Commentary

What Is A Video Interaction Really Worth?

There has been a lot of attention paid to online video advertising over the past several years.  With the explosive growth in consumption and subsequent influx of cash, the number of video ad delivery vehicles has increased and the pricing for these units has been all over the map.  This can be incredibly confusing and frustrating for anyone buying media in this space.  Why are prices for each unit so divergent?  How can I better determine if what I am buying is worth the investment?  Answering these questions becomes much easier if we look at the foundations for pricing in video and work to evaluate the relative importance of these foundations to your brand goal.  

While there are many ancillary factors that can impact price, the primary drivers in video are viewer intent and attention.  Intent can be defined as a measurement of how interested the viewer was in the content when they started watching.  Attention can be defined as simply a measure of how much of the user's focus was captured once the view was initiated.  If you evaluate each different video advertising option under this matrix, understanding price disparity gets a little easier.  

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Let's take in-banner autoplay video.  This ad unit may capture slightly more attention than a standard display unit, but there is virtually no intent.  Pre-roll has similarly low levels of intent, but captures substantially more of the viewer's attention because it sits between the viewer and the video she wants to watch.  Moving further up the pricing scale, virtual currency and gaming platforms have begun offering incentivized views that enable users to watch an ad to completion in exchange for receiving virtual currency or in-game items.  Each of these units is progressively more expensive because they deliver more attention, but they still do not generate high levels of intent.

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Only by moving to Click2Play units do you begin to see user intent as a significant factor in the value (and price) of an ad impression.  Intent can be important, especially given the evolving social contract with consumers on the Web.  A user who has elected to watch an advertisement is going to be engaged in a way that a traditional form of interruptive advertising will find very difficult to match.  There's a reason why YouTube charges 20 cents to $1 or higher per video view for these types of engagements.  When you bring high levels of user intent together with high levels of attention, you create a highly valuable interaction with your viewer.  This appears to be one of the seminal conclusions of Vivaki's recent study in which the Ad Selector unit pioneered by Hulu (in which consumers can choose which ad to watch) scored dramatic improvements in click-through and recall rates.  

As Web video advertising continues to evolve, new ad units will continue to emerge.  When evaluating a buy for a new type of unit, it's always helpful to evaluate price based upon the level of attention and intent generated by the placement.  And given the magnitude of price difference between these units, be sure that you are actually receiving the unit for which you paid a heavy premium.  For example, networks will sometimes offer "blended" campaigns that mix Click2Play and Autoplay.  These units differ dramatically in value -- and unless the network can provide a precise breakdown of the viewership by publisher and by unit, assume that the vast majority of the views are occurring Autoplay In-banner across a network of mid-tier publishers. 


Over time the relative value of each type of user interaction will become clearer, and pricing will begin to become a little more standardized.  Until then, trying different placements can give you the information necessary to buy cost-effectively and identify unique opportunities that generate maximum impact for your brand at a fair price.  Users want to see brands think a little more creatively than the standard repurposed 30-second television spot.  Give them the interaction they want.     

6 comments about "What Is A Video Interaction Really Worth?".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, May 11, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.

    Helpful information. I keep thinking, as I turn to Hulu more and more, when are they going to include the option to skip the ad all together?

  2. Walter Sabo from HitViews, May 11, 2010 at 2:32 p.m.

    More valuable than a pre-roll or whatever is product integration and messaging in the webvideo. That's what HITVIEWS has done successfully for the past three years for major brands.

  3. Corey Kronengold from Smart AdServer, May 13, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.

    @Ruth Ann - Why would they give you the option to skip the ad all together?

    Where does this sense of "content entitlement" come from? It seems like the balance has been completely lost in the value exchange.

    Hulu needs to make money. They do it from ad revenue (and soon to be subscription). If you pony up for the subscription, that would be a reasonable time for them to let you skip ads.

  4. Daniel Sevitt from EyeView, May 16, 2010 at 3:55 a.m.

    Surely the best metric of all is to track the user's path from the video through to conversion whether that's a successful purchase or registration or download, etc.
    Making it all about click-to-play vs. autoplay is an old-media red herring. It just means the game changes to finding the most eye-catching and curious video launch trigger.
    It's not about the quantity of people who watch your video ad, it's about the quality of those viewers and increasing the probability that they will continue down the sales funnel.
    The kinds of brand recognition ads that Hulu can serve are relics from a pre-performance age. Once advertisers realize they need only pay for success and not for impressions, we'll all find out exactly how much a video is worth.

  5. Michael Meier from VINDICO Group, May 19, 2010 at 11:34 a.m.

    Even though we users may sometimes be more impacted by brands that think a little more creatively, we certainly don't a priori want interaction with ads. As an industry we can't keep confusing users' need for interactivity with an actual, intrinsic desire to interact with branded advertisements online. Offering interactivity is a great way to boost engagement for the most part, but isn't that because there's less opportunity for engagement without it? Users want content, and they're willing in varying degrees to put up with ads for that content. If they can have some degrees of control over those ad experiences, all the better for them. But that doesn't by extension mean folks actually want ads when they're interactive.

    The VivaKi Pool research was groundbreaking because it brought - in a more far-reaching way than ever before - elements of interactivity to traditional pre-roll ads. I think it's meant to push the notion that TV-analogue advertising online (pre/mid/post-roll), and at scale, doesn't have to behave exactly like TV advertising. It can be just as interactive as rich-media display with the benefit of much higher attention and much higher metrics overall to boot. I'm a bit surprised to see this research mentioned immediately after pre-roll was given the short end of the stick.

  6. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, May 24, 2010 at 2:46 a.m.

    Hulu is asking me the question, is this ad relevant? Now we're talking!

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