She predicts that the company may have an update on the development of such formats this summer.

Because Unicast Video Commercial ads play video at 30 frames per second, Savarino contends that the company has the leg up on other video ad competitors that stream video at a relatively slower rate. In the United States, television video plays at 30 frames per second, while motion pictures play at 24 frames per second.

"It's really a quality issue," suggests Savarino, who believes that if the interactive ad industry wants to lure more dollars from television budgets, Web ads "have to act and function and look like TV."

Chris Young, CEO of streaming video ad technology outfit Klipmart, argues that broadcast-quality capability does not play a major role in terms of advertiser adoption of online video ad formats. "Clients aren't holding back saying, 'Your quality isn't good enough,'" observes Young. Klipmart video ads play at 20 frames per second on average. Young points to the fact that Unicast video ads must pre-cache, and can play only when the user clicks to a new page as a "serious inventory issue" for site publishers.

Jason Scheidt, Director of Marketing at streaming video technology firm EyeWonder, notes that the company's advertiser clients are often "trying to maximize the amount of information they can generate through the unit," so they may choose to disable video if the user opts to interact with another component of EyeWonder's various ad formats. Ads employing EyeWonder technology for the Disney film "Around the World in 80 Days" are currently running on AOL, and ads promoting purchases of Lenny Kravitz's new CD from Target that use EyeWonder video are set to run soon as well.

Cautions Scheidt: "Interactivity for interactivity's sake is not necessarily a good thing if it doesn't accomplish what the advertiser wants to accomplish."