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.
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!