As an advertising vehicle, video will most certainly take a page from every medium that has come before it. Mediums start simple, as a single advertising choice, and then multiply. Take radio. Pittsburgh's KDKA might have come on the air in 1920 to broadcast the results of the Harding-Cox presidential election, but 10 years later it emerged as an advertising medium. At first, shows were named for the sponsor -- like the Champion Spark Plug Hour, the Lucky Strike Hour or the King Biscuit Hour, which made stars of Hank Williams and Sonny Boy Williamson. Advertisers owned and controlled entire programs, even hiring and firing the talent. Since then, the options for buyers have multiplied. Today, you can buy national, local, or network. In any language. You can even buy straight spots vs. various forms of promotional sponsorships.
And so it went with television. Today's advertisers have so many more options -- network or cable, national or spot, programming or commercial time -- than Bulova had when it place the first TV ad in 1941 before a baseball game.
Search is splitting, too. Today's advertisers now have to consider the choice between paid or organic and the various buying/servicing channels, which are forcing advertisers to clearly assess their objectives before investing.
What does this mean for the future of online video as an advertising medium? It, too, will split. Two years from now, when a big brand decides to spend money in online video, the first question it will have will be: ads, or content? Should we pay for pre-roll, or achieve views of the content?
To date, most marketers have viewed online video through the advertising lens and focused their attention on how to apply the TV ad model to the digital world. Simplicity is migrating that model (and the creative that goes with it) over to the Internet. But what a shame, to leave the best the Internet has to offer on the cutting room floor. What about engagement? Conversion? If you want reach, engagement AND conversion from online video, it's now there for you.
And that's where it's déjà vu all over again. As the medium splits, the questions facing marketers multiply. Twenty years ago, the question was network or HBO? Today it's online video ads or online video editorial? Then, as now, the answer depends entirely on what you're trying to achieve.
Online video ads and online editorial do different things and elicit different responses, so they need to be used for different purposes. With one you're in it, and with the other you're around it. Online video advertising interrupts, while online editorial -- done right -- engages. Advertising ramps up faster, but the content piece works over the longer term because it offers consumers a richer experience. Know your objectives for your digital media campaign, and you'll know whether your budgets are best directed toward online editorial video or online advertising.
And while I don't find myself channeling Yogi Berra very often, his words prove as appropriate for a closing thought as they do for a title. "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."