Commentary

Broadband Barriers

It's a good thing when CBS scraps its subscription model for online coverage of next year's NCAA basketball tournament because Larry Kramer knows the network will make more money on advertising. Saying that advertisers have finally "stepped up," the CBS Digital President was so excited about the move, he actually told me recently: "This is our Live 8."

In reality, the day my brothers and I elect to watch college basketball online, rather than on a television, may never come. Kramer, though, said they'll get all their traffic during work hours, and their television advertisers won't be neglected because CBS SportsLine.com is only producing "out-of-market" games--or games that are not being broadcast live on consumers' local television markets.

Still, I find it odd that the glaring dissimilarities between the TV experience and the PC experience haven't stopped publishers from creating their video sites almost exactly in TV's image. Kramer said online streaming ads would appear all in a row during play breaks--just as they do on TV. I've never seen online advertising shown like this, and frankly I can't imagine it being too effective. Just picture viewers at work checking scores and maybe a few minutes of game time; the chances of them sticking around for one streaming ad--let alone two, three, or, Lord have mercy, four!--seems unlikely at best.

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Then again, the TV approach is an established one that advertisers and viewers are comfortable with. Or so I thought. Turns outs there are many agency folks who are having their fair share of trouble with video ads. So says Klipmart CEO Chris Young, who kindly outlined several problems that marketers are running into. Young is apparently being told that video is hard to deliver, even hard to measure, and damn near impossible to scale. Who knew?

A well known headache for agencies, which Young outlines, is the fact that online pubs use a variety of media players, ad specs and reporting standards. Seasoned broadcast marketers are thrown off by the logistics of trafficking, encoding and tracking video across numerous sites.

Young goes on to offer some best practices for beset marketers to follow: Choose a universal solution that supports many different media player options; use one provider to handle all online ads, be they standard in-page or in-stream video, to simplify the distribution of ad inventory; stick with one standard counting and reporting method. Young also notes the tracking opportunity that video presents will go beyond impressions and clicks, into percent of video viewed and such. All great advice.

Separately, America Online's Advertising.com this week launched an automated rich media ad network, which boasts some 55 publishers. Doesn't exactly sound like a likely hotbed of creativity, but still a chance to further popularize the use of RM.

Its network covers a bunch of verticals, with a focus on entertainment and sports sites. And, just as Young recommended, Ad.com has gone ahead and standardized its ad specs for the network and established preferred partnerships with technology vendors Eyeblaster, PointRoll and DART Motif. Advertisers can use Ad.com to create and serve RM advertisements from these vendors without additional serving fees.

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