Mistakes We Make As Video Ad Salespeople

Online video advertising faces its own set of challenges, including:

-        Audience fragmentation

-        Proliferation of UGC increasing inventory, which drives down ad rates

-        Piracy

-        Lack of a prevailing ad format

Exacerbating matters is the fact that in our over-eager state as salespeople, we tend to make mistakes that are bound to come back to haunt us. These include:

Targeting. In its heyday, even MySpace executives would joke that they could give marketers any demographic they wanted. The problem was the numbers -- or lack thereof -- that such targeting would yield. 

Today, when I talk to marketers, I tell them to focus on one level of targeting (be it geographic, gender, age, etc.) because the more restrictions you add on a campaign, naturally the less  volume you can generate -- which, combined with the Web's fragmented nature, makes the campaign less interesting.



The ROI trap. The beautiful thing about online media is its tracking abilities.  Make no mistake about this: the fact that marketers can track their ad dollars means that, over time, we will win more deals than we shall lose.

However, the reality is that all marketing efforts generally have a negative ROI in the short term.  Even seemingly positive ROI tactics like search engine marketing fail to show a positive ROI as you add to your budget.  In other words, it might be possible to make money on a $1,000 to $10,000 test, but if you want to grow your sales, you might need to spend $100,000  to $1 million over a period  of time. At that level, it's hard to spend everything on search engine marketing without expanding your list of keywords or increasing your pay-per-click spend, making the campaign less attractive.

Video is not search: intent vs. interest. With search, as with online video, it's infinitely harder to drive short-term results or sales. Yet because we see search's 40% share of online advertising dollars, some of us get envious and try to poach dollars away, even though the two are like apples and oranges and tend to appeal to different type of marketers and campaigns.

Search is all about intent: I want to travel to Madrid, let me search for that; oh, look, here's a text link to a hotel in Madrid.  Let me click on that.

Video captures intent as well, but mainly captures interest.  I will watch videos on many topics that I have no intent to make a purchase around.  But that interest creates tangent opportunities for advertisers.

As a result, video is a better tool for branding and awareness campaigns that target audiences by interests and psycho-demographics.  Trying to pit search dollars against video dollars is bound to mismatch a client's expectations and objectives.

Manage expectations: under-promise, over-deliver. I always ask would-be clients (who are marketing to drive sales more than get branding):  Say you spend $100 (to use an index), how much sales or profit should you generate in period 1? 

Whatever their answer, I generally go out of my way to bring them down to reality.  I do this because clients tend to have unrealistic expectations, but also because it's far easier to over-deliver when you have managed expectations early on.  Generally marketers don't turn away with this approach, but instead appreciate the candor and want to continue the discussion. Yet many salespeople are so eager to seal the deal that they over-promise, only to have an unhappy client after the fact.

With video, this is even more problematic because the market is so fragmented.

Online video isn't -- and will never be -- television.  Another mistake we make is trying to argue the merits of online video advertising by juxtaposing it to television.  Folks, let's face it: television remains the 800-pound gorilla in size and reach.  We're not just talking a different ballpark here, it's a different universe!  Those who can position video alongside television, and for that matter, display and search, will be able to seize deals, as more marketers embrace online video.

Understanding primary vs. secondary demand. The pure-video players (such as still need to position themselves as overall media solutions that happen to include video, because  video-centric RFPs will gravitate toward more established brands.  The reality is, the first online video startups that will get meaningful dollars from marketers are the video offerings of established brands like ESPN, Yahoo, or MSNBC.  Thankfully, a rising tide lifts all boats.

6 comments about "Mistakes We Make As Video Ad Salespeople ".
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  1. Kevin Murray from Shovio, March 8, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.

    Really good article!

  2. Walter Sabo from SABO media, March 8, 2010 at 11:45 a.m.

    Excellent. Matches our 3 years of experience at HITVIEWS. Thank you.

  3. Grant Crowell from, March 8, 2010 at 2:04 p.m.

    I would argue (and I think this article does as well) that video is "search" + "browse." People do watch more videos today than all the searches everywhere. At the same time, searches for video is one of the most popular activities. It's just that once we do an initial search, we often go into browsing mode for other videos, based on where our initial search may take us.

    Online video is a hybird of several behavioral activities, which does make it more challenging to measure intent and related interest.

    Learn more about video search behavior at

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 8, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.

    Excellent. Honesty helps keep customers as well as teaching those full comprehension of what they are buying - the strengths and actual value. It is harder to regain accounts to gain accounts.

  5. Ruth Barrett from, March 8, 2010 at 6:24 p.m.

    Excellent points.

    What amazes me, as a twenty-five year veteran of direct response marketing is how a prospective client expects me, as an online publisher of an awareness, not shopping site, to give them a click through rate when I have no idea what the offer is, let alone the type of ad (text, print, flash, video), or the size of ad they are running. And we are doing placement based on categories, not page placement which sends them over the edge.

    It seems to me that the Web is so complex to many executives, they try to hang their hat on a number and don't even see the advantages or organic search, for example, let alone paid in their product/service category.

    Mail was something most people could deal with as was email, because, they thought, it is pretty much like mail, right? It took over three years for clients to understand the importance of landing pages as but one example. Clients often had their Web team whip up a landing page and then watch as as much as 50% of the people landing, left without taking advantage of the offer. And even after ten years, folks are still fogged in about audio and video. We did an audio streaming site ten years ago ( and have not changed it one tiny bit just to prove to cllients that while we have moved from streaming to MP3 downloads, the capability (we used a PC to record all the stories) and the competitive advantage such capabilities provide is what the Web is all about.

    So the challenge is to attract early adopters and not get involved in missionary work. We are seeking sponsors with a sustainability track record who are thought leaders and are doing their thinking using video. Amen.

  6. Todd Brewster from Media Buying Decisions, March 9, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.

    This article shows the importance of working with a seasoned media buyer when placing video on TV or Cable.

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