We'll Do It Live!

I've spoken at length about both the radical and advantageous ways in which video ads can vary from their television counterparts. While some advertisers are embracing the many benefits our medium offers in the areas of targeting, analysis and interactivity, many still are not.

It is, of course, easier and less expensive (in the upfront) to repurpose a 30-second TV spot, but that golden opportunity to talk to your target customers where they live is unfortunately lost.

So what are the options? At the most basic level, advertisers can create a digital-specific component as part of their campaign -- and keep it to 15 seconds to achieve the greatest distribution. Interactivity layered on top of the pre-roll is even more interesting. But what if we began to have a true real-time conversation with our consumers -- and do it live?

The 1990s offered several returns to the kind of live programming not generally seen in decades -- the television shows "ER" and "Roc" both got into the action, the former with an episode, and the latter with an entire season.

But perhaps most interestingly for us, in 1993 Prodigy, the pioneering online service beloved by many, recalled an already long-past era and made national news by airing a series of live television commercials. The spots were, at least to my eyes, simple and effective. I remember a presenter standing next to a PC, talking about current events while showing them visually on the Prodigy service.

Back to today, when online video advertising is finally reaching the audience scale at which a series of live spots can be effective. But again, let's not limit ourselves to simply mimicking television's successes. Instead, we can build on them using the tools that our medium offers. Advertisers can:

  • Start simply, by working directly with a single publisher to incorporate a pitch into a live event. This works well for live sports, but could also be applicable to scheduled news events, weather applications or even concerts and performances.

  • Leverage a premium ad network to reach a television-scale audience, regardless of where consumers happen to be online. Advertisers can schedule the live spot to run across the inventory at pre-set times -- or better yet, create an ongoing live feed trafficked as a normal ad in rotation. Keeping in mind that online video advertising is much bigger (see slide 26 here ) than online video, live spots can reach engaged consumers who are watching video, listening to radio or playing games.

  • Fine-tune the messaging in real time. The interactive capabilities inherent in premium online video let marketers gauge audience feedback with absolute immediacy, and have the "on-air" presenter adjust the pitch accordingly.

    Gimmicky? Maybe. But if done right -- which in large part means doing it at scale across good distribution -- a live spot can make news, shake users away from ad blindness, and help brands create the kind of real-time consumer interaction that has never been possible in other forms of media.

  • 2 comments about "We'll Do It Live!".
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    1. Nick Buzzell from NBTV Studios, February 22, 2010 at 5:46 p.m.

      Well Said Lewis -- live video is an extremely engaging way to talk to your audience and in my experience the single best way to achieve conversational interactivity. Short form works also but live video has the innate potential for a longer viewing duration. -- This is a core focus of NBTV Studios to innovate and push the envelope from creative through execution using live video.

    2. The digital Hobo from, February 22, 2010 at 7 p.m.

      Pretty sure that Chris Young from Klipmart did some Live from the Red Carpet ads across a network. Might have been after they were bought by DoubleClick.

      Gimmicky? Sure. But a brilliant idea. Just not sure how many times you can bang something like that out without it losing its impact.

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