Successful online advertising isn't just about the channel -- from search to display to video -- it's about storytelling. When ads incorporate narrative elements, they increase interaction rates and the audience's willingness to consider the product, react, or even move towards a purchase. Savvy advertisers know that nothing tells a story better than video. I would propose that the power of storytelling through sight, sound and motion is the reason why video is the fastest growing form of online advertising. eMarketer estimates that online video ad spending will grow 48% to $1.5 billion this year and hit $5.5 billion by 2014.
It's now easier than ever for advertisers to choose online video, whether they're national retailers or political candidates at the local level just beginning these efforts. The issue isn't why use online video to tell your story, but how online video should tell your story. Even more important, how do you use online video to further your marketing strategy, tell a great story and generate concrete results? Let's start by agreeing that not all online video advertising is created equal -- or equal to every task -- and start to build a holistic online video advertising strategy. Storytelling should move your audience emotionally and logically through the purchase funnel. Understanding how video works across that funnel and where to apply your resources at each stage is the key to unlocking that value.
Introduction - Create Awareness. The beginning of a story should grab viewers' attention and introduce them to new places, characters, and concepts. At this stage, your video advertising must be disruptive and impactful. In-stream video is most effective in this case because it takes a short time to introduce and create awareness of your product or service. Much like television, the ad is presented in the course of viewing. So, if you are introducing a new product, then focus on driving awareness via broad in-stream buys. The goal is to disrupt, be brief, and be broad-based. And how do you know if you were successful? Research can clearly show when audiences exposed to your advertising have a higher awareness of your product than those who saw nothing.
Plot - Draw Interest. Once you have disrupted and drawn in your audience, it is time to create the hook. Your story must generate engagement much in the way that viewers become invested in the characters from a favorite television series. Rather than disrupt, the key is to increase favorability and intent - to connect with the audience. That requires a user-initiated conversation. In-banner video makes the most sense because it draws upon the storytelling power of video, but the content is requested rather than forced upon the viewer. Plus, the opportunities for engagement are far greater, resulting in requests for information, maps, surveys, and additional content. Use in-banner video when you have a known product and are highlighting something new, such as a promotion or benefit. You will know it's working when your audience views, clicks, interacts and spends measurable time with your brand.
Finale - Encourage Action. All great stories need action. The difference online is that the audience is in control of the action, not the storyteller. Here, the audience participates in the storytelling by sharing the brand message with their community. In-site, or social, video makes this happen. Audiences can share video via Facebook or YouTube, visit the brand website to engage in long-form video, and share thoughts via blogs, responses or Twitter. Once the audience is sharing your story, they are only one step away from purchase, renewal and advocacy. Knowing what works here is easy. If you've moved your audience to act, you have delivered on the hardest element of persuasion there is to achieve.
With these three stages in mind, building an online video strategy is about understanding your communication goals and applying the right amount of resources to drive awareness, interest and action. At the same time, it is about building a story and sharing it in multiple ways, depending on where your audience is in the purchase path. With all the advances in media buying, analytics, and targeting for online advertising, it still comes down to sharing a great story, engaging in conversation and creating a way for your audience to take action. In-stream, in-banner or in-site video all play very specific, and critical, roles in telling a great story that can achieve your marketing goals.