Get In The Game, But Avoid Common Pitfalls
In December 2007, research from Comscore showed that online viewers watched an average of 3.4 hours (203 minutes) of online video in that month. And, according to Bear Stearns, advertisers will spend $1.35 billion on Web video advertising in the United States in 2008 (market-research companies expect this figure to grow to approximately $4.3 billion by 2011).
Clearly, there is a robust audience and fertile playing ground at advertisers' fingertips. And they're hoping to take advantage of it. But before they break out the checkbook, marketers need to nail down the basics and beware of three common mistakes made with ads across online video entertainment sites:
Mistake 1: Blasting an arsenal of ad units on a site. The unique asset of online video audiences is their laser-focus on the box playing the video they are watching. As a result, traditional IAB ad units don't do much for brands on sites serving online video -- unless those ads are tied to a video that works in conjunction with them. Brands need to better collaborate with sites to integrate their content within and around the video player, with complementary ad units that don't look redundant. One successful example was Apple's unique video ad that played earlier this year with MAC and PC personas and standard 728x90 and 160x600 units. This campaign was unique in two ways: audience acknowledgement and message coherence.
Mistake 2: Repurposing broadcast ads. Online video audiences accept the fact that free video access comes with ad support, but anything longer than 15 seconds is too long. Given the length of online videos (Comscore puts the average at 2.8 minutes) and the amount of time spent online (approximately seven minutes per day), 30-second spots are simply unacceptable. Respect the audience with shorter spots, and they'll be more likely to pay attention to your message.
The idea is to create a narrative for the audience, not an interruption, because online audiences have different attention spans than television audiences. An ideal scenario might be as follows: Create 5-second brand centric pre-roll with 15-second entertainment centric post-roll that includes actionable value proposition or free stuff. As noted above, an accompanying banner might also refer to the value prop.
Mistake 3: Branded entertainment that's irrelevant to the Web site Online audiences are particularly sensitive to being marketed to. Ensure you're targeting your audience, and go beyond the rate card. Comedy? News? Sports? Music? Advertising can go a long way to build brand awareness, but ads must embrace the content around them.
For example, eHonda had a chance to sponsor one of its contests on a short film channel on an online entertainment site which made perfect sense for a brand promoting a compact car -- short provocative films for a compact sassy car. Similarly, Ford created an episodic series about two 20-somethings traveling cross country following rock brands from one gig to the next in their Ford listening to music on their voice activated SYNC. Again, a perfect opportunity for integration -- this time with an indie rock channel.
The result: both campaigns gained significant traction, with Honda getting some of the highest CTRs in the space and Ford's Kim & Seana garnering over 1.2 million streams (compared to 5,000 on YouTube and MySpace). This is because the ad content was relevant for the entertainment content, an asset most likely found on professional sites where content is edited compared to the user-generated content.
Although the clutter of video sites makes the landscape murky, we need to keep one thing in mind -- our industry is still in its infancy. We, along with the brands, are only beginning to experiment with ad units and opportunities. Because of the stage we are in, and the fact that production costs for online advertising are less expensive than television, the field is open for play. Whether it's product placements, creative episodic content, or ad overlays, one thing is certain: this is an entertainment medium. Put the same creative effort into this audience as you would for that of the Superbowl or the Oscars. Make every minute count. "Content is king" -- and even when it comes to advertising, the best content will get the biggest audience.