Commentary

The :30 Isn't Dead, It's Just Looking for the Right Audience

  • by June 30, 2009
Recent headlines regarding the online video industry have been contradictory, to say the least. One day, Hulu is the greatest thing for online advertising since the 468; the next it's time to bring out the pay-per-view model.

There is no doubt that long-form video has a robust future on the Web, but for that future to be advertising-supported, a critical element needs to be thrown in the advertising mix: data.

Data is the key to taking the professionally-produced online video ad business from a low-def copy of the "broad"cast TV business, to a true dynamic leader in high impact, high value targeted advertising. The combination of targeting data with the brand impact of a video ad can provide a 1-2 punch that delivers a knockout for both DM and brand awareness campaigns.

The challenge to make this happen will be to shift the mindset of both the content originators -- mainly the big broadcast nets -- and the ad buyers, from an idea of "content as a lead for the audience" to the concept of "buying audience directly." Currently, most online video advertising is sold and delivered the same way since the days of the rabbit ear antenna: match the campaign's demos to the general demo appeal of the content, and hope that this shotgun approach hits at least a majority of your target.

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The most blatant example of the inaccuracy of this method can be found on any given Sunday in your neighborhood sports bar. When I settle in to catch my Steelers and indulge in a few adult beverages, I always am amazed at the number of female fans cheering on the Steel Curtain. As a matter of fact, according to a 2008 Scarborough Sports Marketing report, 34% of the Steelers fans are women. Yet, every ad that is shown during the game is targeted to men. Trucks, razors, hardware stores, the list goes on. Not quite the "50% waste" that John Wanamaker complained about almost 100 years ago, but pretty darn close.

But online, this doesn't have to be. The amount of targeting data related to audience demographics, interest and purchase intent is massive and growing. Access to this data is becoming more fluid, so that even the smallest video publishers can leverage precise audience targeting data, and deliver the most appropriate ad to that viewer. In the data-driven online video world, that female Steelers fan doesn't have to watch a video for Rogaine -- she can be targeted with an ad for hair conditioner. The city dweller who just searched online for prices on a two-door hybrid won't be served an ad for a 4x4. Considering the CPMs of video ads, the cost of production and delivery, doing otherwise is just wasteful on the part of marketers and detrimental to the future growth prospects of the online video ad business.

The time is ripe for video publishers, aggregators and video content networks to fully utilize the power of online content delivery and embrace targeting data. Like never before, online targeting data provides the pinpoint "narrowcast" capabilities that the Mad Men of yesterday could only dream of for their Brylcream campaigns. The 30-second online spot isn't dead, it's just looking for the right audience!

6 comments about "The :30 Isn't Dead, It's Just Looking for the Right Audience ".
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  1. Ona Kiser, June 30, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

    From the perspective of a consumer, I can't wait! Advertising is only tedious when it is not relevant to me. I'll tell you exactly what I want to know more about. Please show me ads on those topics!! Please!

  2. Brad Stewart from Molecule Inc., June 30, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.

    As creative production options become increasingly sophisticated and cost-effective, look out! Great post, Mark.

  3. Gian Fulgoni from 4490 Ventures, June 30, 2009 at 6:04 p.m.

    Insightful article, Mark.
    I would expect nothing less than excellence from anyone who is a member of Steeler Nation :)

  4. Jason Krebs from Tenor/Google, June 30, 2009 at 6:29 p.m.

    Over 20% of hair growth purchases are recommended by women. Bye-bye rogaine sales!

  5. Shane Lundy from SponsorSelect, July 1, 2009 at 9:16 a.m.

    I agree that delivering high quality content on demand to the consumer is not a technology hurdle. The most important constituent in the world of free content is the advertiser and the current advertising paradigm has too much waste to ever be effective. As an industry, we must set the bar higher than "reducing media waste". We must eliminate media waste! Leveraging contextual data sets will help reduce the waste however another layer of behavioral targeting is needed to eliminate the waste. The tip of the behavioral targeting spear must begin with the consumer and the most effective way to know what a consumer is in market to purchase is to ask them. It is this final layer of targeting that SponsorSelect introduced 8 years ago. We remain optimistic that self targeting that leverages contextual data sets will be the ad model that wins.

  6. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, July 1, 2009 at 7:26 p.m.

    I'm curious how long it took before the broadcast world got their advertising model(s) "right"? or at least "mostly right"? We might be at this awhile before something acceptable emerges from the stew we're all stirring.

    I also think that there are significantly more user scenarios in the online world than there are in the broadcast viewing world. Simply put, we can accept that the basic (let's say 80%) TV viewer is in the living room in a cushy chair, looking to be passively entertained. Ads, ad serving and ad measuring have all grown up around that basic concept.

    To me, in comparison, the online world has more forks in the decision tree all of which have an impact on ads, ad serving, and ad measuring.

    In addition to male/female and age demos (both similar to TV), there is work vs. home (different from TV), searching vs. entertainment (different from TV), and probably a few more I am forgetting. Hopefully "narrowcasting" will at some point be able to recognize and "handle" these additional forks and continue improving the ad environment.

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