Video And Display Ads Have Nothing In Common: So Why Are They Sold The Same Way?

The print ad industry played an important role in shaping what we know today as display advertising.  Now it is TV’s turn to set the tone for online video.  Much has been said about the technical differences between video and display, but few have addressed video and display consumption experiences, or explored what makes online display advertising so different from online video.

There is no page in video

With display, publishers identify the ad placement by the “page.” New York Times visitors receive content surrounded by display ads, trying to capture visitors’ attention. However, we are developing “ad blindness.”  If a visitor opens an opinion piece by David Brooks, she is looking at the article, not the ad. With online video, criteria like site hierarchy, page location, relation to the fold or total takeover never come into play. Instead, video is defined by “content channels” (news, sports, music, user-generated), or “length” (clip, full episode). No matter what, the viewer always sees it, and there is no concern about placement.

Size does not matter

Print made “size” a core characteristic of the medium to determine price definition. Even in display, where it’s harder for the publisher to dictate the canvas size, dimensions are key. No matter what screen you use, a 300x250 banner will always display at the same size and is not really optimized for changing screen sizes.

Conversely, online video followed TV, essentially removing “size” from the equation. Brands can downsize the same commercial made for TV, to fit multiple player sizes across publishers and devices.

Value and Ownership

Content is king, but as TV showed, "content" comes in many flavors, and ads must follow suit.   Synchronizing brand and programming for in-stream media isn’t always an available option, and it's a huge handicap.  Digital video buyers rarely know which content they're buying -- only whether it’s premium, long-form, or short. They can buy a specific audience and daypart, but many ad networks and premium publishers don't sell ads around a specific show.  We’re seeing slow improvements, as tracking in video is technologically possible, but is often overlooked today. 

Additionally, as content is syndicated across channels, each with distinctive audiences and different points of view, campaigns can send mixed messages or leave the brand vulnerable. Brands need assurances that video creative is consistent across platforms and delivering the same experience, no matter the page or aspect ratio. 

Boaz Ram, senior manager, video product marketing at MediaMind, recently commented on this topic, noting that digital video, specifically in-stream, is marketed as a TV-like experience, where viewers must watch the entire ad to get to the desired content. He believes the fundamental difference, however, is the connection between the programming and the ad. The emotional or thematic link that captures a viewer in the right frame of mind for a specific product or idea is missing in online display.

TV media buyers know how crucial the emotional connection is, and deliberately match advertising to content to create or exploit the viewer’s emotional connection with the programming. Consumers tune into "The Office" to laugh, the NBA playoffs to be exhilarated, and "Mad Men" to be immersed in another generation. Although the demographic may be perfect for a running shoe brand, the emotional vibe is lacking. 

Video has an extremely bright future, and the industry is beginning to consider the important differences between video and display, recognizing that brands aren’t maximizing spend. The key is in maximizing the delivery to align with the consumption.  As we advance technology to solve many of the current challenges, there will be more ways than ever to create emotional connections with audiences online and provide true value for brand campaigns.

1 comment about "Video And Display Ads Have Nothing In Common: So Why Are They Sold The Same Way?".
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  1. John Osborn from Turnstilâ„¢, December 15, 2012 at 7:33 a.m.

    Excellent points Tal. We've seen pre- and mid-roll "click to play" and "auto-play" used as terms that separate online video from static display. Recently I've found a new format, "View-to-Play" which inserts video between lines of text on publications that don't have to produce or acquire new video to insert a pre-roll within. It expands the definition of context from strictly video to the text pages a reader seeks. More intrusive than "click to play" but less in that it doesn't block content while the reader experiences it. Check out for a demo.

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