In the 1956 classic film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Dr. Miles Bennell, portrayed by the late Kevin McCarthy, spends most of the film warning of “pod people” -- aliens taking over the identities of their human hosts.
The movie scared the crap out of me as a child. Checking under the bed for “pods” became a nighttime ritual for a long while. Thankfully, they never showed up.
Circa 2011, I wouldn’t mind a little “pod people” invasion, at least when it comes to digital video. When advertising budgets are spent on television, marketers and publishers negotiate at length over program options including GRP weights, frequency and other campaign particulars. Attention is now also given to identifying preferred pod placement and related performance -- rightfully so. As a recent report from Ebiquity suggests, pod position within pods can have a noticeable impact on television campaign performance.
However, shifting to an online view, it becomes apparent that advertisers presently use few tools or related metrics to assess video ad performance of individual pods, particularly within long-form content such as TV episodes or movies. Yes, we look at click-through and completion rates, and a few other performance indicators, but not to the sophistication and precision that sight, sound, and motion efforts should inspire.
We Need “Pod People” Now!
eMarketer projects $5.5 billion online video spend by 2014. That’s a nice figure, but we can get there much faster. To open up the floodgates of video ad budgets, marketers and publishers should consider becoming “pod people,” seeking greater emphasis and performance detail on pod placements such as mid-roll within online video ad campaigns.
According to a recent study, mid-roll ad placements in full episode players (online environments for watching full-length television programs, movies, and other long-form content) handily outperformed both pre-roll and post-roll video ads.
To be fair, mid-roll placements have a pre-set advantage over pre-roll. They typically appear in environments in which viewers have made a commitment to watch long-form content, similar to viewing broadcast and cable programs with typical commercial breaks. However, unlike TV and cable programs, which can be fast-forwarded or skipped via DVR, online commercials cannot be easily avoided without fully exiting the viewing experience. Translation: online video viewers are a more captive audience, ready to interact with your marketing messages.
Let the Invasion Begin!
Turning marketers and publishers into pod people, however, will require significant campaign “mindset” changes, creating many new benefits and challenges. Here are some suggestions for a successful future “pod” infestation:
1. Move beyond pre-roll –Forget the 30-second ad in front of the 30-second clip. As consumers shift to viewing full-length movies and TV shows in online environments, marketers and publishers have a tremendous opportunity to learn how to better balance content and adjacent advertising. Inserting mid-roll into video ad campaigns would be an excellent first step.
2. Mix formats and creative options – With more than 99% of video ads just repurposed TV creative, “what works on TV will work online,” seems to be the current mantra. I will let others throw the GRP grenades, both for and against. Shifting to a wider mix of display and video ad formats will help illustrate how online video will carve out its own unique planning path that is neither TV nor digital, but an amalgam of both.
3. Get the research folks busy – A wider mix of campaign creative and video ad formats will offer plenty of data to analyze. In addition, more dollars shifting to online video will prompt more questions, which, in turn, will require a greater emphasis on research and analytics. It’s about time we saw online studies looking at the combination of display, search and video.
4. Stress better labeling – Outside of pre-roll, few publishers offer consistent detail of placement labeling, specifically for pod ad activity in long-form content. As a consequence, ad performance in pods between pre- and post-roll may be more difficult to determine. Arguably, few marketers ask for such detail, as it typically requires an added layer of campaign instrumentation between parties. Short term, marketers should request such detail in their RFPs.
5. Promote new industry standards - Long term, marketers must work with their technology, agency, and media partners, as well as industry organizations to create labeling standards for digital video pod placements, similar to what we have for display creative. The industry has already widely embraced VAST and VPAID standards; it’s time such standards were extended to include enhanced placement labeling.
We have a long way to go before achieving investment parity between TV and online video. Like it or not, however, consumers are already making the transition en masse to online for video in all its forms. Marketers and investment will no doubt follow. The easier we collectively make planning, buying, implementing and reporting video ad campaigns, the easier the transition will be for all involved parties. It’s time to embrace “pod people”!
At the end of the movie, a hysterical Dr. Bennell, runs through the streets of the small California town, screaming “They’re here already! You’re next!”
If only that were true…