When I began building rich media ads, the hottest trend was to take a traditional online ad, built with click-through response in mind, and add a few rich media features. Adding an expandable panel to an existing ad transcended the realm of the normal and rendered the ad extraordinary. Advertisers flocked in droves to have their current ad units modified to fit this innovative new format. However, as the full capabilities of the rich media experience were disclosed, creatives began to embrace the concept of unique execution by format. As a result, online ads were revolutionized and ultimately ad performance exceeded industry benchmarks, as they met previously unresolved challenges.
Everything in this world runs in cycles, including advertising. The fact that we're seeing the same type of mass early adoption of video in rich media ads is a testament to the cyclical nature of online trends. Unfortunately, we're also seeing a simultaneous experience curve. Does taking a traditional 15- or 30-second commercial and running it within an online ad maximize that ad's effectiveness? While this question may be difficult to gauge, we purport that it can do wonders for brand awareness. Typically, ads containing video enjoy a much longer user interaction time--upwards of seven seconds. This is a pretty amazing feat, given that the video is imbedded in the ad, and not playing on an actual Web site.
This is all very impressive, but what about excitement? Where is the retention quotient? More directly, how do we answer the common client dilemma of how to "break through the clutter"?
I've witnessed the entertainment vertical lead the field in video in online ads. Nearly all ads for feature films incorporate some level of video. Often at the most basic level, they automatically play film trailers in the main creative (albeit muted, due to most publisher restrictions). This has proven to be a great way to get someone's attention. Frequently, these videos update throughout the life of the campaign, with unique versions for pre-release, "starts tomorrow" and post-release. These ads often give users the ability to learn more about the characters in a film by choosing to watch a clip featuring a different character, which is also a great way to increase interaction rates.
But there's more. Going further than simply showing the trailer and clips in an ad, there is an incredible opportunity. In some of the best examples I've seen, video is incorporated as an interactive element, for example as the basis for a quiz or choice-based game. In such instances, users watch a video, then they're probed to make a decision, and depending on their answer they see an additional video. In the end, they are often rewarded for their efforts with an incentive-based offer.
Even more exciting is that we are on the brink of really embracing the use of video in ads. For the first time--though I've only seen a couple of these ads--video is being thought of as a seamless part of the creative itself, and is being shot specifically for the ad. Instead of a frame holding a trailer, clip or other type of spot, the ad itself is composed of video, either as a background or the foundation of the creative itself. Shooting original content for the ad allows the laying of type and interactivity over it, as you would any other vector or bitmap-based element. The end result is a truly captivating, eye-popping, "did I just see what I think I saw?" experience. As the medium continues to be embraced and explored, video's resulting capabilities are seemingly boundless.