Advertisers had it easy back in the good ol' days of appointment television. They could buy one ad during a popular show and know that they were reaching 90% of their audience.
But now audiences are scattered and it's almost impossible to reach a significant portion of an advertiser's audience with one ad anymore. Whether through TV or online, you just won't get a large targeted audience to tune in at the same time. Why? Because audiences are spending less of their time watching TV and more of their time online and viewing video with IPTV and mobile devices. They're everywhere, so what's a TV advertiser to do?
The complexities of online video advertising, particularly for a large company that's gun shy about the Internet, can be overwhelming, especially since it's still in its infancy years. With so many formats, platforms, players and sites, online video advertising seems like a beast.
What will it take to demystify online video advertising enough for TV brand dollars to move online? As an industry we need to make it easy for them to buy the audience, not the site.
If an advertiser is buying a TV ad during The Bachelor, they can feel comfortable knowing that they're reaching a large audience of women 18-34 years old. Whether that audience is actually watching the ad, as opposed to taking a bathroom break, is another matter. But if that advertiser were to place an online video ad with The Bachelor on ABC.com, they simply won't get the same reach. Women 18-34 years old might go to ABC.com to watch an episode, or they may prefer to get their Bachelor fix from Hulu, on mobile sites, on blogs forwarded to them by their friends, or they may be watching different shows online and not watching The Bachelor at all.
Targeting Video Audiences
Instead of buying the show or the site, advertisers have to buy the audience so they can reach them wherever they are, regardless of the exact content or context (provided it's brand safe, of course; more on that later).
Video sites don't have enough volume on their own to make advertisers interested, so publishers are syndicating video to other sites and platforms. Even Hulu, the best known premium video site out there, doesn't have enough traffic on its own to match TV audience scale, so it syndicates its videos to other sites. In other words, even if an advertiser buys The Office on Hulu, it's not necessarily running on Hulu.com.
Instead, advertisers and their online video partners need to build audience profiles based on what people are watching. For example, we know that people who like SportsCenter also tend to like Family Guy and they skew heavily toward the male 18-34 demographic. Rather than buying an ad against Family Guy on Fox.com or on Hulu, advertisers can buy the male 18-34 demographic and reach them across sites by advertising on a number of videos that fit the viewing patterns of that audience.
Context Doesn't Matter As Much As You Think
In order to buy the right audience at scale, advertisers need to be willing to give up a little control over the context within which their ad runs. It sounds scary, but in order to get the scale and audience delivery that online video can offer, you can't obsess about the wrapping around the player.
If you buy an ad on Hulu, what's the harm if it gets syndicated to a social site? You're reaching more of your audience and they're watching your ad because they're interested in the video content, which of course is one that was carefully selected to fit the interests of your target audience profile.
You know your audience. Who cares what sites they choose to visit as long as you're reaching them?
Let me be clear: this does not mean an ad will appear on, say, an X-rated site. The technology powering online video advertising aggregates the best of video online, organizes it into channels and organizes channels into demographics. By doing so, advertisers can easily achieve TV-sized reach online with brand safe content, in premium environments with guaranteed audience and scale.
Buying audiences rather than shows or sites, relying on the technology that makes it possible to safely reach TV-sized scale online, is what will ultimately make more big brand advertisers step away from the TV a bit and become comfortable with online video advertising.