While much has been written about the evolution of branded video content and "viral video" ads, less attention has been given to the integrated video ad experiences that are helping blur the line between content and advertising. Advertisers are now regularly looking for well-integrated video ad experiences that will help their branded video content fit more naturally within the content experience of a site to drive higher levels of engagement and sharing.
In spite of significant innovations around pre-roll and banner advertising formats, the fact remains that consumers have developed equally advanced abilities to ignore the bulk of these types of ad units. Brands have recognized the attention deficit inherent to these models and are increasingly investing in more content-driven, longer-form videos. As brands continue to open their minds and wallets to new types of entertaining video content, publishers and video advertising companies need to respond with innovative, new ad experiences to deliver engaged viewership and drive sharing of their videos.
So, what are media buyers looking for today when placing their brand video content? The highest priority for today's branded video ad experiences is to make them as organic as possible to the content experience of the sites that they run on. This means that you can't take a one-size-fits all approach. The challenge for advertisers is to find the balance between entirely customized ad products for every individual website (not scalable) and overly generic ad units (easily ignored), so the goal for publishers should be to offer ad experiences that have a customized, integrated look-and-feel without requiring implementation times and prices that are prohibitive.
Below are a few key qualities advertisers look for in ad experiences for brand video content:
1) Feels like content. Ad placements that are far removed from the content experience or too intrusive will lead to low engagement and sharing rates for video. 'Featured content' video ad models are beginning to take shape, which fit more organically within the site experience and allow sponsored videos to be integrated seamlessly within the regular content flow.<
Video-focused sites, from UGC platforms like YouTube to highly curated sites such as Devour, offer great opportunities to place branded video content within the natural flow of the site experience. Additionally, editorial sites that use a lot of video, like game and movie review sites or viral content curators such as Buzzfeed, can be great venues to integrate creative branded video placements.
2) Discoverability. Consumers love to discover new, entertaining content on the Web. An effective ad experience allows consumers to stay within that discovery mindset, while also providing a high level of visibility. Social recommendation and bookmarking sites have good potential to help their users maintain the discovery mentality even among sponsored content, as do social games and virtual worlds that integrate branded videos directly within the site experience. Sites that do a great job of this include recommendation sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit and social games like CarTown.
3) Social features. Video ad units that have embedded the social graph and sharing features within the experience give social context to the content can dramatically increase sharethrough rates. Facebook's Social Graph API's allow ad units to highlight connections between the brand and the user's friends and followers, such as related videos or fan pages that they have liked. Leveraging more immediate social connections on sites that are not Facebook, such as followers/friends/shared interests within a specific site, can help ad units feel more integrated.
The game has changed for brand video advertising. Brands are going to extraordinary lengths to create video content that will entertain and inspire, and it's the responsibility of publishers and video advertising companies to be equally innovative with their ad experiences. The combination of well-integrated, social ad units and entertaining brand videos can unlock unprecedented value for savvy advertisers and greatly benefit both the publisher's users and its bottom line.