Commentary

Advertisers: Download Your Way to Message-Friendly Audiences

A recent Knowledge Networks study shows that use of network-produced video increased to over a third (37%) of online users -- up by more than a quarter over the previous year (27%). And that should come as no surprise, given the amount of content TV networks are now offering online.

But these users of online video come in two distinct types, with very different online habits -- and different potential value to advertisers.

These types are viewers of streaming video, and those who download video for viewing later on their laptop or iPod. The proportion of online users who said they had downloaded network-produced video has remained constant year-to-year at 11%, now less than a third of streamers. But, in contrast to streamers, downloaders have greater exposure to and acceptance of advertising.

A vast majority (80%) of downloaders in 2008 said they were willing to watch ads in return for free downloads -- up strongly from two thirds the previous year. By contrast, 68% of streamers stop watching when pre-roll advertising comes on.

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As most downloaders are also streamers, their exposure to "free" ad-supported video in the streaming world seems to be causing them some cognitive dissonance when in the downloading world. Why, for instance, should they only be able to get "Lost" by paying iTunes $1.99 when they can watch it for free by streaming?

Another aspect of downloaders' pay-avoidance (as opposed to ad avoidance) came in another study we did last year, that established that almost a quarter of regular downloaders have downloaded pirated video.

Why should advertisers and marketers care? First off, despite their tech-forward stance, downloaders do tend to be more "ad friendly" than streamers -- for instance, they are more likely to agree that ads on their favorite TV programs are relevant to them, and they are more inclined to buy from companies that advertise on their favorite programs.

And, compared with streamers of network video, downloaders are more cutting-edge in the use of media technology: although equally likely to use a DVR as streamers, downloaders tend to be more likely to have invested in newer equipment (HDTV and iPods), and to use new services. This slice of the market is always difficult to reach, but this could offer a prime option to add to the marketing mix.

In this economy, we must assume that consumers will be ever-more tempted to seek out lower- or no-cost alternatives to video to which they may already feel a sense of entitlement. And herein lies the rub - where pay avoidance could lead to ad avoidance, also.

These insights about downloaders reveal the potential opportunity awaiting brands willing to offer their prospects free video downloads. The transient nature of streaming video (view on the fly, with no option to save) contrasts with the persistent nature of downloaded video (saved locally for permanent anytime access) -- creating an opportunity for a consumer benefit and a brand message that also has the potential to persist in saved content.

And, when it comes to downloaders, being persistent as an advertiser may indeed pay off.

1 comment about "Advertisers: Download Your Way to Message-Friendly Audiences ".
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  1. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., April 16, 2009 at 12:31 p.m.

    Now I wonder about few thing..

    Downloader: Tech Savvy | Content comes with Pay/download | More inclined to Ad/download

    Streamer: Increasing growth | Content comes with Ad/Stream | Avoidance to Ads

    Now the question for streamer is - are they willing to substitute Ad/Stream with Pay/Stream? And if they are, are they willing to subscribe on a monthly+unlimited stream basis (Rhapsody model) or are they willing to pay per stream? Obviously, these questions when answered might emerge a different biz model (or a stronger mutant of a current one).

    However, the answers to above questions will significantly depend on two or more factors. I would like to highlight on two for now:

    First: Infrastructure support ++
    If there is a persistent connection to the streaming source, then saving to my local machine becomes kind of redundant IF I have an unlimited subscription to content library. Then, I might be OK with AD insertion if that completely discounts my subscription fees. Actually, since libraries are individual walled gardens, this AD/Stream may work if the subscriber doesn't have to worry about paying different amounts for different flavors and categories of subscription from different vendors. The content provider can actually embed the pricing variance right in the AD length or interactivity. User will just see a pre-roll or interstitial. But this persistent connection then pushes usability towards mobile access! in handhelds?

    Second: User's Ability to Engage with Content ++
    Right now, user evaluates the value of content by the nature of information provided or degree/dimension of entertainment provided, topped by any celebrity affiliation with the content. There is technically no engagement for the user other than clicking on an AD or participating in a small flash game to get a 10% off discount on next purchase kind of thing. But think about this... if the user can seek more info, satisfy curiosity, and share/evaluate/vote on different segments of content, then the appropriate opt in and AD or message presence at points of engagement might generate superior value for the consumer. He may then be just fine with watching ADs on streaming content.

    So, it depends on the infrastructure support and user awareness and behavior and how merchants/providers modulate the engagement nature to drive usage inclined to a certain monetization model.

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